European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (86)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

86. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Myanmar was discussed at the December 2019 EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting. [52984/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Myanmar was not on the agenda at the most recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, which took place on 9 December.

However, this issue remains very prominent at EU level. Ireland and our EU partners remain deeply concerned over the findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (IIFFM), and other special mandate holders regarding gross human rights violations committed by the Myanmar Military Forces (Tatmadaw), many of which amount to the gravest crimes under international law.

I am also aware that on 11 November 2019, The Gambia submitted an application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging breaches of the Genocide Convention by Myanmar. Officials in my Department, including in the Irish Embassy in The Hague, are monitoring this case closely.  

Ireland will continue to work with our EU and other international partners to press for a long-term sustainable resolution to the Rohingya crisis that will provide a pathway for refugees to safely return and to urge Myanmar to hold to account those responsible for serious criminal acts.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (87)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

87. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken with EU counterparts recently on Brexit or other matters. [50347/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I take every opportunity to engage with EU partners to advance Ireland’s priorities.  

On 9 December I attended a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council with whom I discussed matters such as my recent visit to Israel and Palestine and a number of human rights issues. While Brexit was not on the agenda, I had a range of informal exchanges with my counterparts.  

Protecting Ireland’s interests during the upcoming negotiations regarding the EU-UK future relationship will require a continued whole of Government effort underpinned by the same coherent, cohesive approach that has characterised our Brexit strategy from the start. I, alongside my Government colleagues and our officials, will continue to build on our strong relations with the Taskforce and Commission, Member States, Oireachtas members and stakeholders across this island.

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (88)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

88. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the multi-annual financial framework that is being discussed at the forthcoming GAC meeting in December 2019. [50084/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

At the December General Affairs Council (GAC), Member States exchanged views on the revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposal put forward by the Finnish Presidency. This is the most recent iteration of the draft proposal by successive Presidencies in these complex negotiations, which are likely to continue well into 2020. The Presidency has proposed an overall level of 1.07% of EU27 GNI for the next MFF period 2021-2027 and has maintained or slightly increased the allocations for Cohesion and CAP, which are priority areas for Ireland. To maintain CAP and Cohesion spending at the level proposed by the Commission, the Presidency has proposed adjustments to a range of other programmes. At the GAC, Member States expressed a range of views on the proposals according to their particular priorities, including in relation to the proposed overall amount, the distribution of funding across different areas and the possible sources of revenue for the MFF. Following discussion at the GAC, the Presidency presented the revised Negotiating Box to the December European Council. The Heads of State and Government called on the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to take the negotiations forward with the aim of reaching a final agreement. Ireland continues to take a constructive approach in the MFF negotiations. We remain open to increasing our contribution to the budget from current levels provided European Added Value is ensured and our core interests are met, including maintaining funding for CAP.  

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (89)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

89. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if legacy issues have been discussed as part of the negotiations in relation to the need to have the Assembly and Executive restored in Northern Ireland. [52767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek a way forward on implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework, and will continue to do so in the period ahead.

At the meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and in our regular bilateral meetings, I have strongly emphasised to the Secretary of State the urgency of definitively moving ahead to a legislative phase to get the Stormont House bodies established.  

There were extensive discussions on how to move forward with the establishment of Stormont House legacy framework in the multi-party talks, which the two Governments convened in March 2017, and important progress was made.  

In 2018, the UK Government conducted a public consultation on draft UK legislation to establish the Stormont House institutions.  

In May 2019, the Government welcomed the publication of the summary of responses to the UK Government consultation on addressing the legacy of the Troubles through the framework provided for under the Stormont House Agreement.  

The main message from the vast majority of the 17,000 people and organisations who responded is that the current system needs to be reformed and that legacy issues need to be dealt with in a way that contributes to reconciliation and a better future. Importantly also, there was broad support for doing this by implementing the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.  

Necessary implementing legislation is being advanced in this jurisdiction. In June, the Minister for Justice and Equality introduced the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2019, which was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law in July.  

This legislation enhances the co-operation that is being provided to ongoing Coroners’ Inquests in Northern Ireland into historical deaths and it underpins the Government’s commitment to supporting and implementing the framework of measures set out in the Stormont House Agreement.  

Legislation will also be required to establish the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) in both jurisdictions and the Government is advancing drafting of the ICIR Bill.  

Legacy issues have not been extensively discussed in the multi-party talks that were convened by the two Governments in May, which have focused on the core issues on which an agreement is needed between the parties to get the Executive and Assembly operating again.  

However, both Governments have acknowledged the outstanding commitments under the Stormont House Agreement for comprehensively dealing with the past and the urgent need to progress, in UK and Irish legislation and by a new Executive, as appropriate. 

Following the UK general election, it is essential that there is now a definitive step forward by the new UK Government to get the legacy framework that was agreed in 2014 established in UK legislation, and up and running for victims and survivors, without any further delay.  

The Government remains firmly committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework. We will continue to work proactively to support its full implementation, without further delay, in order to provide victims’ families with a way to access whatever truth and justice that is possible in their cases and as a very necessary step in achieving a fully reconciled society.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (90)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

90. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken to put in place new formal structures for dialogue between Ireland and the UK as a result of the departure of the UK from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53465/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

It is clear that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will change fundamentally the nature and frequency of our bilateral interaction. In this context, I am conscious of the importance of protecting existing Ireland-UK cooperation, and of providing opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and relationship-building in the future as the UK departs from the EU.

The overall relationship with the newly elected UK Government is a top priority for both myself and the Taoiseach. Given our joint stewardship of the peace process, our people-to-people relations, and our economic and trading relationship, it's clear that we will need to establish and maintain close, collaborative relationships with our UK counterparts now and for the coming years. We need to ensure that the “habit of cooperation” that has developed through so many years working side by side as members of the European Union is maintained following the UK’s departure from the EU. 

Regular engagement, facilitated by existing structures like the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and the British-Irish Council, will be key in this regard.  We will also discuss with the UK shortly whether new structures for cooperation between Dublin and London will also be required.

The Government has committed increased resources to our Embassy in London in the last few years, which was already the largest bilateral Embassy in our network. These resources have come from both from my own Department and from several other Government Departments, and will ensure the Embassy's optimal engagement across all relevant policy areas. It is envisaged that the Embassy will continue to expand in order to support the bilateral relationship and to promote and protect Irish interests across all relevant sectors in a post-Brexit context. 

Beyond London, the continued development of our relationships with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales will be ever more important as the UK moves forward with EU withdrawal. In Scotland, the Consulate in Edinburgh is active in promoting and protecting Irish interests, including taking a leading role on the current bilateral review of Ireland-Scotland relations. In addition, our footprint has also been re-established in Wales where the Consulate in Cardiff re-opened in April of this year, with a political and economic focus.

The relationship between Ireland and the UK is, and will continue to be, a unique, vital and complex one. It is a relationship which requires great care, close attention and on-going engagement at every level right across the UK and its devolved administrations.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (91)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

91. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Ukraine; the position of the EU on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53527/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The conflict in eastern Ukraine - now in its sixth year - has resulted in over 12,000 deaths, 1.6 million people displaced and an estimated 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. 

2019 has seen a reinvigoration of efforts to secure implementation of the Minsk peace agreements within the framework of the OSCE Trilateral Contact Group (OSCE, Russia and Ukraine) and the Normandy Format (France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine).

Incremental progress has been made, including a tentative ceasefire since July, the disengagement of troops and weapons of the Ukrainian army and Russia-led forces in three locations, the reopening of a bridge crossing in Stanytsia Luhanksa, and a prisoner exchange with Russia. 

The first Normandy Summit at Heads of State level in three years was held in Paris on 9 December. The meeting resulted in a commitment by all parties to deescalate the violence through ceasefires, further disengagement, and demining. If these commitments are fulfilled, the parties have committed to meeting again within four months to discuss political and security conditions necessary for the organisation of local elections in eastern Ukraine.  

On 12 December Chancellor Merkel and President Macron briefed the European Council on progress at the Normandy summit, and EU leaders agreed to extend the economic sanctions imposed on Russia for another six months, until July 2020. The sanctions were introduced in 2014 and their duration is linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Ireland remains fully committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. We welcome the efforts of France and Germany to find a resolution through the Normandy Format and stand ready to support the EU and the OSCE in the implementation of these agreements. Ireland particularly welcomes the humanitarian aspects of the agreements made and provisions for a de-escalation of violence. We strongly support the establishment of additional disengagement zones and the plans for an updated demining plan. The maintenance of the agreed upon ceasefire will have significant benefits in easing the dire humanitarian situation of civilians in the region.

Consular Services Data

Ceisteanna (92)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

92. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons provided with consular assistance to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I can advise that my Department has so far provided consular assistance in 1,723 instances in 2019, a breakdown of which is below. 

Arrests – 243

Child Abductions – 13

Child Welfare – 21

Deaths Abroad – 268

Deportations – 64

Medical – 270

Mental Health – 92

Missing Persons – 72

Other – 344

Prisoners – 40

Victims of Crime -  112

Welfare – 184

The support and assistance provided to Irish Citizens abroad through our Embassies, Consulates General and Honorary Consulates, and by our staff at HQ, continue to be of the highest quality. This year has witnessed many difficult and complex cases, and I commend staff on their commitment and professionalism in providing invaluable assistance in the most difficult of situations.  

I would also like to thank our support partners, the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. These partners are a vital asset for our Missions. Their expertise supplements our consular efforts, ensuring the best possible assistance is provided to those who need it most.  

Visa Waiver Programme

Ceisteanna (93)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

93. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of students who participated in the J1 visa programme in each of the years 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53529/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The J1 visa programme, for Irish citizens to work and travel in the US, is managed by US-based sponsors and student travel agents in Ireland, under the authority of the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. All figures related to the J1 programme are maintained by US authorities.

Figures shared by the US Authorities with my Department laid out in tabular form below show data for the two most popular categories, the J1 “Summer Work and Travel” scheme and the “Camp Counsellor” scheme. Since 2011 uptake in the Camp Counsellor scheme has grown significantly, while the number of those taking part in the Summer Work and Travel programme has decreased. It should be noted that the numbers for 2019 are preliminary counts and as such, are subject to change.

Numbers

J1 Summer Work and Travel

J1 Camp Counsellor

2011

6,670

 549

2012

7,527

 616

2013

8,167

 637

2014

6,773

 918

2015

7,001

1,114

2016

4,347

1,384

2017

4,190

1,683

2018

3,530

1,665

2019 

3,392

1,673

Officials in my Department have met with the two largest J1 sponsors in Ireland, SAYIT and USIT, and have discussed the decline in the number of Irish citizens availing of the programme in recent years. Our Ambassador in Washington and his colleagues also regularly meet with the US-based sponsors to discuss encouragement of uptake of the programme.  

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Ceisteanna (94)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

94. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made in relation to resolving the situation regarding the undocumented Irish in the United States of America, excluding progress made regarding the E3 visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53530/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Taoiseach and I have prioritised the issue of Irish immigration in the United States since taking office and the issue of the undocumented Irish remains a high priority for the Government. I have continuously raised these issues in all my interactions with the US Administration and US political leaders. In April, I discussed these matters with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and her congressional delegation when they visited Ireland. The Taoiseach has also raised the issue of the undocumented Irish during his high level engagements with the US, including during the visit of President Trump this summer. The issue was also raised with Vice President Pence during his visit in September.

The Government Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented, Deputy John Deasy, has also worked closely on this issue with my Department, engaging with key US stakeholders. He has met with senior officials in the US Administration and with representatives from the US Congress to discuss the undocumented Irish, most recently during a visit to Washington D.C. last week. He is supported in his work by the Americas Unit of my Department, and our Embassy in Washington, DC. Officials in the Americas Unit of my Department also regularly meet with the US Embassy in Dublin to discuss visa and immigration issues.

In the US, Irish officials continue to engage and advocate on behalf of this vulnerable community. Officials in my Department, including our Embassy in Washington, D.C. and our seven Consulates General across the US, are monitoring the situation closely and are continuing to actively support Irish community groups that work with undocumented Irish citizens. My officials engage with US officials on immigration issues on an ongoing basis, including with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our Mission network also works closely with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres in the US. The Coalition and its members provide reliable and accurate information to any Irish citizen in the US with concerns. The Coalition and its member organisations receive significant annual funding through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme for their work, including their support for vulnerable Irish and the undocumented. In 2018, over €3 million was allocated to 76 organisations across the US, including the Irish Centres. 

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (95)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

95. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation regarding the Rohingya; the position of Ireland on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53531/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since military operations in Rakhine State escalated in August 2017, an estimated 720,000, predominantly Rohingya, refugees have fled to Bangladesh. A significant number of Rohingya civilians were also internally displaced within Rakhine State and 128,000 people remain in IDP camps having fled previous bouts of violence. Recent months have again witnessed an escalation of violence in Rakhine State and neighbouring Chin State due to ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Security Forces and ethnic armed groups. The situation remains unstable with increasing violence generating further displacement of civilians.

Ireland remains deeply concerned over the findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (IIFFM), and other special mandate holders regarding gross human rights violations committed by the Myanmar Military Forces (Tatmadaw), many of which amount to the gravest crimes under international law.

These include a finding by the IIFFM that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State. Ireland, together with our EU partners, has consistently called for the accountability of those who may be responsible for such crimes and has engaged in a number of actions at international level in this regard.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council has adopted a series of Council Conclusions addressing gross human rights violations in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. These conclusions press for Myanmar to take meaningful action towards the creation of conditions conducive to a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of those displaced to their places of origin and to hold to account those responsible for criminal acts. 

The EU has also worked with our international partners to press for action at UN level including acting as pen-holder on several key initiatives including the establishment of both the UNHRC mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission and the recently operational Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. These are important steps in ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.      

On 11 November 2019, The Gambia submitted an application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging breaches of the Genocide Convention by Myanmar. Officials in my Department, including in the Irish Embassy in The Hague, are monitoring this case closely.  

Ireland will continue to work with our EU and other international partners to press for a long-term sustainable resolution to the Rohingya crisis that will provide a pathway for refugees to safely return and to urge Myanmar to hold to account those responsible for serious criminal acts.

Passport Applications Data

Ceisteanna (96)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

96. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of first-time passport applicants from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, respectively in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53532/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The numbers of first time passport applications received from applicants who were resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time of application for the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019 are detailed in the following table.

Year

First time applications from Great Britain

First time applications from Northern Ireland

 2014

  5,672

 18,101

 2015

  6,011

 20,325

 2016

 18,263

 29,923

 2017

 31,675

 40,089

 2018

 39,287

 40,226

 2019*

 49,584

 62,554

*1 January to 30 November 2019

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008, as amended. The Passports Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him or her. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Irish law and in particular the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

Overseas Development Aid

Ceisteanna (97)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

97. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the partners his Department is working with or plans to work with in order to increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services overseas; the funding provided to each partner organisation from 2018 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53631/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Improving the quality and availability of health services with a strong focus on maternal and child health has been a longstanding component of Ireland’s international development programme. Access to health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, is transforming women’s lives. For example, women's life expectancy in Mozambique was 46.12 years in 1996, when Ireland first started the development programme there.  Last year, the WHO calculated female life expectancy in Mozambique as 62.3 years, a remarkable increase in 20 years although clearly more needs to be done: Irish support for health service provision with an emphasis on maternal and child health, together addressing HIV / AIDS helped support this positive change.

Ireland's policy for international development, A Better World, commits the Government to deepen and expand on its existing partnerships in this area. Ireland currently works with a range of global and international organisations, as per the table below. In addition, Ireland supports health service provision through the bilateral programmes in a range of countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Organisation

2018

2019

WHO

  700,000

1,050,000

UNFPA

3,500,000

3,500,000

UNICEF

7,200,000

7,200,000

GLOBAL FUND

10,000,000

10,000,000

GAVI

3,000,000

3,000,000

UNESCO

500,000

500,000

UNAIDS

2,400,000

2,400,000

IRC

1,100,000

1,500,000

Total

28,400,000

29,150,000

Overseas Development Aid

Ceisteanna (98)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

98. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the partner organisations Ireland will be working with as part of his commitment to provide at least €250 million over the next five years for global education with a focus on improving access to quality education for girls and access to education in emergencies, the knowledge and information they need to protect themselves from HIV, including through keeping girls in school and supporting comprehensive sexuality education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government’s new Policy for International Development, A Better World, makes a commitment to contribute at least €250 million to improve global education between 2019 and 2023 with a specific focus on education in emergencies and girls’ education. The Government is delivering on this commitment through bilateral and multilateral partnerships, selecting modalities and partners on the basis of the most effective and efficient means of achieving these objectives. 

The Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait are the two main global partnerships funded by Ireland. The Global Partnership for Education supports over 65 low or lower middle-income countries in their efforts to develop and implement quality education plans, focusing on effective and efficient education systems, equity and gender equality.  Ireland doubled its funding to the Global Partnership for Education to €25 million between 2018-2020.

In September, I pledged a contribution of €6 million to the Education Cannot Wait Fund.  This fund is specifically dedicated to supporting students and teachers in emergency and protracted crises and to date has reached more than 1.4 million children in 32 countries.

In addition Ireland supports education for children and youth through bilateral programmes in Palestine, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia.

In Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and in partnership with UNESCO Ireland works to reduce early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and STI infections, and gender-based violence through good quality comprehensive sexuality education programmes integrated into education curricula.

Through partnerships with Irish, African and International NGOs such as Aidlink, the Campaign for Female Education, Girl Child Network, Misean Cara, Plan International Ireland, and World Vision Ireland, Ireland supports quality education for girls and for children in emergencies.   

While we are already scaling up support for global education, we are also looking at further opportunities to strengthen our support for education globally and to specifically to deliver on the commitments in A Better World to girls’ education and education in emergencies.

Irish Aid

Ceisteanna (99)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

99. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Irish Aid has provided funding to organisations that promote and provide termination of pregnancy services; if so, the funding allocated to such organisations from 2018 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not provide funding to organisations for the promotion or provision of termination of pregnancy.  The Government's policy for international development, A Better World, published last February continues Ireland’s longstanding focus on improving the health of women and girls, as part of Ireland’s contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Departmental Staff Recruitment

Ceisteanna (100)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

100. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of new staff recruited to his Department from January 2019 to date; the title of each employment position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53644/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In recent years my Department has recruited a significant number of additional staff. As well as recruitment to fill vacancies including those that arose during the embargo, staff have been allocated to support Brexit-related negotiations and preparations following the decision by the UK in 2016 to leave the EU. Further investment since then relates primarily to demands on the passport service and the expansion of Ireland’s diplomatic and consular mission network as part of the Global Ireland 2025 strategy, including operational and policy reinforcement in headquarters to support that objective.

Since the launch of Global Ireland in June 2018, new Embassies have opened in New Zealand, Colombia, Jordan, Liberia and Chile and new Consulates General in Vancouver, Mumbai, Cardiff, Frankfurt and Los Angeles. This brings to ninety the number of diplomatic Missions in the network. Next year new Embassy openings are planned for Kyiv in Ukraine, Manila in the Philippines and Rabat in Morocco.

My Department has strengthened capacity in the Passport Service by recruiting additional permanent and temporary staff over the past twelve months to respond to a general increase in applications as well as from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The total number of new permanent staff recruited into my Department since January 2019 is detailed in the table below.

New Starts by Grade 2019

Grade

Number

Principal Officer

4

First Secretary

15

Assistant Principal

5

Accountant Grade 1

3

Assistant Legal Advisor

2

Quantity Surveyor

1

Archivist Grade III

1

Third Secretary

56

Administrative Officer

2

Higher Executive Officer

11

Executive Officer

27

Clerical Officer

179

Services Officer

2

TOTAL

308

Consular Services Provision

Ceisteanna (101)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

101. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the opening of a new consulate in the north of England; if provision is made for same in forthcoming departmental funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53735/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In “Global Ireland – Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025”, the Government committed to opening an additional consulate in another UK location post-2019. During a visit to Manchester in June for the British Irish Council, the Taoiseach reiterated this commitment.

It is envisaged that the new consulate will cover the entire North of England, including major population centres such as Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. This would broadly match the area known as the 'Northern Powerhouse', an area with a population of c. 15 million people.   

A decision on the timeline for opening the new consulate, as well as the optimum location, will be taken in the coming months.  

Additionally, it is worth noting that the Government has committed increased resources to our Embassy in London in the last few years, which was already the largest bilateral Embassy in our network. These resources have come from both from my own Department and from several other Government Departments and will ensure the Embassy's optimal engagement across all relevant policy areas. It is envisaged that the Embassy will continue to expand in order to support the bilateral relationship and to promote and protect Irish interests across all relevant sectors in a post-Brexit context. 

Ireland also engages closely with the devolved administrations. In Scotland, the Consulate in Edinburgh is active in promoting and protecting Irish interests, including taking a leading role on the current bilateral review of Ireland-Scotland relations. In addition, our footprint has also been re-established in Wales where the Consulate in Cardiff re-opened in April of this year, with a political and economic focus.

Departmental Advertising Data

Ceisteanna (102)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

102. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent on advertising in 2018 and to date in 2019 on Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53745/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government-wide ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign was launched on 20 September 2018.

In the initial phase of this campaign, my Department organised “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” public information events in Cork, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin, Limerick and Donegal throughout autumn 2018 to inform and advise citizens and businesses about Brexit preparedness and the range of support measures and resources that the Government has put in place. These events brought together over a dozen Agencies and their parent Departments – the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport - under one roof and were attended by approximately 2,500 people over the October-November period.

In the lead up to the March and April Brexit deadlines this year, my Department working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach and other Government Departments initiated a Brexit preparedness public information campaign. This campaign ran to ensure that key audiences were aware of the potential impact of a No Deal Brexit and the mitigation measures that they could take, with the support of Government where appropriate and with particular reference to the gov.ie/Brexit website. This national and local campaign activity was across TV, radio, print, internet and social media.

Building on the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ roadshows and the broad ranging information campaign in advance of the March and April Brexit deadlines, I along with Minister Heather Humphreys and Minister Helen McEntee launched a ‘Getting Your Business Brexit Ready – Practical Steps’ campaign in September.  This campaign informed businesses and consumers on the practical steps that all businesses should take to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU. Central to this campaign is a user-friendly digital booklet, which provides a comprehensive overview for businesses on the core steps they should take, and it can be accessed at gov.ie/Brexit.  

In addition to this booklet, a two week national and local radio campaign urged businesses to take action and review readiness under 9 key areas. This campaign targeted businesses and other affected sectors and encouraged them to take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk in advance of the Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019. This ad campaign was followed by a further citizen awareness public information campaign, which ran on national and local radio in the first two weeks of October.

In 2018 the initial Brexit related advertising expenditure was € 298,593.73.  In 2019 the total expenditure on advertising was € 1,028,254.31.

Personal Injury Claims

Ceisteanna (103)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

103. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the personal injuries pay-outs will be published for properties under the ownership of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [53793/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department will not be publishing personal injuries pay-outs for properties under its ownership for the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 as there are no records of such payments in these years.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (104, 113, 117)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

104. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which efforts continue to be made to restore the power-sharing Assembly in Northern Ireland; the extent to which the UK Government is positively involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53807/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

113. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to have dialogue with the parties in Northern Ireland with a view to the restoration of power sharing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53816/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

117. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when talks will resume with the UK Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland regarding the need to have the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53833/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 113 and 117 together.

It is clear that this is the moment to finally secure an agreement that will get the Executive, Assembly and the North South Ministerial Council restored to operation again.

The Taoiseach and Prime Minister Johnson spoke on Friday, and they agreed that achieving this is the top priority for both Governments.

If the Executive is not in place by 13 January next, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP, has stated that there will be an Assembly election. Nobody sees this as a desirable outcome, but if an agreement cannot be found by then, the people deserve to have their say.

I met with the Secretary of State in Belfast on Monday to discuss how to quickly and successfully conclude the talks process and get all of the institutions of the Agreement up and running again.

We believe that an agreement can be done in a matter of days - if the parties are ready to come together and do it.

The talks’ process initiated by the two Governments last May saw real engagement by all the parties and good progress was made, including on progressing the implementation of outstanding commitments from previous Agreements.

We do not believe there is any appetite among the people of Northern Ireland, or the parties, for that process to be extended now. What is needed is direct leader-to-leader discussions, political will and political courage.

All the parties have shown in the past that they are capable of showing that leadership, in the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland.

The indications and statements from the party leaders in Northern Ireland last week following the general election results, that they recognise that people in Northern Ireland want to see them operating power-sharing institutions, and that they need to reach an agreement to get back to doing that, were very welcome and important.

The Secretary of State and I have met with the parties separately already earlier this week, and we will bring them together again this week to seek to confirm that there is a shared determination to find agreement, and in days not weeks.

The two Governments will continue to do everything we can to support the parties in this work, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

EU Migration Crisis

Ceisteanna (105, 112)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

105. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to influence the international community and European countries to ensure they play their part in resolving the refugee crisis throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53808/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

112. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and the international community monitor conditions in the various refugee holding centres throughout Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53815/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 112 together.

I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a comprehensive approach to migration.

Migration remains a difficult issue within the Union where views can often be sharply divided. There are countries which have been required to take in large numbers of asylum seekers and others who continue to resist taking in any. Ms. Ylva Johansson, the recently appointed EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, has been tasked with developing a “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”.

We have consistently called for all EU member states to play their part in burden-sharing and helping to relieve pressure on frontline Member States. The issue of migration will not go away. Over 1200 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year. The EU must intensify its efforts to advance work in this area, particularly in relation to reform of the Common European Asylum System.  Any solution should be based on responsibility and solidarity. I look forward to the von der Leyen Commission and the new Commissioner, Ms Johansson, coming forward with proposals early in 2020.

Since 2015, Ireland has admitted over 2,900 people through the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR-led Refugee Resettlement Programme. Furthermore, we have allocated 100 spaces in 2019 to take people who were rescued in the Mediterranean and to process their applications for international protection. In addition, Ireland has been active in Search and Rescue missions in the Mediterranean since 2015. The Irish Naval Service has rescued more than 17,500 people since the beginning of the crisis.

Ireland also supports measures to address the root causes of irregular migration, through humanitarian and developmental programmes in developing countries. Indeed, Ireland’s pledge of €15 million for the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa is the third highest per capita contribution by an EU Member State.

Globally, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is one of Ireland’s key UN partner agencies for development assistance and is the main agency providing protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2019, Ireland provided a total of €15.5 Million (US$17m) to UNHCR’s global operations. This included €9 million un-earmarked core funding and €6.5 million via country programmes. 

While the social, economic and political stresses arising from the migration crisis are very considerable, it is essential that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met. This includes the reception conditions for applicants for international protection.  Applicants who are in detention should be treated with full respect for human dignity and in accordance with relevant EU and international standards. This is an issue to which our Missions, working closely with local EU Delegations and Embassies of EU Partners, are and will continue to pay close attention to both in frontline and transit states currently receiving high levels of persons arriving from outside Europe seeking international protection.