Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 338-362

National Parks

Ceisteanna (338)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

338. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of educational liaison officers appointed to each of the national parks to work with schools since June 2020 to date in tabular form. [29647/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Programme for Government – Our Shared Future commits to appointing Education Liaison Officers in our National Parks to work with schools across the country, to promote the importance of biodiversity and the natural world, and to involve pupils in the work that goes on in our National Parks. My Department is in contact with the Department of Education and Skills to progress matters.  

The National Parks and Wildlife Guide Service which operates from our National Parks and a number of other Centres across the country are a separate matter to this specific measure. These Centres run events for the general public, offer visits for community groups such as senior citizens and scouts and welcome both primary and secondary school groups for nature days and fieldwork. This service has continued over the course of the pandemic, where appropriate, and my Department expects another busy summer for the Parks and Wildlife Centres as the numbers of people holidaying at home in Ireland are expected to remain at a high level this year.

Housing Provision

Question No. 340 answered with Question No. 339.

Ceisteanna (339, 340)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

339. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of private, social and affordable houses built in each of the years 2005 to 2020, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29685/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

340. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of private, social and affordable houses built in each of the years 1995 to 2005, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29710/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 340 together.

My Department publishes comprehensive programme level statistics on social housing delivery activity. This data includes details on the number of social houses built between 2004 - 2015 and from 2016 onward. This data is published on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/collection/6060e-overall-social-housing-provision/.

Since 2016, in addition to the statistical overview of activity in each local authority, the Social Housing Construction Status Report is published each quarter which provides scheme level detail on new build activity in each local authority. The most recent publication covers the period up to the end of Q1 2021 and is available at the following link: rebuildingireland.ie/news/minister-obrien-publishes-social-housing-construction-status-report-for-q1-2021/.

The Central Statistics Office are responsible for the quarterly publication of all New Dwelling Completions. This data is complete to the end of 2020 and can be found at: data.cso.ie/product/NDC.

Increasing the supply of public, social and affordable homes is priority for this Government.  The Government will shortly be publishing our new housing strategy, Housing for All, which will set out our policies for housing delivery.

Question No. 340 answered with Question No. 339.

National Parks

Ceisteanna (341)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

341. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if documents (details supplied) will be provided for 2017 to 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29714/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The boundaries  and maps of the 6 National Parks are currently being reviewed by my Department and will be made publicly available on completion. 

The records the Deputy is requesting relate to the day-to-day routine operations of 87,000 hectares over the course of 13 years. As such, they would be voluminous and it would be resource intensive and neither a feasible nor effective use of those resources. In addition, it is not practical to identify the entirety of the extensive cache in the time available.  

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Ceisteanna (342)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

342. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide correspondence, commissioned third party reports, research studies or other policy documents produced by or for the NPWS on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29715/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The remit for deer management for my Department is in relation to the National Parks only, and, as such, there is no repository of reports, studies etc. outside of this. Deer are wild animals and the management of them is up to individuals and/or landowners that are being affected. My Department issues licences under Section 29 of the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018 for deer hunting and Section 42 of the same Act provides that where protected wild animals e.g. deer, or birds are causing serious damage to food, livestock, poultry or agricultural crops the owner or occupier may on application to the Minister seek a permission to take appropriate steps to stop the damage. 

My Department is committed to the active management of deer within National Parks. As part of its regular ongoing management operations in respect of these state lands, my Department carries out deer surveys and census reports as required or appropriate. Such operational reports are of course sensitive and their contents could be an incentive for wildlife crime (such as deer poaching). Officials are currently examining the documents comprehended by the Deputy's request in the context of a Freedom of Information request, and once a decision has been made on their releasable contents, given such operational sensitivities, my officials will send a copy of them to the Deputy also.

National Parks

Ceisteanna (343)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

343. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will provide copies of deer management plans for each of the national parks for 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29716/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department is committed to the active management of deer within  National Parks. As part of its regular ongoing management operations in respect of these state lands, my Department carries out deer surveys and census reports as required or appropriate. Such operational  reports are of course sensitive and their contents could be an incentive for wildlife crime (such as deer poaching).

Officials are currently examining the documents comprehended by the Deputy's request in the context of a Freedom of Information request, and once a decision has been made on their releasable contents, given such operational sensitivities, my officials will send a copy of them to the Deputy also.

Heritage Sites

Question No. 345 answered with Question No. 344.

Question No. 346 answered with Question No. 344.

Ceisteanna (344, 345, 346)

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

344. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the basis for his anticipation of receiving applications in respect of the Burren, Glendalough, Passage Tomb Landscapes of Sligo, Royal Sites and Valentia Cable Station for inclusion on the Tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. [29764/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

345. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the preparatory works carried out by his Department with local authorities in respect of the applications in respect of the Burren, Glendalough, Passage Tomb Landscapes of Sligo, Royal Sites and Valentia Cable Station to be included on the Tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. [29765/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

346. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the basis for not anticipating an application in early monastic sites other than Glendalough for inclusion on the Tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status. [29766/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344, 345 and 346 together.

I refer the Deputy back to the Topical Issue, To discuss the exclusion of Early Monastic Sites from Ireland’s Tentative List for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, debated in the Dáil on the 26 May 2021 which outlined the processes, supports, and engagements that have been part of the advancement of the revised Tentative List of World Heritage Properties to date.

In January 2019, my Department initiated its review of the Tentative List. My Department has invited all local authorities to submit applications to it with respect to properties of natural and/or cultural heritage within their area of responsibility, which may meet the requirements for inclusion on the Tentative List. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021.

My Department's policy is for applications to be promoted and sponsored by the relevant local authorities in order to ensure continuity throughout the process. Other organizations, community groups or individuals interested in submitting an application have been encouraged to apply in collaboration with the local authority and support has been provided when appropriate to do so. The role of the local authorities to lead engagement with community organisations on the ground is crucial in order to facilitate public consultation and wider stakeholder involvement, particularly in light of the requirement under the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for participatory planning and stakeholder consultation.

My Department’s National Monuments Service has been liaising very closely with those local authorities that have expressed interest in having a site within their county boundaries included on the revised Tentative List, providing advice and guidance on an ongoing basis and encouraging them to engage with relevant stakeholders at a local level.

My Department has engaged with all local authorities who expressed an interest in having a site within their county boundaries included on the revised Tentative List. This engagement has included facilitating two World Heritage Workshops in collaboration with ICOMOS Ireland, one held in Killarney in February 2020 and a follow-up workshop online in June 2020. These workshops focussed on next steps in the review process, World Heritage knowledge sharing, management of serial and transboundary applications, and the requirements of completing the Tentative List application form. At these workshops the challenges in the preparation of nomination documentation and management plans for prospective World Heritage properties was detailed and the need for wide public consultation and local stakeholder engagement was reinforced.

Following attendance at the workshops, interested parties were requested to submit draft Tentative List applications for review and feedback to ensure that the next Tentative List features properties that are well-placed to progress to World Heritage nomination. Throughout November and December 2020 my Department facilitated feedback in relation to the draft applications through individual online meetings with a World Heritage Expert.

My Department has also commissioned studies to further inform the review process for the Tentative List:

- Peer review of the 2014 Burren Technical Evaluation as a World Heritage Site, 2020;

- Glendalough OUV Study, expected June 2021;and

- Valentia Cable Station and Associated Sites, Heritage Study, 2020.

The basis for not anticipating an application for The Early Medieval Monastic Sites, other than Glendalough Monastic Site, is because despite the huge encouragement there was no engagement with my Department by all the relevant local authorities in respect of a revised application.

The anticipation for receiving applications in respect of The Burren, Glendalough Monastic Site, The Passage Tomb Landscapes of Sligo, The Royal Sites, and Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station is based on the level of engagement withthe process by and from the relevant local authorities, working in conjunction with community organisations. Draft applications have been received for these properties and the local authorities are working with relevant stakeholders to demonstrate that there is sufficient support for the project in the community.

Question No. 345 answered with Question No. 344.
Question No. 346 answered with Question No. 344.

Water Services

Ceisteanna (347)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

347. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the amount paid from the Exchequer to Irish Water, that is, current and capital each year since its inception up to the end of 2020; the provision in the estimate for 2021 for Irish Water; the estimated provision of funding over the next five years to allow it deal with the critical under investment in public water and wastewater services in the past; if Irish Water has confirmed to him that it has the necessary approvals from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to allow it to proceed with its investment plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29797/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. State funding provided to Irish Water since its inception in 2014 including the estimate for 2021 is set out in the table below:

Table

The Irish Water Strategic Funding Plan 2019-2024 sets out Irish Water’s multi-annual strategic business planning funding requirement of €11bn to 2024, comprising a €6.1bn investment in infrastructure and assets and €4.9bn in operating costs. The Programme for Government commits to funding Irish Water's capital investment plan for drinking water and waste water infrastructure on a multi-annual basis and delivery of the €8.5 billion funding package committed to in Project Ireland 2040. This overall funding commitment is key to addressing Ireland's shortcomings in water and waste water infrastructure.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the independent economic regulator of Irish Water.  In August 2020, the CRU published its determination on Irish Water’s third revenue control (RC3) setting out the total level of allowed revenue that Irish Water can receive, through Government subvention and from customers, to cover its efficiently incurred costs during the period 2020 to 2024. Irish Water's annual exchequer funding for domestic water services is determined through the annual estimates and budgetary process, having regard to the CRU determination under the economic regulatory process.

It may be helpful to note that Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email at Oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Local Authorities

Ceisteanna (348)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

348. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a lack of planning enforcement officers in Cork City Council; if the Council has sought additional funding for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29822/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers aggregate quarterly data on staff numbers in each local authority on a whole time equivalent basis.

However, granular data, in terms of the detailed breakdown of the local authorities which might have vacancies at these grades is not collected and consequently is not available in my Department. The relevant information would be available from individual local authorities.

Housing Provision

Ceisteanna (349)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

349. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of properties brought back into use by Galway County Council through the buy and renew, repair and lease and the Housing Agency Fund in tabular form. [29844/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department publishes comprehensive programme level statistics on a quarterly basis on social housing delivery activity.  This includes detailed data on the Repair and Lease (RLS), including data on delivery through RLS for each local authority since 2016. The data is available to the end of Quarter 1 2021.  Housing statistics are published on the statistics page of my Department’s website, at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/collection/6060e-overall-social-housing-provision/

Since January 2017, the Housing Agency has managed an acquisitions fund of €70 million, which is a revolving fund was established with the objective of acquiring 1,600 social housing homes in the period to 2021. This has enabled the Housing Agency to actively engage with banks and investment companies in relation to the acquisitions of properties.  Since 2017, 22 social housing homes have been acquired through the Housing Agency Acquisitions Fund in Galway County Council.

Capital funding is also provided to local authorities to acquire a range of properties for social housing use. To assist local authorities pursuing vacant properties, the Buy & Renew Scheme makes funding available to facilitate local authorities in acquiring and remediating vacant properties that may be suitable for social housing.  Galway County Council has supported an approved housing body to deliver two new homes through Buy and Renew in Ballinasloe under the Capital Assistance Scheme.

My Department is working to support increased Buy and Renew activity in local authorities. Galway County Council is actively pursuing opportunities to deliver new social housing through acquiring and remediating vacant properties and will utilise the Buy & Renew Scheme for this purpose.

Rental Sector

Ceisteanna (350)

Claire Kerrane

Ceist:

350. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of HAP properties inspected in County Galway by Galway County Council in 2018, 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [29845/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The minimum standards for rental accommodation are prescribed in the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.  All landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their rented properties comply with these Regulations. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations rests with the relevant local authority. 

Local authorities report to my Department on numbers of overall inspections carried out and enforcement actions undertaken on a quarterly basis. The most recent data received in respect of the number of inspections of all private rental properties and those with HAP tenancies is set out in the table below: 

HAP Inspections carried out in 2019  

Total    Inspections carried out in 2019        

HAP On-site Inspections carried out in    2020        

Total On-site Inspections carried out in 2020      

HAP Virtual Inspections   

   carried out in 2020      

Total Virtual Inspections carried out in 2020      

23,424

40,728

12,031

24,315

991

1,388

 

The following is the HAP Inspections breakdown for Galway County Council:

 

Inspections of HAP  Dwellings  

2018

661

2019

719

2020

808

2021 to end of Q1

    7

Significant Exchequer funding has been made available to local authorities in recent years to aid increasing inspections.  Funding has increased four-fold from €2.5m in 2018 to €10m in 2021. The increase in rental inspection figures in Galway reflects this increase in resources. Galway has been pro-active with regard to inspections and their 2020 figure would most likely be higher if not for Covid.

Given the need for inspectors to enter tenants’ homes, Covid-19 pandemic restrictions have impacted on the inspection of all rented dwellings – not just those with HAP tenancies. The City and County Management Association’s Local Authority Resilience and Recovery Plan for living with Covid-19 (October 2020) and its subsequent Local Authority Services Framework for Future Covid-19 Pandemic Response (January 2021) do not permit rental inspections in Levels 4 and 5. This is in order to protect tenants, landlords and rental inspectors.

In response to the difficulties caused by pandemic restrictions, some local authorities have been piloting virtual inspections. Dublin City Council have led this initiative which entails landlords receiving a checklist for self-assessment and being required to submit photographic/video evidence by email, tenants being invited to raise any non-compliance issues they are aware of and being asked to confirm that any remedial works requested by the local authority have been completed, and the Council reserving the right to conduct a physical on-site inspection when it is safe to so.

While virtual inspection systems present certain challenges and limitations, they do offer a way of improving the standard of rental accommodation despite the pandemic. I support these initiatives and my Department is encouraging local authorities not involved in the pilots to consider adopting them. I have committed to providing Exchequer funding for those that do. Galway County Council have expressed interest in the virtual inspection process.

Local Authorities

Ceisteanna (351)

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

351. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on the fact that to date since the regulations were introduced Galway City Council has only received five planning applications for change of use for short-term letting and that staff appointed by his Department to deal with short-term letting have not yet been appointed as following a recruitment process, no suitable candidates were available to take up a two-year contract; and his further views on whether there is a need for greater resources in this area to support stretched staff in council planning departments. [29850/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

On 4 June 2019, my Department wrote to planning authorities with Rent Pressure Zone designations (RPZs) - to which the short-term letting regulations apply - seeking estimated resource funding requirements for the implementation and enforcement of the new short-term letting (STL) provisions, to cover the period to the end of 2021. My Department wrote again to planning authorities on 2 July and 26 September of that year seeking new or revised estimates following the designation of additional RPZs in certain parts of the country, which extended the application of the STL provisions to these areas. Details of the resource requirements sought primarily relate to the recruitment of additional enforcement staff, but also include, inter alia, associated legal, IT and other administrative costs.

Since then, further communication has taken place between my Department and all relevant planning authorities seeking clarification and refinement of the resourcing requests, as well as in relation to the practical implementation of the STL provisions. 

For 2020, €2.5m was made available by my Department to support planning authorities in the implementation and enforcement of the STL legislation. Similarly, a further €2.5m has been made available in respect of 2021.

In December 2019, Galway City Council, further to its resourcing funding request, received approval to incur expenditure on dedicated STL implementation and enforcement resources, and funding of up to €241,500 in 2020 and €262,500 in 2021 was made available from my Department to cover this expenditure.

I understand that Galway City Council commenced a recruitment process for dedicated STL staff however, no suitable candidates were found to take up the contract on offer. The Covid-19 pandemic then put a hold on new recruitment. While staffing is a matter for individual local authorities, the Council has advised that the recruitment process for dedicated STL staff is currently being reviewed and my Department is awaiting an update on its progress in this regard. Currently, the planning enforcement section in the Council is responsible for the enforcement of the STL legislation.

To date, Galway City Council has drawn down a small amount of the funding approved for the enforcement of STL, to cover legal costs. In this connection, the outstanding funding for 2021 remains available to the Council should it wish to submit any further claims, including in respect of any dedicated enforcement staff recruited.

Regarding the five planning applications for change of use received, it should be noted that change of use planning is just one way to ensure compliance with the STL legislation. Properties can also be registered with the Council in accordance with the STL Regulations, can cease STL activity altogether and can be returned to the long-term rental market. In this connection, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the number of properties being made available for short-term letting purposes, with many - at least temporarily - now operating in the long-term letting sector.  

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (352)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

352. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps he is taking to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to develop comprehensive legislation for the identification, designation and management of marine protected areas in Irish territorial waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29865/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Programme for Government - Our Shared Future contains a commitment to realise our outstanding target of 10% marine protected area (MPA) coverage in Ireland's waters as soon as is practicable, aiming for 30% by 2030. In this regard the Government has committed in the Programme for Government to deliver comprehensive legislation for the identification, designation and management of MPAs in Ireland.

As an initial step in the current MPA process, an independent MPA Advisory Group chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe, Director of the UCD Earth Institute, was convened by this Department in 2019.  Minister Noonan and I received the final report of this expert group, entitled "Expanding Ireland's Marine Protected Area Network", on 22 October 2020 during EU Green Week.

A public consultation process focusing on the report and its key findings began on 17 February 2021 and will remain open until 30 July 2021. I and my colleagues in Government are encouraging all stakeholders and the wider public to submit their views on how Ireland’s network of MPAs should be expanded into the future.

Following this extensive consultation period, and a detailed analysis of the submissions received from all quarters, my Department will commence the development of legislation as stated in the Programme for Government. This work is expected to begin this autumn, with ongoing development of legislation planned into 2022.

National Parks

Ceisteanna (353)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

353. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps he is taking to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to examine the establishment of an offshore maritime area as Ireland’s seventh national park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29866/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Programme for Government - Our Shared Future contains a commitment to realise our outstanding target of 10% marine protected area (MPA) coverage in Ireland's waters as soon as is practicable, aiming for 30% by 2030 including the examination of an offshore maritime area as a national park. 

In this regard the Government has committed in the Programme for Government to deliver comprehensive legislation for the identification, designation and management of MPAs in Ireland. It is within the framework of such legislation that the Government will deliver the establishment of marine protected areas, including processes for their identification, designation and management. 

As an initial step in the current process, an independent MPA Advisory Group chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe, Director of the UCD Earth Institute, was convened by my Department in 2019. Minister Noonan and I received the final report of this expert group, entitled "Expanding Ireland's Marine Protected Area Network", on 22 October 2020 during EU Green Week.

A public consultation process began on 17 February 2021 and will remain open until 30 July 2021. This includes public consideration of what should be protected (for example, certain species and/or habitat types) and what type(s) of MPAs could usefully be underpinned in the new legislation.

Following this consultation period, and a detailed analysis of the submissions received from all quarters, my Department will commence the development of legislation . This work is expected to begin this autumn, with ongoing development of legislation planned into 2022.

Common Travel Area

Ceisteanna (354)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

354. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps being taken to normalise the common travel area. [29650/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Common Travel Area (CTA) has continued to operate throughout the pandemic and, over the last number of years, significant steps have been taken by the Irish and British Governments and the European Union to safeguard CTA rights and privileges for the future. 

Over the last year, in a range of areas, the two Governments have legislated to ensure continued access to CTA rights and privileges for Irish and British citizens, following the end of the Brexit transition period. We agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Common Travel Area healthcare arrangements and brought into force an Ireland-UK Social Security Convention in late 2020. Work on finalising an MoU on education arrangements in the CTA is also at an advanced stage. 

Importantly, both the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement explicitly take account of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. This allows for the protection of established bilateral arrangements so that Irish and British citizens can continue to live, work and study - and access healthcare, social security and public services - in each jurisdiction.

The Government has had to introduce a range of restrictions on domestic and international travel to address the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions were developed on the basis of public health advice and are being amended on the basis of such advice, as conditions allow. The restrictions remain consistent with the CTA, in that they apply equally to all passengers arriving into Ireland, including Irish citizens, with only very limited exceptions.

The CTA of course allows for Irish and British citizens to move freely between Ireland and the UK. I want to see this travel taking place in as seamless a manner as possible, as soon as this is feasible and safe. The CTA plays a vital role in facilitating the way in which Irish and British people live on these islands, and it will continue to underpin our bilateral relationship.   

European Council

Ceisteanna (355)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

355. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the issues discussed at the recent European Council; if the interception of a flight (details supplied) over the air space of Belarus was discussed; and if so, the outcome of such discussions. [29032/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

On 24 May EU leaders discussed Belarus, Russia, relations with the UK, and the situation in the Middle East and in Mali. The coercive forced landing of a Ryanair flight over Belarus to detain a journalist and opposition activist featured prominently during those discussions. The Taoiseach communicated clearly Ireland’s view that a strong EU response is needed.

EU leaders called for the immediate release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, and for an urgent investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Leaders also agreed on introducing new sanctions, including economic sanctions, calling on airlines to avoid Belarussian airspace and commencing work to ban Belarussian airlines from EU airspace. Work on operationalising these concrete steps has already commenced and Ireland is working closely with the EU and Member States to that end.

Relations with Belarus were discussed at an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on 27 May and the next steps in implementing the steps agreed by European Leaders were considered with a clear consensus on the need make rapid progress.

Ireland has rejected the false narrative of the Belarusian Government and Minister Ryan called for a transparent and independent investigation during a special International Transport Forum meeting on 27 May. ICAO has since confirmed that they will investigate the incident and Ireland fully supports this decision. Along with our EU and international partners we will remain focused on ensuring that those responsible for endangering the passengers and crew, and for the ongoing repression in Belarus, are brought to account for their actions.

Middle East

Ceisteanna (356)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

356. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the Government will honour its commitment in the Programme for Government to recognise the state of Palestine. [29065/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question no. 61 answered on 11 May 2021. 

I have been clear in my engagement with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority of the commitment of this Government to advancing a Two-State solution, in line with the agreed parameters for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Programme for Government states that the Government will “Honour our commitment to recognise the State of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict, or in advance of that, when we believe doing so will progress efforts to reach a Two-State solution or protect the integrity of Palestinian territory”. 

As I have stated previously, in the absence of progress towards a Two-State solution, I would be prepared to recommend to the Government early recognition by Ireland of a State of Palestine, if and when it might be helpful, and this is a matter which I discuss with EU colleagues.  

Departmental Functions

Ceisteanna (357)

Cian O'Callaghan

Ceist:

357. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason his Department and the Department of Defence approved the landing and presence of a US Navy helicopter at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel on 13 May 2021 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29146/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

As I set out in my reply to the Deputy on this matter on 19 May last, the request for diplomatic clearance for this landing confirmed that our required conditions were met. Permission was granted on that basis.

Foreign Policy

Ceisteanna (358)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

358. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the US Senate is considering a draft Bill that targets jurisdictions with inadequate enforcement of data protection law (details supplied); and if he will furnish details of any enquires his Department has made to the US Senate or any other relevant body regarding the potential impact this could have on Ireland. [29156/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department and our officials in the Embassy in Washington DC are aware of the draft legislation proposed in the US Senate. The proposed bill aims to amend the US export control regime in order to limit the sale and transfer of US citizens’ data to countries which are deemed to have insufficient safeguards for the protection of personal data and inadequate enforcement of data protection legislation.

The draft legislation was proposed in April and is still in the very early stages of the US legislative process. It may be the case that the final legislation differs from what is proposed, or indeed that the draft legislation will not become law. As such, it is not appropriate for me to comment on the draft legislation or any impact it may have.

I would also recall that rules and legislation regarding the transfer of data to countries outside the EU is a competence of the European Commission. The transfer of personal data from the EU to third countries is carried out under a number of transfer mechanisms set out in Chapter V of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The default transfer mechanism is known as  an ‘adequacy decision’. This is an implementing decision by the Commission which guarantees that the third country in question provides an equivalent level of protection of personal data as exists in the EU. Once a third country has been assessed by the Commission as providing an equivalent level of protection, transfers of EU citizens’ data can take place between the EU and the selected third country under that adequacy decision, without limitation or additional safeguards.

Following a recent court case, the European Commission and the US authorities are currently engaged in discussions regarding a new adequacy decision, focusing on enforceable rights and safeguards for EU citizens’ data.

Officials in our Embassy in Washington DC continue to monitor developments regarding EU–US data transfers and proposed legislative changes concerning same.

Third Level Education

Ceisteanna (359)

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

359. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department will have the planned additional scholarships for the College of Europe designed to put Irish persons in a position to win posts in the European institutions in place for the coming academic year. [29165/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

On 6 May last, Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne launched “A Career for EU”, Ireland’s new sSrategy to increase our representation among the staff of the EU’s Institutions and Agencies. 

Ireland is facing a “demographic cliff” in its representation among the staff of the EU’s Institutions, as many senior Irish officials will soon retire. Not enough Irish people are applying for and securing permanent posts in the EU Institutions to make up for their departure.

It is very important that Irish citizens continue to serve in the EU Institutions at all levels and all policy areas. By doing so, Irish officials will remain at the heart of Europe and use their unique experience and capabilities to contribute to the development of the Union.

The new Strategy contains a number of commitments to increase awareness of EU careers. It also sets out a number of concrete measures designed to support and assist Irish people interested in a career in the European Union. 

The Strategy has a commitment to increase the supply of suitable candidates for EU roles by increasing the number of scholarships we provide to Irish students studying at the College of Europe to at least ten. At present, three Irish people are granted College of Europe scholarships annually by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. 

From 2022, the new Strategy will require additional funding amounting to €1.5 million. We will seek a proposed additional €200,000 to cover the additional seven scholarships at the College of Europe. 

The call for applications for the coming academic year at the College of Europe (2021/2022) was launched in late 2020, prior to the launch of the Strategy, and three scholarships have already been allocated to prospective students on the basis of the funds available for 2021. The increase in funding available for additional scholarships at the College of Europe will therefore come into effect in advance of the opening of the selection process for the academic year 2022/2023.

The timeline for the 2022/2023 selection process will be announced in October of this year. It is expected that the deadline for applications will close in January 2021, with interviews taking place throughout the spring. Information on the timeline for this selection process will be made available on the College of Europe’s website later this year.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (360)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

360. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the data breaches experienced by his Department since 2018. [29309/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department necessarily collects, processes, and stores significant volumes of personal data from our customers, staff, and service providers. In particular, the effective delivery of passport and consular services for Irish citizens at home and abroad is a central component of the Department's work and necessitates the processing of personal data.

My Department endeavours to safeguard the personal data that it processes and takes its responsibilities in this regard very seriously. We monitor closely our compliance rate; in 2020, just 0.025% of the total number of passports and Foreign Birth Registration certificates that issued were subject to a suspected data breach. We continue to work towards lowering this figure further in 2021.

Since 2018, the data breaches recorded by this Department have been deemed low or medium risk to the data subject. The main cause of data breaches is human error. Examples of such an error causing a data breach would include incorrectly addressed correspondence issued by post and email. The remainder of breaches are largely due to external unintentional acts. These are mainly attributable to documents that are correctly addressed but are lost in transit through the postal system.

Consular Services

Ceisteanna (361)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

361. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance that has been provided to the family of a person (details supplied) who died in Thailand. [29320/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has been providing consular advice, support and assistance to the family, through our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin and our Embassy in Bangkok, since first notified of the case in December 2020.

Embassy officials have liaised extensively with relevant local authorities, including health and police authorities, with a view to ensuring that information is communicated to the family in relation to their concerns.

As noted in our Consular Assistance Charter, my Department is precluded from intervening directly in a legal process in another jurisdiction. Where further inquiries on specific issues require the services of a legal representative, our officials stand ready to provide a list of local English-speaking lawyers. Our officials remain in ongoing contact with the family and will continue to provide all possible assistance in line with our Consular Assistance Charter.

EU Meetings

Ceisteanna (362)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

362. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if EU-Singapore ties were discussed at the most recent EU Foreign Affairs meeting. [29485/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

EU-Singapore ties were not on the agenda at the most recent Foreign Affairs Council meeting.

I welcome the deepening of EU relations bilaterally with Singapore and through the strengthening of relations with ASEAN regionally. In December last, 2020, I participated in the 23rd ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers Meeting where the EU-ASEAN relationship was upgraded to the level of strategic partnership.

This provides opportunities for increased cooperation in the areas of economy, security, sustainable connectivity and sustainable development including climate action. The Strategic partnership also provides renewed support for the negotiation of an EU-ASEAN Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement

The EU  has also agreed a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore, which entered into effect on 21 November 2019. This agreement offers good opportunities to Irish and European companies businesses in the region to trade more easily and to lower the costs of doing business. 

Singapore, in particular, is a major trading partner for Ireland in Asia Pacific. Trade in goods and services with Ireland in 2019 was more than €10bn. This highlights the importance of Singapore as a destination for Irish business.

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