Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Tuesday, 1 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 363-387

Foreign Policy

Ceisteanna (363)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

363. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to have working holiday authorisations with the United Arab Emirates and South Africa. [29486/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs currently administers nine Working Holiday Authorisations (WHAs), with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and the United States. There are no plans to introduce a WHA programme with South Africa or UAE at this time. 

The processing of Working Holiday applications by our Missions abroad has been temporarily suspended in response to the current global health crisis. Other countries and regions with which we have bilateral programmes have likewise temporarily suspended their reciprocal arrangements.

My Department will continue to monitor the evolving situation here and in the relevant locations abroad, in terms particularly of public health advice, travel restrictions, job opportunities and the availability of short-term accommodation. We will instruct our Missions abroad to re-open the application processes when circumstances allow young people to benefit from a working holiday here. The potential addition of other WHA programmes will also be considered at this time.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (364)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

364. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of protected disclosures made to his Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2021. [29635/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs has not received any protected disclosures to date in 2021 nor in any of the past five years.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (365)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

365. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Irish citizens who reside here but work in Northern Ireland and have been vaccinated as part of the system in Northern Ireland will be in a position to apply for an EU Covid-19 digital green certificate when it is introduced here in cases of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29756/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The EU Digital COVID Certificate is designed to facilitate the safe free movement of citizens within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be valid in all EU Member States, including Ireland, and will be provided by the Member State within which the vaccination or Covid-19 test took place.

Individual Member States will determine how the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be used as part of their national public health measures. Information on how the Certificate will apply in each country will be made available by Member States and on Re-open EU. Under the Regulations, individuals who have been vaccinated or tested in the Member State, who are EU citizens or third country nationals legally in the State, have a right to be issued these certificates on request.

The Department of Health is leading on the cross Departmental development of the EU Digital Covid Certificate and the HSE are developing the IT and required operational procedures. However, the timeframe is very challenging and the new operational processes required to support this interoperable certificate framework is yet to be established. Further, the cyber-attack on the HSE is likely to impact on the timeframe to deliver the Certificates. The focus will therefore initially be on delivery of the vaccination certificates, with recovery and test certificates to follow.

With regard to persons not vaccinated in Ireland, including EU citizens vaccinated in Northern Ireland, the Regulation gives the option to issue vaccination certificates to persons vaccinated elsewhere, with EMA approved vaccines, upon receipt of appropriate proof.

Currently, the main development focus is on the delivery of the obligations of the EU Regulation with respect of persons who received a vaccination or a test in Ireland. The possibility of providing vaccination certificates to persons not vaccinated in Ireland will be kept under consideration.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (366)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

366. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29828/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passport Service scaled up operational levels on 4 May 2021, in line with the phased easing of restrictions set out in “COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 – The Plan Ahead”.

Passport Online will continue to be the priority channel given the efficiencies that are in-built into the system for both the applicant and the Passport Service. The processing of an online application is up to four times as fast as a paper application. In addition, the use of Passport Online can facilitate social distancing, given that a renewal application for an adult does not require the signature of a witness.

Passport Online can be accessed by first time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. All Irish citizens, including children, can use the online system to renew their passports from anywhere in the world.

The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we are confident, taking into account measures to ensure a safe workplace, that the Passport Online applications on hand can be cleared in six to eight weeks.

With regard to the specific application about which the Deputy has enquired, the Passport Service was in contact with the applicant's mother on 28 May 2021 to provide an update on the status of the passport application.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (367)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

367. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the nature of the data breaches experienced by his Department since 2018. [29304/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The majority of data breach incidents that have occurred in my Department since 2018 have related to mis-addressed correspondence by email and post.  In most instances, data breaches have involved no risk or a low risk to the data subject.  In cases where there was a low risk to the rights and freedoms of a data subject, the Data Protection Commission was notified.  A singular case arising in the above similar circmnstances, but deemed to be a high risk to the rights and freedoms of an individual data subject, was notified to the data subject and the Data Protection Commission, in line with GDPR requirements.

My Department takes its data protection responsibilities very seriously and makes every effort to ensure that personal data is safeguarded at all times.  Technical and organisational measures, as required under GDPR, are implemented to ensure the security of personal data being processed.  Data security and data privacy are central topics of all data protection awareness campaigns rolled out to staff on a regular basis.  Also, my Department has a data breach protocol in place for the management of data breach incidents.

EU Programmes

Ceisteanna (368, 369)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

368. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence if his Department or the Defence Forces are preparing a national strategy for military mobility; if so, if such a strategy will be presented to the PESCO Military Mobility Project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29340/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

369. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether it is appropriate for Ireland to be involved in an observer capacity in view of the public statements by the Dutch head of the PESCO Military Mobility Project, that this is an important boost for EU NATO co-operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29341/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 368 and 369 together.

There is currently a PESCO Military Mobility project on military mobility across the EU and Ireland has observer status on this project.  The purpose of this observer status is simply to idenitify and review any implicsations which may potentially arise for Ireland from this project. 

The Military Mobility project is seen as a key priority for the EU and its member states and is part of a broader set of initiatives to improve military mobility, not just at national levels, but also within EU and NATO. for both exercises and operational reasons  The project is led by Netherlands.

There are no plans currently by Ireland to seek approval to change Ireland's observer status,  which allows us to attend meetings and provides us with access to information that is not restricted to the participating Member States.  There is no financial impact to our observer status on this project.  Meetings are attended by Brussels based Department of Defence staff.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (370)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

370. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 450 of 18 May 2021, if he will provide a further breakdown in origin for the outstanding Defence Forces Workplace Relations Commission complaints; if he will provide a complete breakdown of the 28 WRC complaints by origin per service, that is, Army, Naval Service and Air Corps in tabular form; and if he will provide a breakdown and further details regarding the other category. [29475/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

A complete breakdown of the 28 WRC complaints received by my Department, by origin per service in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) is as follows:

 Type of Complaint

Army 

Naval Service

Air Corps

Other

 Won - not upheld*

 

 1

 3

 2

 Lost - upheld

 

 

 1

 

 Settled or Withdrawn**

 1

 1

 10

 

 Ongoing

 3

 1

 3

 2

As per correspondence dated to your office on 28th May 2021: 

* The correct number of Complaints Won (not upheld) should have read 6 in PQ 26471

** The correct figure for Complaints Settled or Withdrawn should have read 12 in PQ 26471 

The category titled "Other" in the table above refers to complaints made to the Workplace Relations Commission by non-PDF members, including members of the Reserve Defence Force and the general public regarding issues concerning the Defence Forces.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (371)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

371. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the number of vacancies by rank in the military police; if a recruitment campaign for same will occur in quarter 3 2021. [29488/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Vacant positions in the Military Police Corps (MP Corps)  are filled by serving members of the Permanent Defence Force and so no external recruitment campaigns are envisaged.  

Serving personnel, on successful completion of the required courses, are inducted into the MP Corps.  Such courses are ongoing and, in addition to the current training pipeline, further courses are being considered and another is due to commence shortly.  

 For operational secutity reasons it would be inappropriate to release the strength figures of the MP Corps.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (372)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

372. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the number of protected disclosures made to his Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2021. [29630/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The following table sets out the number of protected disclosures received from 2016 to date.

Year

Number of disclosures

2016

2

2017

11

2018

4

2019

4

2020

12

2021 (as of 27th May)

9

This figure relates to all Protected Disclosures which have made been made both to the Department and to the Defence Forces.

In accordance with the terms of section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 an annual report in relation to the total number of protected disclosures made in the preceding year is prepared and published on the departmental website www.defence.ie/what-we-do/protected-disclosures. The report for 2020 is being prepared.

Cybersecurity Policy

Ceisteanna (373)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

373. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence if upgrades will be made the Defence Forces internal IT systems in view of the cyber attack; the funding being made available; the headcount of personnel being dedicated to defence IT cyber defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29669/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I want to assure you that my Department and the Defence Forces implement a programme of continuous review in relation to ICT security in order to keep up to date with current threat levels.

The Defence Forces are constantly researching new and emerging technologies in order to enhance the security of the Defence Forces' network infrastructure.  Significant and substantial security enhancements have been made to the Defence Forces' networks in recent years. For operational security reasons, the headcount of the personnel dedicated to IT Cyber Defence will not be disclosed as it would be inappropriate to provide information that may in any way assist those with malicious intent.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (374)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

374. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel vaccinated; the hierarchy of defence personnel to be vaccinated; if the roll-out is dependent on HSE staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29670/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am informed by the Military Authorities that, as of 27 May 2021, 3,055 Defence Forces personnel have received their first dose of a vaccine and a further 1,223 personnel have received their second dose.   

 The COVID-19 vaccine Allocation Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government. It sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Defence Forces has established vaccine prioritisation which is in line with this national allocation strategy.

Initial vaccination priority is for Defence Force personnel who are providing front line support to the HSE and National Ambulance Service (NAS) in the national effort to combat COVID 19. Defence Forces personnel have been, and continue to be, heavily engaged in providing front line support in a number of key areas which includes but is not limited to; Testing program support, Vaccination program support, and the Mandatory Quarantine Scheme.

In addition, where possible, Defence Forces personnel selected for overseas service, will be vaccinated prior to their deployment. This will be subject to availability of a vaccine which is coordinated through the HSE.  

Defence Forces personnel have been vaccinated by both HSE personnel (including NAS) and by Defence Forces medical personnel..

As the national vaccination programme continues to gather pace, other Defence Forces personnel will also be vaccinated as they fall into the designated age categories for vaccination.  

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (375)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

375. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the status of the purchasing of dedicated troop carriers for the Air Cops; the expected costs and timeline involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29671/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This is primarily to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles assigned by Government as set out in the White Paper on Defence. Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and Equipment Development Planning (EDP) process.

In this context, the principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements at home and overseas. Budget 2021 provides a Capital allocation of €131m for investment in Defence equipment and barracks infrastructure and will enable continued investment in major equipment platforms such as Defence Forces vehicle fleet. The increased capital funding for 2021 builds on increased levels of capital expenditure totalling €392m over the years 2018 – 2020.

In relation to air-based capability, my immediate priorities have been the acquisition of three Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) role and for two Airbus C295 maritime patrol aircraft. An additional PC-12 was also acquired in response to the Covid 19 situation. Some €276 million, including VAT, has been committed to the acquisition of these enhanced capabilities. No decisions have been made for the acquisition of additional aircraft in other roles such as dedicated troop carriers.

While the option of acquiring a wider military lift capability has been mentioned, it is not identified as an action for acquisition in the present 5 year Equipment Development Plan, which was developed through a joint civil-military approach. Much of this longer range lift capability for military purposes is provided by way of chartering aircraft through a competitive procurement process on an as-required basis. To date, this has been considered to be the most cost effective approach taking account of the acquisition, running and maintenance costs of larger aircraft in the context of their expected usage and contingency requirements. The overall priorities in the EDP will remain under review as it is progressively implemented and taking account of funding availability

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (376)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

376. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence if all documents and data on serving and retired personnel is held in digitised or paper form; if this is GDPR compliant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29672/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Personal data on behalf of both serving and retired personnel is held compliant with GDPR. This data can be stored in paper or digitised form.

The Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) is the Data Controller for Óglaigh na hÉireann and is responsible for the processing of personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. Óglaigh na hÉireann engages with the Data Protection Commission on an ongoing basis to ensure best practice. Óglaigh na hÉireann takes its data protection responsibilities very seriously and makes every effort to ensure that personal data is appropriately safeguarded. Further, there is a data breach protocol in place for the management of data breach incidents that may occur.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (377)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

377. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the expenditure on Defence Forces food in 2019 and 2020; the starting income and other allowances for Defence Forces chefs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29673/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Defence Forces food requirements, both at home and overseas and encompassing rations, pack rations, provisions and front of house catering services, are provided for from within Subhead A.14.3.  (Defence Forces: Catering and Provisions) of the Defence Vote. The amounts spent on Defence Forces food requirements in 2019 and 2020 are set out in the table below.

 Year

 A.14.3:   Defence Forces: Catering and Provisions

 2019

 €7.3   million

 2020

 €7.4   million

Public Sector pay and allowance rates are determined centrally by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. All Defence Forces personnel are in receipt of basic pay and applicable allowances as determined by their rank, length of service and qualifications.

Currently, the ranks serving as Chefs in the Defence Forces are all pre-2013 entrants and range in rank from Corporal to Company Quartermaster Sergeant. The weekly basic pre-2013 pay rate of a Corporal extends from €628.69 to €662.63, with an additional entitlement to a weekly Military Service Allowance payment of €133.05. The weekly basic pre-2013 pay rate of a Company Quartermaster Sergeant extends from €785.38 to €845.05, with an additional entitlement to a weekly Military Service Allowance payment of €141.63. In addition, all pre-2013 Defence Forces Chefs with the appropriate qualifications also receive an additional Chef’s Allowance payment of €56.77 per week.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (378)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

378. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the current and capital funding dedicated to the Army Ranger Wing and Naval Service divers in 2019 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29674/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Vote 36 Defence is managed through a single programme with all operational outputs delivered from a single set of forces encompassing the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. Dedicated current and capital expenditure costs for the Army Ranger Wing and Naval Service divers are not identified separately, but are included in the overall programme costs across the appropriate subheads of the Vote.

Defence Current and Capital expenditure in 2019 and 2020 is as set out in the table below.

Vote 36   (Defence)

Current   Expenditure €m

Capital   Expenditure €m

2019

618.3

137.8

2020

622.4

158.6

 

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (379)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

379. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the cost of purchasing petrol and diesel for Defence Forces vehicles in 2019 and 2020; the number of electric vehicles; the number of electric vehicle charging points in Defence Forces installations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29675/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The acquisition of new equipment and the upgrading of equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for the Defence Organisation. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.

In this context the principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements at home and overseas. Budget 2021 provides a Capital allocation of €131m for investment in Defence equipment and barracks infrastructure and will enable continued investment in major equipment platforms such as Defence Forces vehicle fleet. The increased capital funding for 2021 builds on increased levels of capital expenditure totalling €392m over the years 2018 – 2020.

Certain purchasing is carried out by the Defence Forces directly under delegation of financial responsibility which permits the Defence Forces to procure a wide range of goods and services directly, this includes the purchasing of non-armoured vehicles and fuel for the entire fleet.

I am advised by the military authorities that the total cost (inclusive of VAT) of purchasing petrol and diesel for the Defence Forces fleet of vehicles in the years in question is as set out in the table below.

Year

Diesel

Petrol

Total

2019

€2,423,915.65

€28,178.83

€2,452,094.48

2020

€1,797,550.62

€19,897.71

€1,817,448.33

I am further advised by the military authorities that the Defence Forces vehicle fleet currently consists of approximately 1,700 individual vehicles of different types and configurations. Of this number there are currently forty one (41) electric powered vehicles (EVs) and three (3) hybrid vehicles.

The table below gives the full breakdown of the forty four vehicles by vehicle type and year of purchase.

Table 1: Breakdown of Defence Forces electric and hybrid vehicles by vehicle type and date of purchase

Vehicle Type

Year of Purchase

Saloon

Forklift

Stores Vehicle

Electric Buggy

2002

2

2005

3

2008

2

2013

3

2016

1

2017

1

2018

1

2019

3 (hybrid)

2020

8

11

2021

8

1

Total

16 + 3 (hybrid)

12

1

12

The Defence Forces maintain two fleets of vehicles; the military fleet and the administrative fleet. The military fleet, which consists of military specific vehicles such as armoured vehicles, trucks and off-road SUVs, comprises approximately 55% of the fleet. The administrative fleet are vehicles that can be purchased commercially such as saloon, stores vehicles and minibuses. They comprise approximately 45% of the Defence Forces fleet.

In line with Government policy in relation to the Clean Vehicle Directive, the Defence Forces are committed to procuring vehicles that have reduced carbon emissions.

Due to the specific nature and requirements of the military fleet of vehicles and the locations where they are likely to operate, these vehicles are Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) type and will be replaced, as required, with fossil fuel ICE vehicles for the reasons outlined above. The Defence Forces, however, endeavours to replace these ICE vehicles with more energy efficient models where possible. For example, the new SUV and Troop Carrying Vehicle (TCV) fleets will be replaced with EURO 6 compliant engines which will result in a 50% reduction in emissions compared to the older EURO 3 engines which they replace.

The Defence Forces has committed to replacing the administrative fleet with energy efficient (green vehicles) as the technology allows. To date the investment in energy efficient vehicles as outlined in Table 1 above amounts to €1.2m inclusive of VAT. The Defence Forces has committed to spend a minimum of 6% of the DF vehicle replacement budget on EV starting in 2020 and a minimum of 8% in 2021, with a commitment to increase investment by a minimum of 2% of budget each subsequent year. Already in 2021 the Defence Forces have taken delivery of eight (8) EV saloons and an electric buggy. A further eight (8) EV stores vehicles have been ordered with delivery expected in Q2.

The Corps of Engineers have also invested in supporting infrastructure with the installation of 19 EV chargers across 16 Defence Forces locations to sustain the enlargement of the Defence Forces Electric Vehicle fleet into the future.

I am satisfied that, with these new acquisitions and the planning for future clean vehicle procurements, the Defence Forces will continue to have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (380)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

380. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the estimated cost of providing tech pay to defence personnel in the CIS corps in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29676/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

For reasons of operational security, It would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific matters relating to the Defence Forces' Communications and Information Service (CIS). 

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (381)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

381. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence if there will be a recruitment competition aimed at attracting skillsets such as cyber security, statisticians and data analysts in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29677/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

It has not been possible to gather the required information in the tunraround time for PQs. I will revert to the Deputy when the information has been gathered.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (382)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

382. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the number of courses cancelled or postponed in 2020 and to date in 2021 due to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29679/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In 2021, 19 courses were paused in January in response to COVID-19 pandemic conditions at that time and rescheduled for later in the 2021 training year. One (1) course of training was cancelled and deferred until 2022 pending a Training Needs Analysis.

In 2020, the DF Training Management System records that 77 courses were cancelled. 153 courses are recorded as pending, commenced, deferred or suspended.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (383)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

383. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the number of Permanent Defence Forces personnel who have applied to re-enlist to date; the number reinducted by rank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29680/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Last April, the former Minister with responsibility for Defence, launched a scheme to re-enlist former Permanent Defence Force (PDF) enlisted personnel. The focus of the scheme was those former PDF personnel with particular skillsets, identified by the Chief of Staff, where shortages exist  The scheme allows for initial re-enlistment for a minimum of six months and up to 3 years and the duration of the re-enlistment offered depends on the vacancies that exist.    

As of 30 April 2021, following recommendations from the Chief of Staff, 56 personnel have been inducted. The number of personnel, by rank, that have re-enlisted to date under the scheme for the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, is broken down as follows:

Rank

Army

Naval Service

Air Corps

Total

CQMS

 0

 1

 1

 2

Sergeant

 5

 0

 2

 7

Corporal

 8

 0

 2

10

Private

 35

 1

 1

37 

I welcome the re-enlistment of these personnel and wish them well in their renewed careers in the Defence Forces. Their important contribution to the operational effectiveness of the Defence Forces is appreciated.  

I understand that the Chief of Staff will make further recommendations for personnel to be re-enlisted in the coming period. 

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (384)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

384. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the status of all Naval Service ships currently not at sea; the reason they are not at sea; when they will be ready to be deployed once again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29681/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Naval Service is the State's principal sea-going agency tasked with a variety of defence and other roles. In this context, I would highlight the security role of the Naval Service, a role which by its nature can go unrecognised or unacknowledged. I am advised that the fleet is managed to ensure maximum availability to meet operational requirements.

The Naval Service has nine ships. Two ships are currently in operational reserve but can be called upon for surge operations in times of national emergency, as was the case when a ship was taken out of operational reserve and deployed to Cork City for COVID-19 support to the HSE for a number of weeks last year. In addition one ship is in the process of a mid-life re-fit which is expected to last 18 - 24 months. There are 6 operational ships that remain available at present.

The Deputy will appreciate that, for operational and security reasons, it would not be appropriate to disclose details of the operational deployment of any individual vessel in the Naval Service. I can assure the Deputy that notwithstanding current challenges being experienced, the Naval Service continues to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including fishery protection and maritime security operations.

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (385, 410)

Pauline Tully

Ceist:

385. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Education the number of transport places that were made available for children to take part in the summer education programme for children with complex needs in 2020; the number of children to avail of transport during the programme for children with complex needs in 2020; the cost of transport for the programme for children with complex needs in 2020; the proportion of this which was spent on direct transport; the proportion of this which was spent on transport grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29477/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pauline Tully

Ceist:

410. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Education the number of transport places that were made available for children to take part in the Summer Education Programme 2020; the number of children to avail of transport during the programme; the cost of transport for same; the proportion of this which was spent on direct transport; the proportion of this which was spent on transport grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29476/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 385 and 410 together.

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020. 

With regard to transport arrangements for the Summer Programme 2020, as the provision of transport was not possible due to Covid 19 restrictions at that time, my Department committed to providing grant funding to support families with the cost of transport arrangements for those children who were eligible for school transport and who were approved to participate in the school based Summer Programme.

School Transport Section has processed payment of these grants to all eligible families for which all required details have been received. To date, payment has been made to over 900 families at a cost of over €400,000.  School Transport Section is continuing to process payments of these grants to families who are eligible as information is received. 

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (386)

Verona Murphy

Ceist:

386. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Education the provisions she is taking to increase special class capacity in County Wexford for specific learning disability reading for the 2021-2022 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29090/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

A new model for allocating special education teachers (SETs) to mainstream schools was introduced from September 2017, based on the profiled needs of schools.  Over 13,600 SETs are currently provided to mainstream schools to support the learning needs of pupils who have additional needs in literacy, including those arising from specific learning difficulties.

It is the policy of my Department, in accordance with the principles of inclusive education, that pupils with such additional learning needs are supported in mainstream classes with additional provision made by a special education teacher.

In September 2018, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was requested to develop Policy Advice on Education Provision in Special Classes and Special Schools to examine whether placement in specialist settings brings about improved educational outcomes and experiences, relative to their ability, for students with special educational needs.

This Policy Advice is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. 

My Department is also arranging for a review of the policy on reading classes and schools.  This review will inform future policy for supporting children with special educational needs and the place of this specialist provision in those supports. 

Special Educational Needs

Ceisteanna (387, 417, 418)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

387. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Education if she will ensure that the 124 special schools open for the 2021 July provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29091/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

417. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education if she will provide a home-based programme for eligible children and young persons who cannot avail of the 2021 summer provision scheme in a local school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29586/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

418. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Education the dates a school is allowed to run the 2021 summer provision scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29587/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 387, 417 and 418 together.

The Government has approved the provision of significantly expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a COVID-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021.

This ensures that for first time all primary and post-primary schools have the opportunity to provide summer programmes for students with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage.

The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.

The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those in provided in DEIS schools last year. The existing Special Class and Special School Programme has been expanded from 4 to 5 weeks.

While participation in the programmes is voluntary, enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage schools to offer the programme, including measures to reduce the administrative burden, provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes, earlier payment of school staff and provision to recruit newly qualified teachers graduating this summer to work on the programme.

The programme’s aims are to support students to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.

A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for students with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school-based programme.

The programmes were developed following extensive engagement with education and disability stakeholders. Information issued to all schools last week regarding the school-based programme, including the link to an online portal where schools can register their interest in participating. All the documentation has also been published on www.gov.ie/summerprovision.

Information on the home-based programme, including application forms, will be provided to primary schools in the coming days.

I encourage the school communities to take full advantage of this opportunity and offer this valuable programme to their students.

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