Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 426-451
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item Schools Healthy Living Strategies
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Schools Site Acquisitions
 Header Item Education Centre Network
 Header Item Education Centre Network
 Header Item Undocumented Irish in the USA
 Header Item EU Issues
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Middle East Issues
 Header Item eGovernment Services
 Header Item Passport Applications
 Header Item Departmental Websites
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item State Properties
 Header Item Strategic Communications Unit

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 961 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 119 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 426-451

Special Educational Needs Staff

 426. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to provide additional teaching support on a temporary basis to help manage the high number of children with special educational needs at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46967/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools were published on 7 March 2017.

  These Circulars set out the details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools. 

  The revised allocation process replaces the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities. 

  The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

  Under the new allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.

  Included within this is an allocation for a school educational profile component; which includes an allocation for pupils with complex needs, an allocation which takes account of learning support needs in schools as evidenced by attainment levels in standardised test results, and the social context of the school, including disadvantage and gender.

  The allocation also provides a Baseline component to every mainstream school to support inclusion, prevention of learning difficulties and early intervention.

The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need in each school.

  The special education teaching allocation provided for the school referred to in this question for 2017/18 was 48.05 hours.

  Where a school profile significantly changes following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increase year on year, additional allocations may be made.

  The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in DES Circular 17/2017 (Primary School Staffing Schedule) and DES 10,11,12/2017 (Post Primary School Staffing Schedule).

  Schools who qualified for additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria also qualified for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status. 

  The school referred to in this question was provided with an additional net SEN allocation of 2.45 hours on the grounds that the school qualified for one additional developing mainstream teaching post. 

  The school has now therefore received a revised total special education teaching allocation of 50.5 hours.

This allocation equates to over 2 full time additional Special Education Teachers, which is a very significant allocation for a school of this size, which has a current enrolment of 169 pupils.

  It is acknowledged and accepted that schools will have some additional pupils with special educational needs enrolling to their school subsequent to the profiles having been developed.

  However, for the most part these will be balanced by the fact that some students who had additional teaching needs in the previous year will have left the school. The baseline is also designed to ensure that schools have some capacity to provide additional support to pupils.

  The additional allocations made where schools qualify for developing mainstream teaching posts also take account of growing enrolments.

  It is also acknowledged that there will be some schools where exceptional circumstances may arise.

  The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) will be available to support schools where schools have developed and implemented appropriate plans for the deployment of their special education needs teaching resources, but the school considers that further support may be required. This support may involve Continuing Professional Development or further training for school staff, advice in relation to the support plans that are in place, and possibly a review process once schools can clearly demonstrate that exceptional circumstances have arisen in the school.

  The NCSE has now published details of how schools can seek a review of their allocations, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

  Should the school referred to in this question consider they fulfil the criteria for a review on the grounds of exceptional circumstances, they may request such a review at: http://ncse.ie/review-of-special-education-teacher-supports-where-there-are-exceptional-circumstances-or-needs-arising-in-a-school.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

 427. Deputy Jack Chambers Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to allow schools to appeal a decision to refuse an application for extra teaching resources on the grounds of the number of students with special educational needs at a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46968/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I wish to advise the Deputy that DES Circular 0013/2017 for primary schools and 0014/2017 for post primary schools were published on 7 March 2017.

  These Circulars set out the details of the new model for allocating special education teachers to schools. 

  The revised allocation process replaces the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities. 

  The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

  Under the new allocation model, schools have been provided with a total allocation for special education needs support based on their school profile.  

  The provision of a profiled allocation is designed to give a fairer allocation for each school which recognises that all schools need an allocation for special needs support, but which provides a graduated allocation which takes into account the actual level of need in each school.

  Both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) are committed to ensuring all schools are treated equally and fairly in the manner in which their school profiles have been calculated.

  Accordingly, a number of review processes have been put in place to support schools.

  In March of this year, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) published details of an appeal process for schools.

  Schools were advised that this appeal would consider circumstances where schools considered that their school profile was calculated incorrectly, using the data set out in DES Circulars 0013 and 0014 2017. An appeal could be submitted for a review of the information used and of the calculation of the allocation.

  Schools who wished to submit an appeal on this basis were asked to do so by 31 March 2017. These appeals have been processed and this appeal process has now concluded.

  A second process has been put in place to address circumstances where the school profile significantly changed following the allocation process e.g. a developing school where the net enrolment numbers significantly increased.

  The criteria for qualification for mainstream school developing school posts are set out in DES Circular 17/2017 (Primary School Staffing Schedule) and DES 10,11,12/2017 (Post Primary School Staffing Schedule).

  Schools who qualified of additional mainstream developing school posts in accordance with these criteria also qualified for additional Special Education Teaching Allocations to take account of this developing status.

  Finally, schools were also advised that it acknowledged that there are some circumstances, which may arise in schools, which fall outside the appeals process, or allocations for developing school status.

  These relate to exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been anticipated e.g. where the school profile changes very significantly, or where other exceptional circumstances have arisen in a school and which may require a review of schools capacity to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who need it in the school, or of their utilisation of their allocations.

  The NCSE has now published details of how schools can seek a review of their allocations, including the utilisation of their allocations, in circumstances where a school considers that very exceptional circumstances have arisen subsequent to the development of the profile.

  Should a school consider they fulfil the criteria for a review on the grounds of exceptional circumstances, they may request such a review at: http://ncse.ie/review-of-special-education-teacher-supports-where-there-are-exceptional-circumstances-or-needs-arising-in-a-school.

Schools Healthy Living Strategies

 428. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if there are departmental guidelines for the provision of snack and drink vending machines in primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47005/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton My Department is active in the area of promotion of health and well-being in schools.  The issue of promoting healthy eating is addressed in schools through subjects such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Home Economics as well as in Physical Education.  The aim is to equip students with such skills and knowledge to enable them to make appropriate choices for healthy lifestyles. This informed approach will help to reduce the incidence of obesity in our young people.

Many post-primary schools have a number of food outlets, including school shops and vending machines. My Department's intention is to ensure that there is a greater proportion of healthier alternatives to some of the less healthy products that are currently on offer for sale in schools.  Boards of Management and Principals are encouraged to provide as far as possible that only healthy products are available for purchase on school premises.

Schools are strongly encouraged to have a formal healthy eating policy that has been developed in consultation with students and parents. 

Guidelines are available to schools on developing a healthy eating policy in Post-Primary Schools, which have been developed by the Department of Health and HSE. The healthy eating policy should outline how the school supports healthy eating practices through the promotion of healthy lunches and healthy snacks and other means.

My Department has issued circulars to all primary and post primary schools on the Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles.

Schools Building Projects Status

 429. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has sanctioned the invitation of tenders for a new school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47049/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Design Team for the major building project for the school in question has submitted the Stage 2b Report through the Board of Management to my Department for review.

  On completion of the review of this report, my Department will revert to the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project at that time.

Schools Building Projects Status

 430. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the stage 2B documents including tender documents for a school (details supplied) have been submitted to his department for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [47050/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As the Deputy will be aware, the project to which she refers has been devolved for delivery to the local Education and Training Board (ETB).

The ETB has confirmed that the Stage 2B documents are complete except for those in relation to the diversion of overhead power lines traversing the site.  The ETB and the Design Team are actively pursuing this issue with ESBI.  When this matter is resolved, this will enable the submission of the Stage 2B report to my Department for consideration.

Schools Building Projects Status

 431. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has sanctioned the invitation of tenders for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47051/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Design Team for the major building project for the school in question has submitted the Stage 2b Report through the Board of Management to my Department for review.

  On completion of the review of this report, my Department will revert to the Board of Management with regard to the further progression of the project at that time.

Schools Site Acquisitions

 432. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to locate a school (details supplied) on the site currently in the process of the completion of the conveyancing process for another school; his plans to acquire a different site for the new national school; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [47052/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I can confirm that agreement in principle has been reached in respect of the potential acquisition of a site for permanent accommodation to meet the needs of the two schools to which the Deputy refers. The conveyancing process is currently advancing and officials in my Department are liaising with the vendor in order to progress the acquisition.

Furthermore, my Department is included among the prescribed bodies to whom local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development and local area plans or proposed variations to development plans for comment and observations. This enables local authorities to reserve future school sites in areas designated for proposed housing development.

In the context of the development of the Celbridge LAP by Kildare County Council, based on analysis of relevant data, my Department requested that further sites be reserved to serve potential additional future school needs.

Questions Nos. 433 and 434 answered with Question No. 423.

Education Centre Network

 435. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the allocations provided to a centre (details supplied) in County Donegal in each of the years 2009 to 2016 and to date in 2017, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47135/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Education Centres are statutory bodies under Section 37 of the Education Act (1998) and are managed by local voluntary Management Committees which are elected annually. Management Committees have overall responsibility for the operation of their centres and the appointment of a director and other staff.

  My Department is the main source of funding for Education Centres.  It allocates core funding to Centres for the costs of administration staff and operating costs and also allocates funding for the provision of local courses. In addition to direct funding, the salary costs of the Directors who are normally teachers on secondment are met in full i.e. they are paid from the central payrolls operated by the Department of Education and Skills. Centres also have other sources of income including, hire of rooms, local partnerships, partnerships with other State bodies.

  The Centre is question also receives funding for a part time Education Centre and the workshop element of the National Induction Programme for Teachers (NIPT) support service.

  Following is the table of the funding provided to the Centre from 2009 to 2017:

Funding to Donegal Education Centre            
  Donegal  Donegal Gortahork Gortahork  NIPT Yearly
Year Core Local Course Core Local Course Admin Total
2009 222,258 34,704 8,622 3,880 0 269,464
2010 222,258 34,467 8,622 0 378,473 643,820
2011 222,258 34,467 0 2,498 858,199 1,117,422
2012 222,260 34,468 0 2,498 800,000 1,059,226
2013 197,510 34,468 8,624 3,006 700,000 943,608
2014 197,510 34,468 8,624 4,440 963,222 1,208,264
2015 213,510 34,468 8,624 3,495 846,280 1,106,377
2016** 197,510 34,648 3,969 0 0 236,127
2017 (to date) 213,310 34,468 13,704 4,440 0 265,922
             
Total 1,908,384 310,626 60,789 24,257 4,546,174 6,850,230


  There was a restructuring of the funding for the NIPT in 2016.

Education Centre Network

 436. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a centre's (details supplied) audited accounts have been submitted to his Department for each of the years 2009 to 2016, and to date in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47136/17]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Education Centres are statutory bodies recognised under Section 37 of the Education Act (1998) and are managed by local voluntary Management Committees which are elected annually. Management Committees have overall responsibility for the operation of their centres and the appointment of a director and other staff.

Education Centres submit their independently certified accounts to my Department at the end of each financial year. The Centre in question has provided accounts for the years 2009 to 2016.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

 437. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will report on the special envoy appointment to the USA; the meetings they have attended; the work that is ongoing; and the supports that are being provided. [45696/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney On 30 June last, the Taoiseach appointed Deputy John Deasy as the Government’s envoy to the US Congress to work on the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States.

Deputy Deasy undertakes his work as envoy under my overall direction, along with Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Deputy Ciarán Cannon.

I have discussed with Deputy Deasy the Government’s priorities in this area and how the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can best support him in his important role. In his role as envoy, Deputy Deasy works closely with and is supported by Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Dan Mulhall, and other officials at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C., and at our Consulates across the United States.

Our Embassy and Consulates in the United States continue to monitor issues regarding immigration reform in the United States on a continuing basis. They also work very closely with Irish immigration centres in the United States in providing support to Irish immigrants in the US, including members of the undocumented community.

Deputy Deasy is not being provided with any additional remuneration for this role. His travel and subsistence expenses are covered from within the existing resources of my Department. Likewise, the staff resources required by Deputy Deasy for his work are drawn from existing resources in relevant sections of my Department, as needed.

Deputy Deasy has visited the US three times since his appointment – in July, in September and, most recently, accompanying me to relevant meetings during my visit to Washington, D.C., in October.

The Deputy will appreciate the need for confidentiality around meetings with representatives of the U.S. Administration and members of Congress on so politically sensitive a topic.

Deputy Deasy has also engaged with Irish community and political representatives in New York and Boston. He remains in continuing contact with the Embassy in Washington and with officials of the Departments of the Taoiseach and of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The work of Deputy Deasy forms part of the ongoing engagement by my Department on the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. In addition to Deputy Deasy’s meetings with prominent leaders on both sides of the aisle, our diplomatic network across the United States continues to engage at every opportunity with representatives of the Administration, with members of Congress and with Irish community representatives.

I can assure the Deputy of my continued commitment, and that of the Government, to working closely with our US contacts in order to achieve a resolution for the undocumented Irish..

EU Issues

 438. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will report on discussions with his French counterpart on democratic conventions across the EU on the future of the EU. [46206/17]

 439. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the mechanism on which the democratic conventions on the future of the EU will take place here; the person or the body that will be coordinating same; and if outside assistance will be required.  [46207/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 438 and 439 together.

In his speech at the Sorbonne University in September President Macron of France set out his vision for the Future of Europe. Among his proposals was one in relation to the holding of democratic conventions across the EU. Specifically, he proposed that for six months in 2018, debates would be organised in all EU Member States that chose to participate, “on the same issues” identifying the priorities, concerns and ideas that “will fuel our roadmap for tomorrow’s Europe”. I have not had any discussions with my French counterpart on these proposals.

In Ireland we have considerable experience of engaging the public on matters of national importance. The Convention on the Constitution and the Citizens’ Assembly are two obvious examples. Another is the All-Island Civic Dialogue which has hosted discussions on Brexit. National debates are most productive when local conditions and local characteristics are fully taken into account.

The Government will be launching its own programme of public engagement on the Future of Europe on 15 November to determine the concerns and expectations of the Irish people, with the intention of bringing our own, unique contribution to the debate on the Future of Europe. This public engagement process will take place in a number of regional locations around Ireland and will target as broad a range of participation as possible.

Departmental Funding

 440. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his Department allocates money to the IIEA; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45698/17]

 441. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his officials attend courses run by the IIEA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45699/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Government is committed to greater engagement with the public on the Future of Europe and in this regard my Department is providing funding of €750,000 over 3 years for a Future of the EU27 project being carried out the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA). The first tranche of this funding, €125,000, is being provided this year to the IIEA.

The IIEA will carry out a programme of research, publications, events and public outreach focusing on the key policy challenges for Ireland in the EU and taking account of developments in the Member States and globally.

Together, the elements of the project will provide policymakers and the public with an enhanced understanding of the issues at stake, as the European Union adjusts to the UK withdrawal, and determines its future direction.

In addition, funding of €40,000 has been provided this year to the IIEA for a series of development cooperation focused lectures, in the Development Matters series. The aim of these lectures is to bring critical issues in international development to the attention of the wider audience in Ireland and to bring leading international policy figures to Dublin.

The invited speakers are generally global leaders in their respective fields and the Development Matters series provides an opportunity to promote informed public engagement with development issues. The lectures have addressed the topics of human development, the refugee experience, urbanisation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also pays an annual membership subscription to the IIEA.

While the IIEA does not provide training courses, officials from my Department regularly attend and participate in public events and seminars organised by the IIEA.

Departmental Staff Training

 442. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his officials undergo continuous professional development; the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45700/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department supports the continuous development of its officers through the implementation of a broad range of professional development programmes focusing on leadership, management, compliance and evaluation with a view to strengthening the management and diplomatic capabilities of its staff.

In addition to intensive language training, my Department also provides its officers with a comprehensive pre-posting training programme in advance of taking up their duties in Missions overseas. My Department participates in the European Diplomatic Programme (EDP) where officers benefit from exchanges with colleagues from other EU Member States. Officers also regularly attend courses delivered by the European External Action Service (EEAS). Since 2016, all newly recruited Third Secretaries and Administrative Officers participate in the Civil Service-wide Graduate Development Programme. Management development programmes are also delivered to support officers in supervisory roles at Executive Officer and Higher Executive Officer level. Officers from across my Department also benefit from support for third level education under the Refund of Fees Scheme. Training and development programmes are advertised widely across the Department reflecting the commitment to lifelong learning and personal development contained in the Civil Service Renewal Plan.

Middle East Issues

 443. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will repot on Ireland's efforts as one of eight EU countries to receive compensation from Israel for the destruction and loss of EU funded humanitarian infrastructure in Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45737/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The illegal destruction by Israel of Palestinian homes, schools, wells, solar panels and other structures, principally in Area C of the West Bank but also in the Golan Heights, is a matter of grave concern and one that Ireland has focused attention on in recent years, both nationally and at EU and international level.

One specific aspect of this unacceptable practice which has gained increasing attention in recent years is the destruction or confiscation of structures funded by the EU and its Member States, including tents and water tanks for families whose homes have already been destroyed. This issue has been discussed on a number of occasions here in the Dáil. Ireland has argued at EU level that Israel should restore or make recompense for structures which have been destroyed or confiscated contrary to international law. EU partners hold varying views on this question, however, and there is not yet agreement at EU level to pursue this course consistently.

Accordingly, as has been reported, Ireland and a number of EU partners, and also the European Commission as one of the funders of the destroyed structures, made a joint demarche to the Israeli authorities last week asking for restoration or recompense on this basis.

I would emphasise that my primary concern in this matter is the demolition or confiscation itself, and the hardship and injustice this causes for Palestinian families. But it is right that the question of recompense for humanitarian relief funded by our taxpayers should also be pursued.

eGovernment Services

 444. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has been consulted regarding the prospect of a single website being established for the Government; if such a move would entail the transfer of passport information from his Department; the estimated cost of such a move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45738/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As part of the eGovernment strategy 2017- 2020, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer has been working on the development of a Digital Service Gateway - a single digital point where citizens can easily access information about the Government services that are available to them. My understanding is that this work, which began earlier this year, is ongoing but we have not yet been formally consulted on the detail of the project. This project will be managed and developed by existing resources within the Civil Service.

  As the Deputy may be aware, the Department launched its online passport renewal service in March of this year, through which over 87,000 passports have been issued to date. Adults wishing to renew their passports are encouraged to apply online at http://www.dfa.ie/passport.

Passport Applications

 445. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the eligibility for an Irish passport of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45819/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As you may be aware, all passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008 (“the Act”). The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. In order to meet this legal requirement, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship in his/her passport application.

  Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Irish law and in particular the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, under which and in general, Irish citizenship may be obtained by birth in the island of Ireland to parents meeting specified requirements, by descent, or by naturalisation.

  Accordingly in any application for a passport, the individual concerned would have to establish and demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship before a passport could be issued by my Department. From the information provided, it is not possible to say whether the person concerned holds or may be eligible for Irish citizenship.

  Further information on eligibility for an Irish passport is available at http://www.dfa.ie/passport.

  The Department of Justice and Equality holds responsibility for citizenship including naturalisation. Further information on naturalisation is available at http://www.inis.gov.ie.

Departmental Websites

 446. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the external company undertaking an audit of his departmental website; the cost of the audit; the timeframe for its completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45861/17]

 450. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the last time his Department's website was revamped or remodelled; the cost of same; if he or his Department officials have been consulted regarding creating one stand alone online Government portal website; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46010/17]

 451. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the investment in his Department's website since 2011 including total associated costs incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46027/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 446, 450 and 451 together.

  No external company is currently undertaking an audit of my Department's website.

  An overall upgrade of my Department’s 84 websites (including www.dfa.ie, www.irishaid.ie, www.dfa.ie/global-irish and those of Ireland’s diplomatic missions abroad) was launched in 2011 and completed in 2015. A further additional upgrade is currently underway to deliver fully responsive websites that enable us to better service the growing proportion of citizens who access the internet through mobile devices.

  Core website development costs incurred by my Department over the period 2011 – October 2017 were as follows:

  Core Website Development Costs

Supplier 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Clear Ocean Internet Solutions 8,228 14,760 24,846 9,840 14,760    
Action Point Innovation Ltd.           67,785 30,080
Terminal Four Solutions Ltd. 61,045 147,295 85,757 54,366 21,049 32,539 65,054
TOTAL 69,273 162,055 110,603 64,206 35,809 100,324 95,134


  Certain additional web-related costs have also arisen in the context of improvements made to a range of online services to citizens offered by my Department such as Passport Appointments, Foreign Birth Registration and innovative new services such as Online Passport Renewals.

  The additional amounts involved in respect of these services over the same period were as follows:

  Additional Web Services Costs
Supplier 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Action Point Innovation Ltd.           173,379 132,566
Capita IB Solutions   120,804   54,212 15,344 45,418 43,917
TOTAL   120,804   54,212 15,344 218,797 176,483


  As part of the eGovernment Strategy 2017- 2020, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer has been working on the development of a Digital Service Gateway - a single digital point where citizens can easily access information about the Government services that are available to them.

  My understanding is that this work, which began at beginning of this year, is ongoing and may involve the repositioning of existing Government websites and online services over time. This project will be managed and developed by existing resources within the Civil Service.

Foreign Conflicts

 447. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the adequacy of the international response to the situation regarding the Rohingya in Rakhine State, Myanmar (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45962/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am deeply concerned by the deterioration in the situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar, since attacks on security outposts in August 2017. There are widespread, credible reports of human rights abuses by the Myanmar security forces against the minority Rohingya people and around 600,000 refugees, mostly Rohingya, have fled to neighbouring countries, primarily Bangladesh.

The situation in Rakhine State has received considerable attention from the international community since this recent outbreak of violence. This has included discussions by the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council in recent months. During the HRC’s September session, the mandate of the UN Fact Finding Mission established earlier this year was extended and it will now examine allegations of human rights violations by the Myanmar security forces since August 2017. The EU has engaged in discussions in these fora and as well as bilaterally with the Government of Myanmar to stress the need to bring an end to the violence, to restore humanitarian and media access, to carry out an independent investigation of human rights abuses and to enable the safe and voluntary return of refugees.

The international response to the crisis has also sought to alleviate suffering and meet the immediate humanitarian needs of people displaced by violence in Rakhine State, especially those now in Bangladesh. The UN’s revised response plan for Bangladesh anticipates a humanitarian funding need of US $434 million over the next five months. To this end a Pledging Conference for the Rohingya Refugee Crisis was held in Geneva on 23 October, co-hosted by Kuwait and the EU, where Ireland pledged €2m in direct support.

In spite of the efforts of the international community to date, it remains clear that the situation has not improved significantly in Rakhine State, notably that humanitarian aid and media access to Rakhine State remain restricted and that refugees continue to arrive in Bangladesh. In this regard, Ireland will continue to press for international engagement on this issue, in line with the EU’s position which was elaborated in Conclusions adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October. The Conclusions furthermore announced the suspension of invitations for all senior military officers from Myanmar, reaffirmed the EU arms embargo, and indicated that the Council may consider additional measures if the situation does not improve.

To bring about sustainable peace, long standing drivers of tensions between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim Rohingya communities of Rakhine State must be resolved. The report of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission provides a roadmap for peace building and development. Ireland, along with our partners in the international community, will continue to press for the full and swift implementation of the recommendations contained within this report.

State Properties

 448. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the estimated cost of the provision of a defibrillator in each public building owned by his Department and agencies under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45972/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department occupies 12 buildings in Ireland which are provided by the Office of Public Works. The average cost of the provision of a defibrillator in each building is €1,400.

  My Department also occupies 84 premises overseas. It is not possible to provide an accurate figure as the costs for the purchase of defibrillators vary from country to country.

  There are no agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Strategic Communications Unit

 449. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the meetings of the strategic communications unit he or his Department officials attended; the date and location of each such meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45993/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I met with the Director of the Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) at the Department of the Taoiseach in my Leinster House office on 18 October. I was accompanied at this meeting by the Secretary General of my Department and by the Director General of my Department’s Policy and Communications Division.

Prior to this, the Director General of my Department’s Policy and Communications Division and Communications Unit Director met with the SCU Director in Government Buildings on 20 September. The Second Secretary General of my Department’s EU Division also did so on 4 October in Government Buildings.

In each case the SCU Director provided a briefing on the work of the Unit and the role that it will play in improving effectiveness, efficiency and cross-Government cooperation to foster and develop a whole of Government approach to communications.

Questions Nos. 450 and 451 answered with Question No. 446.


Last Updated: 01/07/2020 13:29:05 First Page Previous Page Page of 119 Next Page Last Page