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. 452-475
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Public Relations Contracts Data
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Brexit Negotiations
 Header Item Middle East Issues
 Header Item Consular Services Provision
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Ministerial Advisers
 Header Item EU Treaties
 Header Item Catalan Referendum
 Header Item Diplomatic Representation
 Header Item Court Accommodation Refurbishment
 Header Item Property Registration
 Header Item Property Registration
 Header Item Valuation Office
 Header Item Sexual Offences Data
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Citizenship Applications
 Header Item Garda Operations

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. 452-475

Departmental Staff Data

 452. 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 number of departmental staff in his press office; the reporting relationship in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46044/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department’s Press Relations Section is part of the Policy and Communications Division. The Press Relations Section carries out a range of functions in relation to communicating the work of the Department to the media and responding to media queries and requests . It is also responsible for the Department’s online social media presence on Twitter. It works closely with the Department’s Protocol Service in assisting the organisation of major State visits and events, including through liaison with foreign journalists. The Press Relations Section also assists with media engagements arising for me in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and similarly for my Minister of State colleagues at the Department in their respective capacities.

In carrying out these duties, the Section is currently staffed by 1 First Secretary/Assistant Principal officer, 3.5 Third Secretaries/Higher Executive Officers and 1 Clerical Officer.

The Press Relations Section reports to the Head of the Communications Unit.

Departmental Staff Training

 453. 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 protocol for attendance by staff, both civil servants and political non-civil servants, to continuing professional development programmes and courses; the number of staff, both civil servants and political non-civil servants, in his Department who participated in such programmes on an annual basis in each of the years 2011 to 2016 and to date in 2017; the costs incurred by his Department for persons who participated in these courses; the providers of all such courses; the subject areas of all courses and programmes provided, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46061/17]

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 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. Language training accounts for approximately one third of my Department's training and development expenditure. In 2016, the Department’s training and development total expenditure was €643,623 of which €212,901 was spent on language training. The overall expenditure on Training and Development under Vote 28 for 2011-2017 is contained in the following table:

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 to date
€483,435 €503,045 €513,413 €631,686 €698,427 €643,623 €494,024


  Due to the volume of information requested by the Deputy I will forward the details of programmes and courses (excluding language training) undertaken by officers in my Department from 2011- 2017 within the next ten working days.

  The deferred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.

Public Relations Contracts Data

 454. 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 public relations companies or agencies the services of which his Department used for information campaigns since 1 January 2017; and the costs incurred to date in 2017. [46078/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department has not engaged outside public relations companies or agencies for the purposes of information campaigns since 1 January 2017.

Departmental Funding

 455. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the steps he has taken to ensure that grant-aided organisations are spending their moneys appropriately in view of the revelations regarding a charity (details supplied) in 2016; if his attention has been drawn to concerns about organisations funded by his Department; if so, the action he has taken; if his Department has issued new procedures regarding the use of credit cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46095/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is responsible for two votes - Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Vote 27 (International Cooperation) and administers a number of funding schemes. A series of indicative grants to organisations is typically identified at the start of each year through the annual budgetary process. Payments are made subject to satisfactory grant appraisals. Grants to individual organisations under these schemes are made in line with agreed application and approval processes which include ensuring proper procedures are in place for the financial management of funding provided. Agreements are put place with all organisations which are awarded funding. These agreements include the amount and purpose of the grant, the activities to be undertaken, timeframe for completion, and reporting and accountability requirements.

All projects and programmes considered for funding are rigorously appraised by Departmental staff using clear criteria, including efficiency in the use of resources, cost effectiveness and intended impact. Programmes in receipt of funding are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that the intended objectives and goals are being achieved. The Department’s Evaluation and Audit Unit, which is overseen by the Department’s independent Audit Committee, regularly reviews the effectiveness of the systems of internal control established by the Department to manage its grant schemes. In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General provides independent assurance that all monies are provided in accordance with the law and are properly accounted for.

In line with my Department's fraud policy and code of practice for dealing with fraud in partner organisations, any concerns arising are brought to my attention as appropriate. I can confirm that a small number of matters of concern have been brought to my attention during 2016 in relation to organisations in receipt of funding from my Department. These instances have been dealt with in accordance with my Department’s policy and code of practice. The Comptroller and Auditor General is made aware of any instances of fraud arising.

With regard to procedures regarding the use of credit cards, the responsibility to develop appropriate guidelines, controls and procedures around the use of credit cards issued by credit providers rests with each individual grant-aided organisation.

Brexit Negotiations

 456. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the details of all planning and research work under way for the impact of the result of Brexit negotiations in his Department or related State agencies; if this analysis is intended for publication; the expected completion and publication date respectively of this research, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [46121/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit, I have responsibility for coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, I am working closely with colleagues across Government to address the many challenges resulting from Brexit. This cooperation also involves the relevant State Agencies. Work at Cabinet level is being prepared through cross-Departmental coordination structures. These represent a frequent and active channel through which all relevant Departments are providing their research, analysis and overall policy input to the Government’s wider response to Brexit, including its priorities for the ongoing Article 50 negotiations between the EU and the UK.

As the outcome of the negotiations is not yet known, an important focus of the planning and preparation being undertaken through these structures is on deepening the Government’s analysis and understanding of the exact consequences of a range of different possible scenarios, including one in which no Withdrawal Agreement is concluded. This represents an intensification of efforts to build on the Government‘s previous contingency planning.

Aside from its wider co-ordination responsibilities, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has lead responsibility for planning for, preparing positions on, and following the EU-UK negotiations. This requires research on and analysis of very many legal, institutional, and political issues, the eventual outcome of negotiations on which will of course be decisive in determining the shape and effects of Brexit. This work is led by the European Union Division in co-operation with the Ireland and United Kingdom and Americas Division, the Legal Division, the Political Division and the Trade Division. Our Permanent Representation in Brussels, and our Embassies in all Member States, send in a constant stream of reports describing and analysing the concerns and priorities of the EU Institutions and our partners.

This work is reflected in the Government’s policy positions and public statements but it would not be helpful or appropriate to publish detailed material which is heavily informed by confidential discussions with other Member States and the EU Institutions.

The Department is also analysing the possible impact of Brexit on policy areas within its remit, notably the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and the EU’s policy on international development.

We have already seen the implications that Brexit has had for our consular and passport services. There has been a marked increase in demand for passports and citizenship via foreign birth registration from applicants in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. In this regard, the Passport Service in Dublin, Cork and London as well as Consular Division have recruited a number of additional temporary and full-time officers to meet increased Passport and Foreign Birth Registration demands including increased demand as a result of Brexit.

My Department also works closely with the European Commission and European Parliament Offices here in Dublin and with civil society organisations including the Institute for International and European Affairs and European Movement Ireland. With funding from this Department, the IIEA is undertaking research on the future shape of the EU and the new strategic alliances that Ireland will need to develop within the EU after Brexit. The analysis will also consider the macro-economic effects of Brexit and the EU institutional implications of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. This work will build on the extensive analysis being undertaken by a range of organisations, both in Ireland and further afield, and will be presented in a series of public research papers over the coming months and years.

Middle East Issues

 457. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the crackdown on NGOs in Israel; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Israeli MPs have considered initiatives to shut down NGOs that they claim are trying to have Israeli soldiers tried under international law; his further views on whether this will particularly affect one of the most high profile anti-occupation civil society organisations (details supplied); his views on these moves; his further views on the safety and security of activists in Israeli civil society organisations that oppose Israel's occupation of Palestine in view of the current crackdown on NGOs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46320/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Dáil has discussed on a number of occasions the developing pressure being placed on NGOs in Israel and Palestine who are active on human rights and justice issues relating to the occupation of Palestinian territory. While noting that Israel still retains a more active and freer civil society than most countries in its immediate neighbourhood, I have expressed my deep concern at the continual efforts through legislation or other means of restricting or hampering the work of these NGOs and their workers. I do not wish to react to every piece of suggested legislation, many of which make it no further in the legislative process. I am also concerned about the hostile language increasingly used in relation to some of these NGOs and their staff, inviting harassment or worse against their workers and even their families. This type of language, occasionally used even by Ministers, is dangerous and unacceptable. I am aware of the particular pressure on the NGO referenced by the Deputy. This NGO performs valuable and courageous work, consistent with the very best traditions and interests of Israel, and my Department has engaged with them often and fruitfully. I met recently, in August, with a leading member of this group who was visiting Ireland, to hear of the work they are doing, the difficulties they are experiencing, and to demonstrate my support.

Consular Services Provision

 458. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if there are schemes within his Department to financially support Irish families who are fighting legal cases in foreign countries due to the death of their immediate Irish family member in a foreign country; and if not, if there is Government help available to families that find themselves in this difficult and expensive scenario. [46321/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is not in a position to provide financial assistance for Irish citizens involved in legal matters or disputes overseas and has no budget for any assistance in this area. If the Deputy wishes to provide me with details of any specific case where hardship is being experienced by a family in the circumstances described, officials in my Department’s Consular Directorate would be willing to look into the matter and offer any appropriate advice that they can. The Deputy is welcome to write to my office with any relevant details.

Departmental Contracts

 459. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the contracts his Department, or bodies under the aegis of his Department, have with a company (details supplied) or its subsidiaries; the value of the contracts; the year in which the contracts were concluded; when the contracts will be up for renewal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46374/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department has an annual contract for support and maintenance of a proprietary system developed by a company named Capita IB Solutions (Ireland) Ltd. for the Department in 2012. The annual value of the contract is €16,119 with a further €32,000 of enhancements delivered in 2017. The system provides for the online delivery of a number of Consular services. The maintenance and support contract is due for renewal in April 2018. The Department has no contract with any other firm named Capita or variation of that name.

Foreign Conflicts

 460. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his attention has been drawn to the murder of a person (details supplied) in a rural area of Tumaco, Colombia; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the community council in the area has repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the Afro-Colombian, Mestizo and indigenous persons in the region; his views on the Colombian Government's programme of forced coca eradication and the methods it has used which has resulted in a number of deadly clashes between communities and security forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46413/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers, that of Mr. José Jair Cortés, who was killed in Tumaco in the Nariño province of Colombia on 17 October, in the aftermath of another incident of violence which occurred there on 5 October and resulted in the deaths of at least seven civilians and the wounding of many more. I wish, first of all, to extend to the family of Mr. Jair Cortés, as well as to all of those affected by the recent incidents of violence in this region, my sincere sympathies and condolences.

Incidences of violence and intimidation against local communities in marginalised rural areas of Colombia, notably among Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, as well as the continued presence of armed groups in such communities, remain a matter of great concern, as evident from the views expressed by the local community council and referred to by the Deputy.

Tumaco is among the regions of Colombia which has suffered most consequences of the country’s conflict. It is important that the programme of forced eradication of coca crops in this and other regions is carried out with due regard for the rights and well-being of the local communities.

I am glad of this opportunity to reiterate that such violence is entirely unacceptable. I urge the Government of Colombia to ensure that these incidents are thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

The governor of the Nariño Department has issued a statement condemning the killing of Mr. Jair Cortés and calling for a full investigation into his death, and I would support that call.

I note also that the President of Colombia has instructed the National Police and the Colombian Armed Forces to cooperate with the Colombian DPP to determine what occurred in the incident of 5 October, and that the Colombian National Police has ordered the suspension of four of its officers in connection with that incident.

I welcome these statements as a sign of the resolve of the Colombian authorities to address this deplorable violence. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an ongoing commitment to supporting peace and human rights in the most affected areas of Colombia and officials from my Department visited Nariño in 2015 and 2016. As well as ongoing exchanges with the Colombian authorities at Government level, officials of my Department engage regularly with human rights defenders and civil society leaders active across Colombia, including those working in some of the communities most affected by conflict.

The recent acts of violence in Tumaco are a cause for great concern. At the same time, however, we must acknowledge the strides which have been made in the implementation of the peace process in Colombia to date. The full decommissioning of FARC weapons was completed by July 2017, eight months after the agreement was finalised. A cease-fire with the country’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, took effect at the beginning of October. The peace process provides the framework in which the endemic violence and impunity which has afflicted Colombian society for decades can successfully be addressed. Ireland is committed to supporting its full implementation to ensure a future of peace for all Colombians.

Foreign Conflicts

 461. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has discussed the civil war in Yemen with that country’s diplomatic representatives; if he has discussed it at European level; and the measures he will take on this issue. [46441/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am extremely concerned about the current situation in Yemen, in particular as the humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate. The war has entered into its third year, the political process has stalled, and fighting is continuing, with increasingly devastating consequences for the civilian population. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of famine and is facing the world’s fastest-growing cholera epidemic. EU Foreign Ministers last discussed the situation in Yemen at the Foreign Affairs Council in April. The Council called on the parties to start negotiating a peace agreement, and committed to increasing its engagement with Yemen once a political solution to the conflict is agreed. The EU is the largest humanitarian donor to Yemen and has provided over €170 million in humanitarian aid since the conflict began, to which Ireland contributes via the EU Development Budget. Ireland has also worked in the UN system to address the human rights situation in Yemen. At the Human Rights Council in September 2017, Ireland was part of a small core group of countries that drove forward the adoption of a Resolution on Yemen. This Resolution established a group of international experts to examine allegations of human rights violations of human rights during the conflict, and to report back to the UN Human Rights Council next year. This investigation is an important step towards accountability in Yemen, and will help establish the facts in relation to violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the ground.

Although Ireland has diplomatic relations with Yemen, there is no resident Embassy in Dublin to allow for regular contact. However, Ireland has shown support for the Yemeni people through our significant contributions of humanitarian aid, amounting to over €10 million since the conflict began in 2015. This includes humanitarian funding of €4 million announced by Minister of State McHugh at the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, held in Geneva in April 2017. Ireland is the sixth largest contributor to the UN Humanitarian Fund for Yemen since the outbreak of the conflict.

There can be no military solution to the conflict in Yemen. The only way to improve the situation for the Yemeni people is through peaceful resolution of the conflict. Ireland supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his team, who are working towards a peace agreement that is acceptable to all parties to the conflict.

Ministerial Advisers

 462. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the names of the special advisers employed in his Department; the names of special advisers to junior Ministers in his Department; the annual salary of each adviser; if these persons were special advisers immediately prior to taking up their current role or immediately prior to the June 2017 Cabinet reshuffle; if so, the Minister to which they were appointed to; the date each special adviser was appointed with effect as stated in the Government order; the date of the Government order; if they received a salary for the period before the appointment order was signed in the case of special advisers whose appointment order date has an effect date earlier than the order date; if so, by whom they were paid; if a special adviser during a period later backdated by appointment order had access to confidential material and-or Cabinet papers; if they were subject to the Official Secrets Act 1963 during this period; if any persons currently employed as special advisers have not yet been appointed by order since the Cabinet reshuffle of 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46469/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There are currently two Special Advisors employed by my Department; the Special Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Special Adviser to the Minister of State for European Affairs. The Special Advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is Ms. Caitríona Fitzpatrick. She was previously my Special Adviser when I served as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Ms. Fitzpatrick’s appointment as Special Advisor in my current Department was backdated with effect from 15 June 2017 as noted in the Government Order dated 17 October 2017. Sanction for Ms. Fitzpatrick’s appointment in advance of the Government Order was provided by An Taoiseach. Ms. Fitzpatrick is on the Principal Officer salary scale.

Ms. Fitzpatrick did have access to confidential material and or cabinet papers before the Government Order confirming her appointment but was subject to the Official Secrets Act during this period.

The Special Adviser to the Minister of State for European Affairs is Mr. Paul Fox. Mr. Fox was not a Special Adviser before taking up this role.

Sanction for Mr. Fox’s appointment in advance of a Government Order was provided by An Taoiseach as confirmed in a letter from his private secretary dated 31 August 2017. Mr. Fox was appointed Special Advisor with effect from 4 September 2017. Mr. Fox is on the Assistant Principal Officer salary scale.

Mr. Fox does have access to confidential material while awaiting the Government Order for his appointment but is subject to the Official Secrets Act during this period.

EU Treaties

 463. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46515/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Protocol on the Concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2014, following its ratification by all EU Member States including Croatia. Section 1, paragraph (iv) of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 2012 amends section 1(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 so as to include a reference to the Protocol within the definition of “treaties governing the European Union”. To coincide with the Protocol’s entry into force, section 1, paragraph (iv) was commenced on 1 December 2014 by Statutory Instrument No. 577 of 2014.

Article 1 of the Protocol provides that nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon attributing legal status to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, or in the provisions of that Treaty in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice affects in any way the scope and applicability of the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.1, 40.3.2 and 40.3.3, the protection of the family in Article 41 and the protection of the rights in respect of education in Articles 42 and 44.2.4 and 44.2.5 provided by the Constitution of Ireland.

Catalan Referendum

 464. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the declaration of independence by Catalonia. [46689/17]

 465. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has received communication from the Catalan authorities following the declaration of independence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46690/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 464 and 465 together.

  Ireland respects the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain and we do not accept or recognise the Catalan Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The resolution of the current crisis needs to be within Spain's constitutional framework and through Spain's democratic institutions. Ireland supports efforts to resolve this crisis through lawful and peaceful means.

  I have not received a communication from the Catalan authorities following the Catalan Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 27/10/2017.

Diplomatic Representation

 466. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to re-open the Irish office in Taipei, Taiwan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46816/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland, like all EU Member States and the EU itself, adheres to the One China policy and does not recognise Taiwan as a State. As a result, Ireland does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but does engage with Taiwan on an economic and cultural basis. Ireland enjoys a strong trading relationship with Taiwan. According to the Central Statistics Office, total bilateral trade between Ireland and Taiwan exceeded €1 billion in 2016. The scale and configuration of the State’s mission network in promoting Ireland’s interests and values in a fast-changing world is under continual review by my Department and by the Government. The ambition set by the Taoiseach to double our global footprint by 2025 responds to the scale and complexity of challenges that we face as a country in the years ahead. Following the Taoiseach’s announcement, my Department has begun to examine options to expand our footprint and influence internationally in consultation with other Departments and agencies.

Enterprise Ireland services Taiwan from its office in Hong Kong while IDA’s ASEAN office in Singapore currently covers Taiwan with regard to the potential for inward Foreign Direct Investment. Taking all factors into account, including market intelligence, our current footprint in Taiwan is deemed appropriate.

Court Accommodation Refurbishment

 467. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the railings at the front of the courthouse, Mullingar, County Westmeath will be removed in the context of the continued development. [45898/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that Mullingar Courthouse is currently being extended as part of the Courts Public Private Partnership (PPP) Bundle project, which is delivering much needed upgraded facilities for court users at seven locations nationwide.

The Courts Service has also informed me that the railings to the front of the Mullingar courthouse building on Mount Street are currently undergoing refurbishment off site and will be reinstated in their former position prior to the reopening of the courthouse in the first half of 2018. While the railings are not the original railings from when the courthouse was first opened in 1829, they are vintage railings and are in the curtilage of the courthouse, which is a protected structure.

Property Registration

 468. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will address a matter concerning a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46757/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

  The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Property Registration

 469. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will request the Land Registry to reply to a query lodged by a person (details supplied) and subsequently lodged by this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47020/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I can inform the Deputy that under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November 2006.  The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006.  The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.  It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the PRA for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Valuation Office

 470. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the Valuations Office has decided on a rateable value for ground mounted solar farms.  [47023/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that solar farms appear to come within the ambit of Schedule 3 of the Valuation Act 2001, as amended by the Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015, and would, therefore, appear to constitute “relevant property” for rating purposes.

I am also informed that the Valuation Office has not yet received any applications for valuation of solar farms for rating purposes. That Office understands from media reports that there is a number of planning applications for such facilities in train. Following the construction and commissioning of any such facilities in due course, it would be a matter for the relevant local authority to request the Valuation Office to carry out a valuation of such properties under the provisions of Part 6 of the Valuation Acts.

Sexual Offences Data

 471. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his Department will contribute to the funding of a second sexual abuse and violence study here, SAVI 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45632/17]

 472. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the date by which he will conclude his investigation into the financial feasibility, resource implications and approaches to identifying a ring-fenced funding stream for undertaking a SAVI 2 study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45636/17]

 479. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the reason for his decision to reverse the plan to fund an updated SAVI study as promised by his predecessor in view of the fact that the findings in the past study are 12 years old; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45756/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 471, 472 and 479 together.

  The Government is totally committed to preventing and addressing sexual abuse and gender-based violence in Ireland. It is very important to me and to the Government that policy is driven by accurate, up to date, reliable data.  The 2002 Sexual Assault and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report was ground-breaking when it was published but much has changed for the better in the 15 years since.

  There are now some excellent data sources that were not available when SAVI research was undertaken in 2002 including

  - the 2014 EU-wide Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) study on violence against women which provided comparative prevalence data across all 28 member states and included modules on cyber stalking and harassment

  - the EU Eurobarometer study which also provided comparative data across the EU on attitudes to violence against women in 2016.

  Eurostat, the EU statistics body, is preparing for a gender-based violence victimisation survey. It is anticipated that Ireland's Central Statistics Office (CSO) would participate in such a survey.

  Existing data on sexual crimes, published by the Central Statistics Office, has also been strengthened ensuring a more robust time series of data.

  The Courts Service also publishes annual figures on sexual offences being dealt with by the courts, and the country's six Sexual Assault Treatment units have a unified reporting system on the use of their medical and forensic services.

  Active consideration is being given to a further SAVI type study with factors including the new sources of more recent data in relation to sexual violence available to underpin and inform policy development along with the need for ongoing investment in support services for victims.  The Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs, Health and I have been asked by the Taoiseach to consider if statistics on sexual violence are adequate and to examine if the statistics are comparable with those collated in other EU countries.

Departmental Staff Training

 473. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if all front-line staff, including but not exclusive, to An Garda Síochána, prison staff, staff working within the Courts Services, receive suicide prevention training; if suicide prevention training is mandatory for front-line staff under the aegis of his Department; and if not, his plans to make such training mandatory with the provision of a refresher online course available to staff to be completed every three years thereafter. [45654/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I can confirm that front-line staff within the Department of Justice and Equality attended a customer service course this year which provided guidance on how to support those who are distressed. The Department also plans to roll out SafeTALK training next year to increase suicide alertness and enable staff to provide practical help to persons with thoughts of suicide. SafeTALK or ‘Suicide Alertness For Everyone’ is a half day course which prepares participants to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them with appropriate intervention resources.  While this training is not mandatory, all staff will be encouraged to attend.

In relation to the Probation Service the Deputy will appreciate that Probation Officers are for the most part professionally trained social workers and such training includes working with people with mental health difficulties and responding to suicidal ideation.  A number of Probation Service staff have also completed ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Training Skills) training.  A further development in this area is the intention of the Probation Service to deliver training to all staff in the STORM programme, which focuses on developing the skills needed to assess and manage a person at risk of suicide. A number of internal staff will be trained on the delivery of the programme and will then deliver this training to their colleagues.  The process is anticipated to commence in early 2018.

The Courts Service is independent in its functions and the Deputy will appreciate that it arranges its own training programme and priorities.  While it does not provide specific training on Suicide Prevention; a policy is being developed in this regard as part of a review of a range of health and well-being issues.  The Courts Service has also provided SafeTALK training to Court Messengers as part of a wider training course.

The Garda Commissioner is also responsible for the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including arranging for the training of its members and civilian staff. However, I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that suicide prevention training is provided by the Garda College, to all trainee Gardaí, while completing their two year training programme which leads to an award of a Bachelor of Arts (Level 7) in Applied Police Studies.  During Phase I of their training in the Garda College, trainee Gardaí receive suicide alertness training, in Phase II they attend the two day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) programme which provides participants with the skills required to discuss suicide with a person at risk and to make an intervention to reduce the immediate risk of suicide.

Given the unique environment of prisons, the Irish Prison Service developed its own bespoke mental health training package in 2015 which has been delivered to approx. 1,100 prison staff across the estate to date. The objective of this training is to provide Irish Prison Service front-line staff with the knowledge and skills to identify and work more effectively with prisoners who have mental health related illnesses. This package includes suicide prevention tools including early referral of prisoners to the appropriate healthcare professionals within the prison system and how to talk to a prisoner who may be suicidal. This mental health training package is much broader than many traditional suicide prevention training packages and includes refresher training every three years.

Citizenship Applications

 474. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if family citizenship will be granted to persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45669/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The position remains as outlined in response to the Deputy's Parliamentary Question No. 614 of 11 September 2017. 

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there is no record of a current application for a certificate of naturalisation from persons with the family name referred to by the Deputy. A determination on whether an applicant satisfies the statutory criteria attendant to naturalisation can only be made after an application is received.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship through the naturalisation process if and when they are in a position to meet all the statutory conditions for naturalisation under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Detailed information on Irish citizenship and naturalisation, as well as the relevant application forms, is available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie. The website also contains guidance on the completion of an application for naturalisation and an on-line residency calculator which may be of assistance in establishing if the statutory residency requirements are met.  

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Operations

 475. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the success or otherwise of Operation Thor across the four policing districts of the Dublin north central Garda division throughout 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45707/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am advised by the Garda authorities that the Garda North Central Division is comprised of three Garda Districts - Store Street (‘C’ District), Bridewell (‘D’ District) and Mountjoy (‘U’ District).

  The success of the Garda measures to tackle burglary being implemented through Operation Thor is borne out by latest available CSO crime figures which show a very significant decline in property related crime. It is encouraging to note that since the launch of Operation Thor in late 2015, the CSO burglary figures have shown a significant 30% decrease in burglary for the twelve months of 2016 when compared to 2015.

  As the Deputy is aware, Operation Thor involves a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime gangs and other prolific offenders as well as working with communities to prevent crime. This comprehensive operation is supported by the enhanced Government investment in Garda resources, including an allocation of almost €100 million for Garda overtime in 2017. We have also invested heavily in the Garda fleet, with over 720 new vehicles coming on stream since the start of 2015 and a provision of €46 million for new Garda vehicles under the Capital Plan 2016-2021.

  These additional investments in policing make it possible to maintain and extend a range of intensive policing operations, including the continued targeting of burglaries and related crime via Operation Thor.   

  I am further informed by An Garda Síochána that a number of Days of Action, in conjunction with the retail communities, were organised throughout the Dublin Metropolitan Region in June and July 2017 to reduce the threat of criminality in shops and retail outlets within the Division and, ultimately, to reduce losses occurring in those businesses as a result of thefts and other criminal activities. Data provided through the analysis of crime trends and the identification of recidivist criminals, to ensure intelligent policing based on evidence-based analytics, was utilised to guide, inform and formulate the operation.

  Under Operation Thor we have seen over 87,060 targeted checkpoints and 65,960 crime prevention patrols nationwide. This concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 6,060 arrests and 6,700 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.

  I am further advised that initiatives for the winter months will include:

  - Planned Days of Action around targets and areas as predicated by crime trends and analysis provided by the Garda Síochána Analysis Service (GSAS) in the DMR, and as approved by local District Officers;

  - Covert and Overt policing initiatives;

  - Crime Prevention days at locations identified for high-volume through-put, including shopping centres, public transport hubs and termini and other suitable, highly visible locations;

  - High visibility patrols by foot and mountain-bike personnel;

  - High visibility Public-Order patrols, again in areas identified through crime trends and analysis conducted by the DMR GSAS personnel, in consultation and conjunction with local Garda Management;

  - Planned and random patrols and checkpoints in order to disrupt criminal activity and to deprive the roads network to criminals and others.

This Government has also made it a particular priority to strengthen our legislative provisions through the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act   2015 which is targeted at repeat burglars who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences of residential burglary. This new legislation is now available to support the work which is being carried out by An Garda Síochána under Operation Thor.

  The Programme for Government underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities. This is an essential feature of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction. The Deputy will be aware that, as part of the overall strategy to oppose criminality, the Garda authorities pursue a range of partnerships with community stakeholders and other stakeholders. There are a range of partnership initiatives which have been established between An Garda Síochána and the retail sector and important rural-based organisations such as the Irish Farmers Association, Muintir na Tire and other rural community organisations. These include the well established Community Alert Programme, which receives annual funding from my Department, as well as the work of the Metal Theft Forum, the Crimestoppers campaign highlighting the Theft of Livestock, the Theftstop initiative in relation to farm equipment, and the highly successful Garda Text Alert Scheme.

  Furthermore, I was pleased to recently announce that an additional €100,000 was being made available to Text Alert Groups, registered with An Garda Síochána, to provide modest financial assistance with the running costs they incur each year. This Text Alert Rebate Scheme will be administered by Muintir na Tíre and Groups wishing to participate in the Scheme can find more details at www.muintiir.ie.

  The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána's Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 places a strong emphasis on developing and supporting the community policing ethos of the organisation and enhancing the current delivery model so that Gardaí spend more time in the community, gaining public confidence and trust and providing a greater sense of security. It will result in the introduction of multi-skilled Community Policing Teams in every District. Community Policing Teams will be made-up of Gardaí from a number of different units who will work with the local community to prevent and detect crime. Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and will enhance the provision of effective Community Policing throughout the country.

  The Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. The substantial increase in Garda numbers is tangible progress on achieving this Government's vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

  Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.


Last Updated: 01/07/2020 13:29:06 First Page Previous Page Page of 119 Next Page Last Page