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 Header Item Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Written Answers Nos 1-37
 Header Item Defence Forces Operations
 Header Item Defence Forces Expenditure
 Header Item Defence Forces Remuneration
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Training
 Header Item EU Battlegroups
 Header Item Overseas Missions
 Header Item Overseas Missions
 Header Item Defence Forces Reorganisation
 Header Item Defence Forces Reorganisation
 Header Item Defence Forces Operations
 Header Item Defence Forces Operations
 Header Item Defence Forces Ombudsman Appointment
 Header Item Defence Forces Equipment
 Header Item Defence Forces Equipment
 Header Item Naval Service Vessels
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Election Monitoring Missions
 Header Item International Relations

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page

  12 o’clock

Written Answers Nos 1-37

 The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Defence Forces Operations

 11. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the moneys received by the Defence Forces during each of the past ten years for providing escorts to those transporting explosives. [54707/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The roles of the Defence Forces as assigned by Government are set out in the White Paper on Defence which was published in February 2000. Among the assigned roles is Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) meaning in practice to assist, when requested, An Garda Siochána who have primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. e Defence Forces undertake a broad range of ATCP operations. One of the duties that the Defence Forces provide, pursuant to their role of rendering Aid to the Civil Power, is the provision of escorts during the transportation of explosives. As this is a role only carried out at the request of An Garda Siochána, no monies are received by the Department of Defence for the provision of this service.

Defence Forces Expenditure

 12. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the projected increase in fuel costs for the forthcoming year for the Defence Forces in view of the increases in travel that will result from the reduction in manpower; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54705/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The gravity of the current economic difficulties means that all areas of the public sector must deliver greater efficiencies and operate within a reduced resource envelope. In that regard, all elements of the Defence organisation’s expenditure have been critically reviewed in order to reflect the current financial climate. Arising from the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in 2011, the Government decided to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. A major reorganisation of the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve is ongoing and this will ensure that within the reduced strength, the operational effectiveness of the Defence Forces is maintained. This is being achieved through the rationalising of headquarters, administrative and support functions and re-balancing force elements in favour of “front line” operational Units.

While the reorganisation means that certain units are being disbanded, amalgamated or relocated, it maintains, as far as possible, the existing organisational strengths within the current locations.

Given the complexity of the reorganisation process and the associated logistics to be managed by the Defence Forces, it is too early to say as to whether there will be an increase or decrease in fuel costs. This will only be evident when the full reorganisation is in place for a reasonable period. To that end, I am advised that the Defence Forces are in the process of collating data on transportation costs with a view to determining the net costs involved.

  Question No. 13 withdrawn.

Defence Forces Remuneration

 14. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he is satisfied that remuneration levels for Defence Force personnel are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54781/12]

 22. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to improve the pay and conditions of members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54794/12]

 167. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on whether all ranks of the Defence Forces receive sufficient remuneration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54931/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 22 and 167 together.

Rates of remuneration and conditions of employment in the Irish public sector have traditionally been set by reference to relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public sector. In this regard, the level of remuneration in the Defence sector has maintained relativity with the levels available in other related public sector employments.

A Scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration for members of the Permanent Defence Force was established in 1993. It provides a formal mechanism for the representative Associations, RACO and PDFORRA, to engage with the Official side. The purpose of the scheme is to provide a means for the determination of claims and proposals from the Associations relating to remuneration and conditions of service. Since 1993, there have been significant developments and improvements in the pay and conditions of military personnel. The Representative Associations have been to the fore in advancing the interests of their members in this regard, bringing them in line generally with the pay and conditions available in other public service employments.

As the Deputies will appreciate, it has proved necessary to take very significant action in terms of adjusting downwards the pay and conditions for staff right across the Public Service. The Defence Forces cannot be immune to these changes and indeed have had similar pay cuts and a radical reorganization of the Defence Forces structures, which has reduced numbers serving and promotional opportunities for personnel. As a result of the continuing economic challenges facing the country and the requirement for further measures to restore fiscal sustainability, discussions have opened with the public sector trade unions affiliated to ICTU about mechanisms to deliver required savings of up to €1 billion in the public sector pay bill in the period 2013 - 2015. In parallel, discussions are also taking place between officials of my Department and the Associations representing members of the Permanent Defence Force.

It is of course open to the Representative Associations of the members of the Permanent Defence Force, subject to the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme and the Croke Park Agreement, to avail of the mechanisms in place should they wish to pursue any particular concerns in relation to the pay and conditions of their members.

  Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 9.

  Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 8.

  Question No. 17 withdrawn.

Defence Forces Reserve Training

 18. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of Reserve Defence Force members who attend on a regular basis for training from the Lucan, Clondalkin, Palmerstown, Newcastle, Rathcoole and Saggart areas of County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54643/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am advised by the military authorities that the number of Reserve Defence Force (RDF) personnel that attend RDF training on a regular basis from the Lucan, Clondalkin, Palmerstown, Newcastle, Rathcoole and Saggart catchment area is currently 32. These are the numbers of personnel who regularly attend training with A Company, 62 Infantry Battalion, the sub unit who’s catchment area encompasses the populated areas in question. am advised that the figure of 32 is based on information available for the training year November 2011 to October 2012. The Deputy will be aware recently published a Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force.

Having accepted the review’s recommendations directed that proposals for new organisational structures be prepared, taking account of the VFM report and the major re-organisation of the PDF. The Chief of Staff and Secretary General submitted an agreed report which set out detailed re-organisation proposals, including Unit structures and the location of Reserve Units. accepted these proposals.

Work on implementing the recommendations of the VFM is underway. In this context would like to emphasise that the contribution and commitment of each and every member of the Reserve is valued and appreciated and sincerely hope that all members of the Reserve will continue to serve within the new organisation.

EU Battlegroups

 19. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans regarding Ireland’s future participation in Battlegroup missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54783/12]

 26. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans for Irish troops to participate in more EU Battlegroups in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54758/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 26 together.

  The EU has the capability to deploy forces at high readiness, broadly based on the Battlegroup concept. The purpose of the EU Battlegroups is to provide a rapid level of response to developing international crises, allowing the EU to intervene during the critical early stages or to reinforce an existing operation. To date, no Battlegroup has been deployed.

  Participation in Battlegroups is just one of a number of ways in which Ireland contributes to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. Ireland participated in the Nordic Battlegroup, which was on standby during the first six months of 2011, and previously participated in the Nordic Battlegroup in 2008. In 2010, the then Government approved Ireland’s participation in the Austro-German Battlegroup, which is currently on stand-by for six months until the end of 2012. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

  Two invitations have been received by Ireland to participate in future EU Battlegroups. One invitation has been received to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup 2015, together with Sweden, acting as Framework Nation, Finland, Norway and Estonia. The second invitation has been received to participate in the EU Battlegroup 2016, with Germany, acting as Framework Nation, Luxembourg, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Discussions are ongoing with both the participants in both groups on Ireland’s potential contribution to these future Battlegroups. In principle, I support Ireland’s continued participation. However, any participation will be subject to formal Government approval at the appropriate time.

Overseas Missions

 20. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will report on the Defence Forces’ mission in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54776/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Six (6) members of the Permanent Defence Force are deployed in Syria as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO). The Defence Forces have participated in UNTSO since 1958. Defence Forces personnel serving with this mission are based in Syria, Israel and Lebanon. The main functions of UNTSO are to maintain regional dialogue, monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements and to assist UN peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and Syria. The six UNTSO Defence Forces personnel based in Syria are part of Observer Group Golan responsible for the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. One Irish officer is the Chief of Observer Group Golan and has responsibility for the conduct of operations by UN Military Observers within Israeli Occupied Golan and Syria. The remaining five (5) Defence Forces personnel are deployed as UN Military Observers and conduct their duties in support of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Their duties include manning Observation Posts, conducting fortnightly inspections of the deployment of Syrian Arab Armed Forces and conducting patrols within the Area of Limitation in order to ensure that no activities occur which could lead to the breach of the ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

As the security situation in Syria remains highly volatile, Defence Forces personnel normally based in Damascus were relocated by UNTSO to offices and accommodation at UNDOF Headquarters in the Golan Heights, on 15 October 2012, as a temporary force protection measure. The Irish personnel continue to fulfill their roles from this temporary location. It is intended that they will return to offices and accommodation in Damascus should there be an improvement in the security situation.

Six members of the Permanent Defence Force who had been deployed as unarmed military observers to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) were withdrawn in August 2012 when the mission’s mandate came to an end.

Overseas Missions

 21. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the date on which he proposes to withdraw the seven members of the Defence Forces serving in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54774/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Defence Forces are primarily deployed on overseas missions in support of international peace and security under UN mandates. On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and there are fourteen UN Security Council Resolutions relating to ISAF, most recently UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2069 (2012), adopted on 9 October 2012. is latest UN Security Council Resolution extended ISAF’s mandate for a further year until October 2013. Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. The continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF is reviewed annually by the Government. The most recent decision by the Government was on 26 June 2012, when it agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2012, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. Planning for the drawdown of ISAF generally is currently ongoing and the withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel from the mission will be coordinated within the context of the overall ISAF drawdown plan.

  Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 14.

Defence Forces Reorganisation

 23. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter in view of his recent announcement of the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force and the consequent reduction in the number of RDF units, the criteria that will be used in deciding where the current PDF staff who support RDF units earmarked for discontinuance will be relocated and for his reassurance that considering the wide geographical spread of RDF posts as now re-structured that PDF staff so affected will be given the option of re-locating to their next closest RDF post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54644/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The re-organisation of the Reserve Defence Force is a key element of the response to the findings and recommendations of a Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force, which was recently completed and published and which concluded that the current Reserve organisation was not fit for purpose and required radical reform. The central recommendation from the VFM Steering Committee is for the retention of the Reserve with 4,000 personnel spread countrywide to be based in barracks and in 16 other locations. This requires the consolidation of existing Reserve Units throughout the country into a smaller number of full-strength Units. The retention of all locations was not a viable or sustainable option.

A new “Single Force” concept will see PDF Units having Reserve components, rather than a parallel Reserve as at present. Reserve Units within barracks will be supported by their parent PDF Unit and the 16 Units outside of PDF installations will be supported by dedicated full time PDF personnel. This concept offers significant potential advantages in terms of training and development of the Reserve. The initiative of locating Reserve Officers within the Defence Forces command structure will likewise underpin the future of Reserve personnel.

All options to avoid the need for personnel to relocate are being explored as part of the re-organisation process. Personnel are being offered the opportunity for reassignment and every effort is being made to minimise the requirement to relocate. Inevitably, given the scale of the re-organisation, it will be necessary for some staff to move to new locations.

Defence Forces Reorganisation

 24. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he is satisfied that he continues to have adequate resources at his disposal to maintain the highest possible level of activity in the Defence Forces with particular reference to the need to ensure adequate operational strength and mobility with maximum rapid deployment potential at all levels including the capacity to meet any emergency that might arise; if he is satisfied in this regard in respect of the permanent and Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54795/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In common with all areas of the public sector, the Defence Forces must operate within a reduced resource envelope. In response to these resource constraints, the Defence organisation has undertaken further significant re-organisation and reform. These changes have prioritised the operational capacity of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF).

A major re-organisation of the PDF is underway since last July and is now at an advanced stage. In response to the findings of a Value for Money Review which was recently published, the Reserve Defence Force is also being reformed and re-organised. These changes will ensure that the Defence Forces organisational structures are configured to maximise required capabilities. In addition, the procurement of military equipment is prioritising operational capacity and two new Naval Service vessels are being procured from within the existing resource envelope.

These measures will ensure that the Permanent Defence Force can continue to deliver required operational outputs for all approved Aid to the Civil Power and approved Aid to the Civil Authority requests. The PDF will also continue to meet Government requirements for overseas peace support operations. The full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment, is also available for deployments in response to emergencies and crises. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces can continue to fulfil all roles assigned by Government.

Defence Forces Operations

 25. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps being taken by the Defence Forces to deal with the new threats posed by dissident republicans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54645/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State, rests with An Garda Síochána. However, one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence (2000) is to provide Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. A wide variety of military training activities are specifically designed to counter or respond to possible security emergencies. The Defence Forces hold regular coordination and liaison meetings with An Garda Síochána in relation to ATCP issues including identifying and responding effectively to any new or developing threats to internal and external State security. While exact details in relation to the threat posed by dissident republicans cannot be made public for operational reasons, the Defence Forces maintain a strong and focussed operational awareness and response capability to all emerging threats within the State.

  Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 19.

Defence Forces Operations

 27. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the moneys received by the Defence Forces during each of the past ten years for providing escorts to cash in transit. [54706/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The monies received by the Department of Defence in respect of the provision by the Defence Forces of assistance to An Garda Síochána in protecting movements of cash for the past ten years are as follows:

Year Amount Received Year Amount Received
2002 €2.86m 2007 €7.34m
2003 €2.86m 2008 €7.45m
2004 €3.86m 2009 €7.39m
2005 €6.03m 2010 €7.47m
2006 €6.47m 2011 €7.34m


   Previous to 2005, the contribution from the banks only part-covered the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts. An agreement that was signed with the Irish Banking Federation and its member Banks in 2005 provides that the banks will pay the total actual costs incurred in the provision by the Defence Forces of cash escorts for the banks. This agreement was subsequently renewed in 2011.

Defence Forces Ombudsman Appointment

 28. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces will now be a part time position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54703/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I indicated in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 4 of 7 November 2012, the office of the Ombudsman is now well established and a number of administrative and systemic issues identified by the outgoing Ombudsman have been addressed. This has contributed to improvements in procedures and policies within the Defence Forces. Recent trends show a significant increase in the number of redress of wrongs complaints being resolved within the military system, thus reducing the number of cases being referred to the Ombudsman for investigation, a fact I very much welcome. In addition, it is anticipated that the new and comprehensive promotion system for NCOs agreed and introduced earlier this year will eliminate the many complaint referrals to the Ombudsman relating to promotion. Such referrals currently account for about a third of the caseload in the Ombudsman’s office. Against this background, the post of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is being filled on a part time, three day week basis, subject to ongoing review of caseload and referrals. This remains the position.

  Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 6.

Defence Forces Equipment

 30. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has examined the possibility of procuring smaller naval coastal patrol vessels for the purposes of intercepting drugs landings on Irish coastal areas. [54710/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners has primary responsibility for the prevention of drug smuggling into the country and responsibility for the prevention of crime rests primarily with An Garda Síochána. The Revenue Commissioners deploy two cutters, the RCC Suirbheir and the RCC Faire, as part of the overall effort to prevent drugs landing in Irish Coastal areas.

The White Paper on Defence (2000) provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to support the civil authorities in this area and assistance in the prevention of drug smuggling is recognised as a very important part of their duties. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking.

The Naval Service, as a member of the Joint Task Force, is also committed to an international initiative, the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics, (MAOC-N). The Centre which was established in 2007 has led to a greater focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea. MAOC-N was set up by seven European countries and is designed as an international co-ordination force with access to national tasking agencies and requires participation and resources from all active members. An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service have full-time officers based at its Centre in Lisbon. Irish Naval Service personnel travel to the Centre when requested by the Joint Task Force.

The Naval Service operates eight general purpose patrol ships, which are tasked with coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. All vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that they also undertake general surveillance, security and other duties while on patrol.As the need arises, Naval Service vessels are deployed on drug interdiction operations.

A contract was placed in 2010 for the provision of two new Offshore Patrol Vessels with an overall length of 90 metres for the Naval Service. The acquisition of these new vessels will ensure that the Naval Service can continue to carry out its drug interdiction role in support of the Joint Task Force as well as its other taskings.

There are no plans to procure smaller coastal patrols vessels for the Naval Service. I am satisfied that Naval Service have the necessary resources to meet all their operational requirements including the support of the civil authorities in the prevention of drug smuggling into this country.

Defence Forces Equipment

 31. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will rule out the procurement of any Israeli technology through the European Defence Agency for use by the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54708/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will appreciate that the principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts has to be used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site or on the European Defence Agency’s Electronic Bulletin Board. Such tender competitions are open to any individual company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions. There are no such restrictions or embargos in place on Israel or Israeli companies.

The primary purpose for the procurement of defensive equipment by the Department of Defence is to enhance the capability of the Irish Defence Forces on overseas Peace Support Operations and to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops whilst on such missions.

  Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 9.

  Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 6.

Naval Service Vessels

 34. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on the procurement of new ships for the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54704/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There is a fleet of eight ships available to the Naval Service, seven of which are currently in operational service. In order to maintain maximum availability and serviceability, major maintenance for each vessel is planned in advance and is incorporated into an annual patrol plan for the Naval Fleet. LE Niamh is undergoing scheduled maintenance at present and will be back in service later this month. A strategy for the replacement of Naval Service Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) is currently in train. A contract was signed in October 2010 with Babcock Marine in the United Kingdom for the provision of two new ships.

  The construction of the first ship is well underway in Appledore. The first ship is scheduled for delivery in early 2014. The second ship will follow one year later. I understand that the production schedule is proceeding on time and in accordance with the contract and that to date there are no difficulties foreseen. The acquisition of these modern new vessels is a priority for the Defence Forces. These acquisitions combined with a continuous process of refurbishment and repair, will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a satisfactory level in the coming years.

Departmental Contracts

 35. Deputy Damien English Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will provide details of each service in his Department that is currently outsourced; the company that provides such services and the total cost for these services; the other services which may be outsourced in the future that are currently being run in his Department; the names of the companies, fees paid and nature of service for all contracts awarded from his Department excluding legal, accounting, PR or building refurbishment related services since March 2011.  [55831/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The services to the public provided by my Department consist of the following:   

issuing of passports;

the registration of certain Irish citizens born abroad in the Foreign Births Register;

the provision of consular assistance and protection to Irish citizens abroad;

the issue of documentation for citizens wishing to marry abroad; and

the authentication of certain business documents for use abroad.

  For public policy reasons, these services have been delivered directly by my Department and none of them have been outsourced.

  The Certificate of Irish Heritage programme is operated on behalf of my Department by Killorglin based, Fexco. Under the terms of the concession agreement, which was awarded following a public tender, Fexco maintain the website, develop the necessary software, process applications, issue certificates and are the initial point of contact for all customer enquiries. The contract was renewed in September, 2012 for a second year.

  There has been no substantial Departmental expenditure on developing the Certificate programme. €2,714 has been spent to date mainly on technical issues relating to the websites which the Department owns (registering domains and security validation procedures etc.) as well as travel costs to meetings in Killorglin and some photographs at the launch in New York.

  The possibility of providing new services on a similar basis will be kept under review.

Election Monitoring Missions

 36. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore further to Parliamentary Question No. 60 of 22 March 2012, if the review of the working of the election roster has been completed and if he will detail the outcomes of the review; if any actions have taken place on foot of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55883/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains a roster of observers for election monitoring missions. We aim to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level in international observation missions for both elections and constitutional referendums. Irish observers participate primarily in missions organised by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but have also been involved in missions organised by the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the Carter Centre. There are currently some 300 people on the Election Observation Roster. So far in 2012, 57 Irish observers have been involved in missions organised by both the EU and OSCE, in eleven countries. A review of the election roster is currently underway and my intention is to have this completed by the end of the first quarter of 2013. The review will lead to the establishment of a new roster of individuals with the right mix of skills and experience to ensure that we maintain the excellent standard of election monitoring that Ireland has established.

International Relations

 37. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the status of relations between Ireland and Kosovo; the way he hopes to build on these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55912/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Relations between Ireland and Kosovo are excellent. Ireland is a firm friend of Kosovo, having been active as part of the international presence there since 1999. Ireland was one of the first States to recognise Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008. We participated in the International Steering Group for Kosovo until the end of supervised independence on 10 September this year. Irish personnel continue to participate in the EU Rule of Law mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo) and the UN-mandated, NATO-led KFOR mission. Ireland provides support to Kosovo through contributions to the EU, UN and other multilateral organisations. Irish Aid has also contributed funding to Kosovo through its Partnership Programme for Europe and Central Asia.

Our strong bilateral relationship is also evidenced by the number of Irish Government Ministers who have visited Kosovo in recent years. Most recently, my colleague, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton visited Kosovo in September, in the capacity of Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE, and as incoming EU Presidency. While there she met with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Foreign Minister, among other interlocutors.

We are encouraged by the recent resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and commend the efforts of Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi and Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić in this regard. We strongly encourage both sides to continue to work together to ensure further and sustainable progress. The improvement of relations between Serbia and Kosovo will be key for the EU aspirations of both. We would also encourage Kosovo to accelerate reforms in the areas of public administration, the rule of law, freedom of expression and the fight against corruption and organised crime.

We believe that the prospect of EU membership remains the EU’s most effective tool in supporting reform and transformation for all of the countries of the Western Balkans. In that regard, we are supportive of Kosovo’s EU perspective, as we are of the membership aspirations of all countries in the region. We will make every effort to progress Kosovo’s EU perspective during our Presidency.


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