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 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-20
 Header Item Departmental Staff Numbers
 Header Item Emigrant Support Services
 Header Item European Union Stability
 Header Item Official Engagements
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Official Engagements
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item UN Commission on the Status of Women

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 798 No. 2

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Written Answers

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

Written Answers Nos. 1-20

  Questions Nos. 1 to 4 , inclusive, answered orally.

  Question No. 5 lapsed.

  Questions No. 6 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Staff Numbers

 13. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the total number of staff in his Department's audit committee and the evaluation and audit unit in 2010, 2011, 2012 and currently in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15584/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Audit Committee of my Department consists of six members who are fully independent of the Department and act in a voluntary capacity. Thus, there are no Departmental staff on the Department’s Audit Committee.     

  The Evaluation and Audit Unit is currently staffed with thirteen officers (including one part-time). This comprises of:

A Head of Unit

Five Accountant Auditors

Four Evaluators (one of whom is part-time)

Three support staff

  The current complement contrasts with the three previous years when there were eleven full-time staff in 2010; eleven staff (including one part time) in 2011; and thirteen staff (including one part-time) in 2012.

Emigrant Support Services

 14. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the total amount of spending on emigrant support programmes in 2010, 2011, 2012 and planned for 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15578/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) provides funding to non-profit organisations and projects to support Irish communities overseas and to facilitate the development of more strategic links between Ireland and the global Irish. The emphasis of the Emigrant Support Programme is on supporting culturally sensitive, frontline welfare services, targeted at the most vulnerable members of our overseas communities. These services have made a substantive difference to the lives of Irish communities overseas (particularly in Britain and the United States), reducing homelessness, tackling social isolation, and enabling Irish emigrants to access their local statutory entitlements.

  While the support of frontline welfare services continues to be the priority of the ESP, the expansion of the programme has enabled the Government to invest in a range of community and heritage projects, which foster a greater sense of Irish identity, as well as strategic capital projects. These grants are a key part of the Government’s approach to developing strong and meaningful links with Irish communities overseas and to securing the long term future of these communities.

The Programme also supports projects aimed at creating practical results-orientated links between Ireland and the global Irish, and projects that emerged as a consequence of the Global Irish Economic Forum.

  Between 2004 and 2012 over €104 million has been provided under the Programme. The total spend in 2010 was €11.93 million, €11.57 million in 2011 and €11.59 million in 2012. Details of all grant recipients since 2006 can be found on my Department’s website.

  I am pleased that despite the difficult financial situation we face, the Government has maintained funding under the ESP at a level of €11.59 million for 2013. The 2013 grant round closed on 20 February with applications for 360 projects received from 17 countries.

  The applications are currently under review. The focus in 2013 will be on supporting key frontline welfare and advisory services and on projects aimed at supporting new arrivals.

European Union Stability

 15. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent to which, arising from any appraisal of developments within the EU of a political, economic, social or structural nature, measures have been taken or are ongoing with a view to addressing the nationalistic trends currently emerging in some European countries which may result in permanent damage to the European project and divergence from the concept and vision of Europe's founding fathers, with particular reference to the growth of euro-scepticism as a replacement for the European project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15506/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Over the past six decades, the European Union has contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. It has transformed a continent that for so long was torn apart by war and division, shattering the lives of millions. This has been achieved through an unprecedented process of political, economic and social cooperation among the countries of Europe over those decades. The history of the European Union is one of evolution and transformation as it has grown and deepened to meet the challenges of each era.

The unprecedented economic crisis that has faced the Union and, more especially, the euro zone over recent years is the challenge for our generation. With 26 million unemployed across the European Union, the crisis has undoubtedly placed many of our citizens under great pressure. As the European Union continues to respond, it is imperative that we ensure that our citizens do not become alienated or isolated from the European project, and that its core values prevail.

The need for popular understanding of and support for the European Union, is now more crucial than ever. While it is a challenge for us all, this is a particular responsibility for elected representatives at national and European level.

The European Union, in advancing plans for a strengthened Economic and Monetary Union, has acknowledged the need for a social dimension and for enhanced democratic accountability and legitimacy. As we take further steps to respond to the economic crisis, it is vital that social aspects, and democratic accountability and legitimacy are central to our efforts. They cannot be treated as an afterthought. Governments, national parliaments and the European Parliament have a key role to play in this regard. It will be important to get the balance right between the appropriate roles at national and European level.

We are also exploring the social dimension of Economic and Monetary Union ahead of a report from President Van Rompuy in June. And Ireland is actively contributing to that important debate.

Democratic accountability and legitimacy are also key priorities for the Irish Presidency. These issues have been the focus of comprehensive and constructive discussions at high-level events hosted by the Presidency in Dublin recently, including the Informal Meeting of Ministers and State Secretaries for EU Affairs, as well as the COSAC Chairpersons Conference.

This year is also European Year of Citizens. Following its launch in Dublin last January, Citizen’s dialogues have been organised across Ireland and throughout the wider Union. This is an ideal opportunity to celebrate the rights and benefits we enjoy, as citizens of the European Union, and to engage in a broader debate on the future direction of our Union. Whatever course that takes, it must maintain at its heart the interest of the citizens of Europe.

Official Engagements

 16. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will provide an outline of what he and the Taoiseach discussed with American President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House on 19 March. [15524/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Taoiseach and I discussed a number of issues with President Obama during our meeting on 19 March, including the economic situation in Ireland, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Northern Ireland, the prospects for immigration reform in the US and the situation in Syria.

We briefed the President on developments in relation to the Irish economy and gave an update of recent developments in the Eurozone. Both sides agreed on the mutual benefits which would arise from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and on the desirability of launching negotiations before the end of the Irish EU Presidency in June 2013. In relation to Northern Ireland, we provided the President with our assessment of the current situation and expressed appreciation for the ongoing support and engagement of the US in Northern Ireland affairs. On the prospects for immigration reform, the President expressed optimism that progress would be made. In relation to international issues, Syria was discussed, with the Taoiseach briefing the President on discussions on the issue at the previous week’s European Council.

Human Rights Issues

 17. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he has any plans to issue a policy response to the endorsement by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations framework and guiding principles on business and human rights; and if the response will also address the European Commission's call for EU member states to develop national plans for the implementation of the guiding principles. [15539/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.

  The Guiding Principles cover a range of issues which in this State span the policy responsibilities of a number of Government Departments and agencies.

  Consideration is currently being given as to how to address these Guiding Principles and also the European Commission’s invitation to EU member States to develop national plans for implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Official Engagements

 18. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he discussed issues which are directly affecting the Irish peace process and the difficulties that have been experienced recently with loyalist protest with the American Secretary of State John Kerry during their meeting on 18 March. [15526/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore As part of my visit to the US over the St. Patrick’s Day period, I had a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Kerry in Washington D.C. on 18 March. This followed recent meetings in Rome on 27 February and in Shannon on 6 March. We discussed a range of subjects including Northern Ireland, the Irish economy, international issues including the Middle East peace process, and the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in the US.

The Secretary of State was well informed and keenly interested in developments in Northern Ireland. I briefed him on our ongoing work to encourage and support the First and deputy First Minister as they address the political, economic and social challenges facing Northern Ireland.

I expressed appreciation for US engagement and interest in Northern Ireland affairs and welcomed the Secretary of State’s renewed commitment to continuing that engagement in the period ahead.

Foreign Conflicts

 19. Deputy Michael P. Kitt Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the further discussions he has held with his EU colleagues regarding negotiations with Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15593/13]

 42. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his views on the ongoing economic sanctions against Iran; if he has seen any evidence to indicate that Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15512/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 42 together.

Led by High Representative Ashton, the E3+3 (UK, France, Germany, USA, Russia and China), have been engaged in a patient dual-track diplomatic effort with Iran, consisting of engaging in talks while at the same time applying sanctions, in order to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the widespread international concerns about aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme. The issue is regularly discussed at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council, most recently earlier this month when High Representative Ashton briefed on the latest round of negotiations which took place in Almaty last month.

The concerns to which Iran’s nuclear programme have given rise are documented in a series of UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions dating back to 2006. The IAEA has reported at length on Iran’s continuing failure to provide clarity on, and facilitate unimpeded access to, its nuclear activities and facilities.

The IAEA’s most recent report makes clear that this continuing non-cooperation makes it impossible for the Agency to resolve concerns about aspects of the Iranian nuclear programme, including those which concern possible military dimensions to that programme. There is no dispute with any country seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes within the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, this requires that each country seeking such energy cooperates fully with the IAEA.

To date, Iran has failed to address satisfactorily a number of concerns raised by the international community. Regrettably, therefore, it has been necessary to impose several rounds of restrictive measures. The imposition of sanctions is not an end in itself and they are not aimed at the Iranian people.

The sole aim of these measures has been to convince Iran to return to the negotiating table and to engage with the E3+3 in order to address the serious questions regarding possible military dimensions of its nuclear programme.

I have no doubt that the EU’s measures, complemented by tough sanctions imposed by other countries, have led to Iran’s belated acceptance of talks. I welcome last month’s discussions in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the technical meeting last week in Istanbul, and I consider it positive that further talks are planned for Almaty on 5-6 April. This effort can only succeed, and sanctions can only be reversed, if Iran is prepared to negotiate genuinely. A credible package of confidence-building proposals was put forward last month by the E3+3. I very much hope that Iran will engage seriously with these proposals and work rapidly to resolve the outstanding issues in relation to its nuclear programme and the serious concerns raised by the international community.

UN Commission on the Status of Women

 20. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he has received a report from Ireland’s participants in the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; and if he will provide details of what was discussed. [15521/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global policy-making body on issues relating to gender equality and advancement of women. The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place from 4 to 15 March 2013. The priority theme for the session was the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. The outcome aimed for in this regard was a set of Agreed Conclusions, which are negotiated by all states and, in accordance with normal practice, adopted on the basis of consensus.

Ireland’s official delegation to the CSW was led by Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People. It included officials from the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In addition, representatives from civil society organisations were part of the delegation.

The EU was represented in the negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions by the EU Delegation, supported by the Irish Presidency. Following extensive negotiations, consensus on the Agreed Conclusions was reached on 15 March 2013. Ireland, working closely with EU and other like-minded partners, contributed actively to what has been widely received as a positive outcome. Previously identified national priorities are clearly reflected in the Agreed Conclusions, including a strong condemnation all forms of violence against women and girls; recognition of the linkages with gender inequality and discrimination; a commitment to end impunity; and references to women, peace and security, women human rights defenders, and the need for coordinated, multisectoral services. New elements incorporated into the Agreed Conclusions include the role of men and boys in addressing the issue, and the role which victims and survivors can play as agents for change.

The Agreed Conclusions (currently in unedited format) are available on the website of the 57th Session of the CSW.

In addition to the negotiations on the agreed conclusions, the Minister of State chaired a number of side events. The first of these, entitled “Mobilising communities to prevent and respond to violence against women – lessons learnt from Uganda”, looked at Irish Aid’s work in Uganda. The second, entitled “Addressing Gender Based Violence in post conflict and fragile states – a case study of Sierra Leone”, presented the results of research carried out by the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence. The Minister of State also participated in a European Union event, at which she outlined the National Strategy developed by Cosc, and a side event organised by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Additionally, the Minister of State participated in a high-level consultation on “Accelerating Zero-Tolerance to Gender Based Violence through the HIV response” which was organised by UN Women and UNAIDS and co-sponsored by Ireland. Her programme also included a series of bilateral contacts with a number of other Ministers and officials.

Ireland also co-sponsored an event with Amnesty International and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which focussed on the risks faced by women human rights defenders and at which our Permanent Representative in New York was a panellist. We co-sponsored a further event organised by the Uganda based NGO, Raising Voices, which looked at implementing an evidence based approach in addressing violence against women and girls. An event supported by Australia, South Africa and Ireland explored the potential of new media in supporting survivors of violence against women. The range of side events contributed to raising awareness around these issues among those attending CSW while also showcasing Ireland’s engagement in efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls both domestically and internationally.


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