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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 45 - 52
 Header Item Fiscal Policy
 Header Item Prison Committals
 Header Item Overseas Development Aid Provision
 Header Item European External Action Service
 Header Item North-South Ministerial Council

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 798 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 45 - 52

Fiscal Policy

 45. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if, in view of the joint statement issued by An Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister regarding the promotion of prosperity and rebalancing the economy in Northern Ireland, he has promoted with the British Government, the matter of the transfer of fiscal powers from London to Stormont including the ability to vary corporation tax. [15537/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore While the issue of the transfer of fiscal powers from London to Stormont is a matter for another jurisdiction, I have said publically that I would view a reduction in the corporation tax in Northern Ireland as an opportunity for the whole island. This issue has been a subject of discussion at meetings I have had with the British Government and has also been raised at Plenary meetings of the North South Ministerial Council.

  Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 36.

Prison Committals

 47. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will raise with his Spanish counterpart the situation facing Basque prisoners in the Spanish State as has been raised by the Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee, specifically the denial of parole, inhumane treatment of terminally ill prisoners, the cancellation of visits, excessive use of solitary confinement and the harassment of prisoners and relatives by the prison authorities (details supplied). [15417/13]

 52. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will raise with his Spanish counterpart the situation facing Basque prisoners in the Spanish State as has been raised by the Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee, specifically the policy of dispersal and the resultant hardships on prisoners and relatives and the retroactive extension of sentences contrary to a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights (details supplied). [15416/13]

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. 47 and 52 together.

  Policy on the placement and treatment of a country’s nationals in prison in the European Union is a matter for the democratically elected government and the relevant competent authorities in each Member State in accordance with domestic, European and international law, and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to become involved in the matter in question.

  Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 26.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

 49. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will provide details of the discussion at the EU Development Ministers meeting in Brussels on 26 February, which aimed to create detailed plans for the provision of long-term development aid to Mali; the plans, if any, that were created to deliver assistance and aid specifically to internally and externally displaced Malian citizens; and if any plans were discussed to deliver assistance and aid specifically to the minority Tuareg population. [15518/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I attended the meeting of EU Development Ministers in Brussels on 26 February, which was convened by the Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, to coordinate the EU approach to the provision of long term development assistance in Mali. The meeting was organised following the detailed discussion on the situation in Mali at the informal meeting of EU Development Ministers which I chaired in Dublin on 11 and 12 February. The meeting reached agreement on the announcement by Commissioner Piebalgs that up to €250 million in European Union development assistance for Mali will be made available this year.

The meeting in Brussels was addressed by the Foreign Minister and the Finance Minister of Mali, who provided updates on the latest situation in the country. They made it clear that the immediate development priorities of the Malian authorities were the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in northern Mali following the destruction caused by retreating militant groups, the funding of basic social services and the financing of elections due to take place in July.

In response, EU Ministers outlined bilateral approaches being undertaken in support of basic services, employment opportunities for young people and ongoing humanitarian needs. There was agreement among Member States that EU support to rebuild basic social services in Mali was a priority, but that appropriate safeguards, in the form of technical assistance and audits, must be put in place given the inherent risks of working in such a fragile environment. The Commission indicated that the provision of development aid would be based on four essential criteria: implementation of the political roadmap; macro-economic stability, public financial management and budget transparency. During the discussion, I stressed that support for the Malian authorities should also be linked to progress on human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles. The Malian Foreign Minister committed to establishing a Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation and said that all the communities of northern Mali would be invited to participate, including the minority Tuareg community.

The situation of internally displaced persons and refugees was also discussed and EU Ministers outlined bilateral support from Member States. I noted that over €9 million was provided by Ireland in 2012 for emergency food, water and healthcare to communities affected by the crisis across the Sahel region. Some €1.25 million of this funding was for life-saving assistance to vulnerable communities in Mali as well as Malian refugees who have fled the conflict to Burkina Faso. I also indicated that a further €1.8 million was being provided by Irish Aid in 2013 for those worst affected by the crisis in Mali, including assistance to displaced people and refugees.

European External Action Service

 50. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his views on the reported position of the German Government, in relation to the reform of the European External Action Service, that the EEAS should take control of the European Commission's neighbourhood policy and development aid budget; and if this was discussed at the informal meeting of the EU’s Foreign Ministers in Dublin on 22 and 23 of March. [15515/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore A number of member States have suggested that the EU External Action Service should have greater control over the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy and development aid budget in the context of the EEAS Review. Ireland is supportive of a strong EEAS that fulfils the vision set out in the Lisbon Treaty of an effective and coherent EU foreign policy. The EEAS has achieved much in its first two years of operation. Ireland believes that the focus for now should be on consolidating the progress made to date and improving coordination mechanisms, in particular with the European Commission.

As regards the European Neighbourhood Policy, we believe that the current arrangements whereby the EEAS and the Commission jointly represent EU member States in relation to this Policy have worked well to date. The Neighbourhood has been identified as a priority area of work for the High Representative and the EEAS. There are also important linkages between neighbourhood and enlargement policy, for which the Commission has overall responsibility. While an expansion of the EEAS role in this area might be a logical development over the longer term, in the short to medium term the focus should be on ensuring coherence and effectiveness of EU policy, regardless of whether the EEAS or Commission is in the lead. There may also be scope for further developing the High Representative’s double-hatted role as Vice President of the Commission.

As regards the EU’s development policy, Ireland believes that the new arrangements on the functioning of the EEAS will over time assist in the more effective integration of development into the EU’s overall external relations and improve the effectiveness of both development policy and broader foreign policy. We would hope to see, in particular, a more central focus on poverty reduction. We welcome the progress that has been made in increasing cooperation between EU delegations and member State missions through the new joint programming initiative which is being rolled out on a trial basis in partner countries. EU Delegations have successfully taken on a co-ordination role in many of the pilot countries and will help ensure that the EU speaks with one voice in partner countries.

Ireland is taking an active interest in the EEAS Review, which was also the subject of discussions at the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Dublin on 22-23 March. We look forward to hearing the proposals of the High Representative in due course.

North-South Ministerial Council

 51. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will outline the proposals, if any, there are to discuss the Narrow Water bridge proposal at North-South Ministerial Council level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15575/13]

 61. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the discussions, if any, he has had at North-South Ministerial Council level in relation to the need to progress, without further delay, the Narrow Water bridge proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15572/13]

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. 51 and 61 together.

As the project in question is in the process of undergoing an economic review within the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland, it would be inappropriate at this time to discuss it at the North South Ministerial Council level. I can assure you, however, that we support this important project. The Government and particularly the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which is the sponsor Department in the South, will continue to monitor developments in relation to this project closely.

  Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 47.


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