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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 99-107
 Header Item Departmental Legal Costs
 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues
 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues
 Header Item Good Friday Agreement
 Header Item St. Andrew's Agreement
 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues
 Header Item European Affairs
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Property Taxation Exemptions

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 803 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 95 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 99-107

Departmental Legal Costs

 99. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown on a yearly basis of the legal and travel costs his Department has incurred as a result of litigation in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the General Court in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg from the years 2005 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23314/13]

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 acts as the Agent of the Government in proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights. As such, officers in the Legal Division of my Department provide input into such proceedings in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and external counsel. The cost of retaining external counsel for the State is borne by the Office of the Attorney General. Legal proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights are principally in written form, but in those cases where the proceedings involve oral argument travel costs are incurred by my officials in travelling to and from Strasbourg. In the event of the State losing a case before the European Court of Human Rights and legal costs being awarded to the applicant, such costs are borne by the relevant line Department. My Department has not been the responsible line department for any proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights from the years 2005 to 2012 and so has not incurred any legal costs during that period. Travel costs have been incurred in acting as Agent of the Government as set out in Table 1 below.

  Table 1

Case Date of Hearing Travel Costs
D v Ireland 6 September 2005 €2,096.15
A, B, C v Ireland 9 December 2009 €1,297.70
McFarlane v Ireland 3 March 2010 €1,139.91


  The Office of the Chief State Solicitor acts as the Agent of the Government in proceedings before the European Union Court of Justice and the General Court. I am not aware of any proceedings before these Courts from the years 2005 to 2012 for which my Department was the relevant line Department and incurred legal costs. Travel expenses were incurred, however, in an officer from my Department attending two hearings where legal issues relevant to my Department arose as set out in Table 2 below.

  Table 2
Case Date of Hearing Travel Costs
Case C-459/03, Commission v Ireland 8 November 2005 €2,459.23
Joined Cases C-584/10 P, C-593/10 P and C-595/10 P, Commission v Kadi 16 October 2012 €1,103.29

Northern Ireland Issues

 100. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his views on recent reports of children as young as seven marching in Easter parades in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17252/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The incident referred to by the Deputy occurred at an Easter Parade commemoration in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast last month. This parade, which was organised by disparate strands of anti-Agreement republicanism, involved very young children who were pictured parading in paramilitary style clothing including black gloves, beret and black sunglasses. Regrettably, this is not an isolated example of terrorist supporting organisations and groups attempting to draw young persons back into a tradition of violence and in conflict with the forces of law and order.

Like every right thinking person, I condemn utterly such exploitative use of young children to glorify past violence and terrorism. To perpetuate a cycle of violence and the use of violence for political ends is to perpetrate an abuse of children. Ireland has long urged and endorsed the protection of children in conflict and post conflict situations. We have committed ourselves in the Paris Declaration of 2007 to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups as a cornerstone of our foreign policy. This deplorable incident reminds us that it is essential, particularly during this decade of centenaries, that historical events in Ireland are commemorated responsibly in a way which secures peace and advances reconciliation despite the legacy of violence which is an inescapable part of our history.

Northern Ireland Issues

 101. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his views on the apparent increase in dissident activity in Northern Ireland and in particular the recent threats to the Deputy First Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17253/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The threat which the so-called 'dissident republican' groups present is a matter of shared concern North and South. There is a strong, shared resolve to take all necessary actions within the law to bear down on such groups. Combating their activities has always been and remains a priority for the Government and the Garda authorities. In this regard, the Garda authorities continue to work closely with their PSNI counterparts in combating the violence and criminal activities of these groups and in seeking to improve community safety for everybody on this island. Threats of the type to which the Deputy refers, against elected public representatives, are to be deplored not only because they threaten the safety of an individual but also because they are an attack on democracy and free speech, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society.

Good Friday Agreement

 102. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he is satisfied that both Governments are delivering on all of the commitments in the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17255/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government remains firmly committed to ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. In contacts with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the Northern Ireland Executive, I have stressed, and will continue to do so, the importance of implementation of all aspects of the Agreement. The North South Inter-Parliamentary Association – as provided for in the Agreement - met for the second time in Plenary at Stormont last month. The Association will provide a forum for regular and formal discussions between Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas on issues of mutual interest and concern, as envisaged in the Agreements. The Association will meet twice yearly on a rotational basis. An important commitment under the Good Friday Agreement was realised in October 2012 with Digital Switchover on the island of Ireland on 24 October 2012, when TG4 and Radio na Gaeltachta became available in Northern Ireland.

One important outstanding provision of the Agreement is a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which takes account of the separate and specific context of Northern Ireland. I believe that all parties in this House will share my frustration at the lack of progress on a Bill of Rights and I will continue to engage actively with the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive on this issue. Some of the contentious issues around parades, flags and identities have at their heart rights issues and a Bill of Rights is the key to dissolving the obstacles to progress on these issues. I would also encourage all the political parties on the island of Ireland to give serious consideration to the advice of the Joint Committee of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish Human Rights Commission on an all-Ireland Charter of Rights.

Recent events have recalled and positive role that civil society continues to play in Northern Ireland and points to the valuable role that could be played by the Civic Forum envisaged by the Agreement and I will continue to encourage it’s development.

St. Andrew's Agreement

 103. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he is satisfied that both Governments are delivering on all the commitments in the St Andrew's Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17256/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement. Progress has been made on a number of important elements of the St Andrews Agreement, including a review of the existing North South bodies, whose three terms of reference were to examine the bodies in terms of efficiency and value for money, to look at the case for additional North South bodies and areas of co-operation and a replacement for the Irish Lights Agency. Terms of Reference one of the St Andrews Agreement Review has essentially been completed. The Second and Third Terms of Reference of the Review look to the future of North South co-operation. This has not progressed as rapidly as I would have wished and was a subject of discussion when I met recently with the First and Deputy First Minister. I hope that we will be in a position to make substantial progress at the next NSMC Plenary in July. In addition, the North South Inter-parliamentary Association has been established and held its second meeting last month. While the North South Consultative Forum is still outstanding, it continues to be raised at NSMC Plenary meetings and will be considered further with our Northern colleagues. Minister Deenihan and Minister of State McGinley regularly discuss Irish Language issues with Minister Ní Chuilín. The Government will continue to encourage progress on these issues, including during my ongoing schedule of close contact with the Secretary of State, and with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Northern Ireland Issues

 104. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the progress being made on the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17257/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government remains firmly committed to ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrew's Agreements. In contacts with the British government, we will continue to stress the importance of implementation of all aspects of the Agreements, including of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which takes account of the separate and specific context of Northern Ireland. I will also continue to urge all the parties in the Assembly to engage in constructive discussion with a view to reaching agreement on the substance of a Bill of Rights. A Bill of Rights drawn up by agreement between the main parties of the Assembly could set out precisely and formally the rights upon which a shared society for Northern Ireland can be based. Some of the contentious issues around parades, flags and identities have at their heart rights issues and a Bill of Rights is the key to dissolving the obstacles to progress on these issues. As I said in a speech in Belfast last year:

'Human rights and equality are fundamental to building a stable future for the island of Ireland. They are necessary for a solid,

unshakeable, foundation for a lasting peace. A clear expression of these rights in a formal Bill of Rights can act as a touchstone.'

I believe that all parties in this house will share my frustration at the lack of progress on a Bill of Rights and I will continue to engage actively with the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive on this issue.

European Affairs

 105. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he accepts the latest European Movement Ireland accountability survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22452/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore European Movement Ireland aims to promote public discussion and debate about developments in the European Union including through the publication and dissemination of information materials, such as its annual Accountability Report. I welcome this report, now in its third year, by which EMI aims to track Ireland’s engagement with Europe through a series of statistical indicators. These indicators range from measuring Irish input at the pre-legislative stage of EU policy formation, European Parliament and Oireachtas engagement, to the stage of final decision-making at the Council of the European Union. This year's report also includes a chapter on the Stability Treaty Referendum. I note a number of welcome developments over the past year. There was a significant increase in Ministerial attendance at Council meetings and in 2012 average Irish ministerial attendance at Council stood at 97%. There has been a large increase also in the number of pre-Council briefings of Oireachtas Committees. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs met a total of 36 times during 2012. Inevitably, a report of this nature places a particular focus on recording quantifiable outputs but I hope these will inform a rigorous and qualitative assessment of Ireland's engagement with the European Union and to identify areas for improvement. I see the value of this report not just in the statistical information provided but more generally in contributing to better public understanding and oversight of EU matters.

Human Rights Issues

 106. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will provide an update on the human rights abuses by the Malian military as reported by human rights organisations. [21287/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government is very concerned about the human rights situation in Mali and has highlighted the matter on a number of occasions at EU level and with our partners in the international community. The EU Foreign Affairs Council has repeatedly called on all parties in Mali to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law standards. This message is reinforced when meeting with members of the Malian Government in international fora, including at the Donor Conference on Mali which is taking place in Brussels today. The Council has also emphasised the importance of progress on the political track and the implementation of the transition roadmap which has been agreed by the Malian Government and Parliament. Especially important will be the holding of free and fair elections in the coming months and implementation of a meaningful national dialogue and reconciliation process. EU Foreign Ministers have also welcomed the announcement by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of the opening of an investigation into the situation in Mali. Ireland engages actively in discussions on Mali at the United Nations. In this context, we have welcomed the report in February by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which outlined evidence of serious human rights violations by both the Malian military and by militant groups in the north of the country. The report also highlighted issues which must be addressed in the response to the current crisis in Mali if lasting peace and stability is to be achieved, including, notably, the serious underlying and long-neglected ethnic tensions in the country.

At the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in March 2013, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on assistance to the Republic of Mali in the field of human rights. The resolution was cosponsored by Ireland. It established a mandate for an independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, with a view to assisting the Government of Mali in its efforts to promote and protect human rights, and to act upon the recommendations set forth in resolutions of the Human Rights Council. The Council repeated its call for an immediate halt to all human rights violations and acts of violence and for strict respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also called upon all forces and armed groups present within the territory to ensure that international human rights law and international humanitarian law are strictly respected. On 22 January 2013, Mali was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council. During this review, Ireland recommended that Mali adopt and implement measures to ensure that international human rights standards are observed by the Malian Armed Forces, in particular the absolute ban on torture and ill-treatment and to ensure that all reports of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated effectively with those responsible being brought to justice. Ireland also recommended that Mali take all feasible measures to protect children from recruitment by state-allied and non-state armed groups, including contributing information, analysis and recommendations to the UN and other stakeholders to support and strengthen their efforts to ensure that international standards are upheld.

Recognising the need for human rights training for the Malian army, Ireland is contributing six trainers and two HQ personnel to the EU Training Mission which is working to support strengthening and reform of the Malian army. Ireland is also committed to supporting international and domestic efforts in the area of electoral preparations and human rights monitoring, working in partnership with other donors and civil society.

Property Taxation Exemptions

 107. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan if local authorities are exempt, for any period of time, from having to pay the local property tax. [23259/13]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Local authorities will be liable to pay the Local Property Tax (LPT) on their properties in the same way as any other residential property owner, unless the properties in question are used to provide special needs accommodation. This refers to people who require support to enable them to live in the community, such as sheltered accommodation for the elderly or the disabled. The Revenue Commissioners have published guidelines to assist local authorities in identifying special needs accommodation. Where an LPT liability arises, the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012, as amended, deems all local authority residential properties to be in the lowest valuation band for the initial valuation period (2013 to 2016) and also allows such bodies to defer their 2013 LPT liability until 2014. This is to allow such bodies to put in place arrangements for the payment of the tax and for the valuation of their properties.


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