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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 26 - 33
 Header Item Undocumented Irish in the USA
 Header Item Venezuelan Presidential Election
 Header Item Overseas Development Aid Provision
 Header Item Corporation Tax
 Header Item Children in Armed Conflict
 Header Item Passport Applications

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 808 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 26 - 33

Undocumented Irish in the USA

 26. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the contacts he has had with key players on Capitol Hill in the US following the publication of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30491/13]

 53. 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 his views on the prospects of E-3 visas for Irish emigrants in current US emigration reform proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30785/13]

 54. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the further discussions he has had with US officials to date to progress the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013; the further engagement he has had with organisations representing the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30802/13]

 61. 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 if he is tracking the progress of the immigration reform Bill in the USA; and if he is content with its progress to date. [30779/13]

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. 26, 53, 54 and 61 together.

A resolution of the situation facing the undocumented Irish in the United States has been and remains a priority for the Government in ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. The Government have also attached great importance to providing for future flows of migration between Ireland and the United States through the extension of the so called E3 visa scheme to include Irish citizens.

In this context, we very much welcomed the publication this springtime of the US Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Bill which provides for reform of the US immigration system.

The bill is progressing through the Senate system and on May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its detailed examination of proposals for comprehensive reform of the US immigration system as set out in the Bill. The Bill has gone forward for further debate by the full Senate and it is expected debates will continue over the coming weeks.

The comprehensive draft legislation, which was drafted over several months by a bi-partisan group of eight US Senators, includes provisions that would legalise the status of thousands of undocumented Irish people and provide a path to permanent residency. It also provides for future flows of legal migration between Ireland and the US via the proposed E-3 visa.

The Bill is a very positive development. Its provisions, if adopted, would help to end the great hardship and uncertainty faced by undocumented Irish in the US and their families here in Ireland. The inclusion of a new provision to allow several thousand Irish citizens to legally avail of employment opportunities in the US every year is also particularly welcome.

It is important to recall that the overall issues involved are complex and sensitive ones within the US political system. Our Embassy in Washington continues to closely follow developments and lobby as necessary, in keeping with the approach we have adopted over many years in our pursuit of a resolution of the situation facing the undocumented in the United States.

I have recently written to Secretary of State John Kerry to express continued support for immigration reform and to express concerns that certain provisions of the Bill might have an impact on the operation of the J-1 summer work and travel programme. I have also discussed these issues recently with Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and I intend to visit Washington DC in the coming weeks to reinforce the Irish Government’s interest in all aspects of immigration reform.

I would like to reiterate my appreciation for the active support we continue to receive from a number of Irish community organisations, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Venezuelan Presidential Election

 27. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he is satisfied with the European Commission’s attempts to verify the Venezuelan presidential election result; and if he has any concerns relating to the independence of the institutions of the Venezuelan state.  [30801/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Presidential election that that took place in Venezuela on 14th April last was closely contested. The Venezuelan National Electoral Commission recorded President Maduro ahead of the leading opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, by 1.49%. I am aware that Mr Capriles has disputed the outcome and is pursuing his claim through legal channels. The European Union and its member states continue to follow developments closely. The EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, has expressed her concern at the growing polarisation of Venezuelan society, noting that it is important that the outcome of the vote can be accepted by all and that appeals are duly considered by the competent Venezuelan authorities. In my view, any allegations of electoral irregularity must be addressed fully through appropriate appeal mechanisms. Building and sustaining trust in the fairness of a country’s democratic institutions is critical in the promotion of fundamental freedoms, social inclusion and sustainable development. I join with EU High Representative Ashton in calling upon all parties in Venezuela to engage constructively in the promotion of good governance.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

 28. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if any funds from the Africa Agri-Food Development Fund have been granted to the Irish, Kenyan or Tanzanian private sector yet; the person that received the grants; and the amount they have received. [30769/13]

 45. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore when grants from the Africa Agri-Food Development Fund are expected to be disbursed; and the criteria, in terms of impact on poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and gender equality that were employed in selecting partners for the pilot.  [30770/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 45 together.

The Africa Agri-food Development Fund is a joint initiative between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. The fund was launched in April 2012.

The fund is part of Ireland’s overseas development cooperation programme and is designed to support the development of new partnerships between the agri-food sectors in Ireland and Africa. The two-year pilot phase (2012 to 2013) has a focus on Tanzania and Kenya.

The programme is targeted at encouraging and supporting Irish agri-food companies to transfer knowledge and experience to the African agri-food sector in order to build and strengthen the African food industry and meet the continent’s food needs.

A technical mission from both Departments supported by Enterprise Ireland visited Tanzania and Kenya in April 2012. A workshop with potential Irish partners was hosted by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine in May 2012. In July 2012, the Tánaiste visited an agri-food industry in Kenya to learn how a company which exports directly to high street stores in Dublin can provide a market for smallholder outgrower farmers, especially women. The Tánaiste invited this company to participate in the Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin last October.

The Fund has adopted the Principles for Responsible International Investment in Agriculture that respect Rights, Livelihoods and Resources as adopted by the FAO, IFAD, UNCTAD and the World Bank. All Fund applicants will have to comply with these principles in the event that they receive public funding.

I am pleased to confirm that both Departments continue to engage in constructive dialogue with some of the major players in the agri-business in Ireland. Some of the larger companies have independently visited East Africa and initiated business contacts. In terms of the overall objective of connecting the Irish agri-food sector with the African market, the AADF has already made significant progress.

Turning to the specific questions on the disbursement of funds, I am pleased to note further progress. In all new initiatives, it takes time to identify viable areas for support. At the moment, two proposals are under consideration for funding. I can confirm that they relate to the broad areas of training for the agri-food industry and technology transfer that can improve the efficiency of food production in Africa.

In keeping with the open and transparent nature of the Fund, full details of the scheme, its objectives, principles and management are published on my Department’s website along with contact details for interested participants. The success of the Fund ultimately rests on the level of engagement by Irish agri-food companies and I remain hopeful that the pilot phase will see sustainable partnerships developed between the Irish and African agri-food sectors.

Corporation Tax

 29. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will update Dáil Éireann on his Department's recent engagements in the USA in respect of promotion of Ireland's corporation taxation structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30490/13]

 30. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will update Dáil Éireann on the response of his Department to recent commentary in the United States of America regarding Ireland's corporate tax regime. [30489/13]

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. 29 and 30 together.

My Department has worked closely with the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners, and the IDA to address inaccurate references to Ireland’s corporate tax regime arising from a recent hearing held by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Although the central focus of the hearing concerned perceived problems in the US tax system, there were also some misleading and inaccurate references to the Irish tax system made during the hearing. The Ambassador of Ireland in Washington D.C. wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the US Senate Subcommittee directly to correct the two most glaring inaccuracies, making it clear that Ireland is not a tax haven and that Ireland does not do special tax deals with companies.

The Embassy of Ireland in Washington D.C. continues to engage with the US Administration, with Members of Congress and with key contacts on these issues. The economic messaging briefing available to the Embassy network across the globe has also been regularly reinforced, in close co-operation with the Department of Finance who, of course, lead on corporate tax policy, following the inaccurate references made during the US Senate Subcommittee hearing.

Ireland supports those countries who are calling for measures to tackle tax fraud and evasion. The only way for such measures to be effective is for countries to work together to examine these issues and to consider how international rules can be amended to ensure fair levels of taxation. This is being done at the appropriate levels in the OECD, through the BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Project. Ireland is fully engaged in that process. At EU level, Ireland has led the way in making sure that significant progress was made in recent months in the area of savings, VAT anti-fraud, aggressive tax planning, and tax fraud and evasion.

In close co-operation with the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the IDA, my Department will continue to challenge misleading references to corporate taxation in Ireland through the Embassy network. We have a positive story to tell of Ireland’s transparent and competitive taxation system and of our strong track record of attracting companies of real substance to invest and create thousands of jobs here.

 Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 6.

Children in Armed Conflict

 32. 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 his attention has been drawn to the recently released annual report of the UN Secretary General on children and armed conflict, which provides information regarding grave violations committed against children in 22 country situations; his views regarding the high number of persistent perpetrators named in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30763/13]

 77. 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 the international community continues to focus on the use of child soldiers in various conflicts in Africa and elsewhere; if any particular initiative has been taken to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31130/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 77 together.

I share the widespread concern at the continue involvement of children in armed conflict, and at the appalling suffering of children in wars and conflicts. The issues involved are highlighted in the most recent annual report of the UN Secretary General on children and armed conflict, which was issued on 15 May. The report notes that children have become more vulnerable in conflicts in recent years because of the absence of clear front lines and identifiable opponents, the increasing use of terror tactics by some armed groups and certain methods used by security forces. It details many grave violations against children, including the appalling situation in Mali, where children allegedly joined armed groups because of poverty.

In presenting the report to the UN Security Council on 17 June, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Leila Zerrougui, highlighted the extent of the problem and the progress that has been made to date on the protection of children in conflict. She announced a campaign to galvanise the efforts of Governments and the UN system to end by 2016 the recruitment and use of children by government and armed forces in conflict.

The Government has engaged strongly on this issue, including through the core work of our Irish Aid programme in addressing poverty and under-development, with a focus on some of the poorest countries and communities in Africa. Ireland has also supported more targeted and specific action, through support for agencies such as UNICEF and the International Criminal Court, and through elements in our bilateral programmes that address the needs of children affected by conflict.

In Ireland’s new Policy for International Development, “One World, One Future”, the Government has pledged to increase our engagement on the issue of children in armed conflict. I have asked officials to examine options for strengthened action in this area. We are also exploring ways in which we can use our membership of the UN Human Rights Council to support ongoing international efforts to end this exploitation and suffering of children in conflict.

Passport Applications

 33. 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 the campaigns his Department has undertaken to inform the general public of the new changes to the passport application service. [30781/13]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The quickest and cheapest way for customers resident on the island of Ireland to obtain their passport is to submit their applications through the passport express services offered by An Post and the Post Office in Northern Ireland. With effect from 30 June 2013, applications received by regular and registered post, which attract a higher charge and are more costly to process, will no longer be accepted and will be returned to the applicant with the advice that they use the passport express service. Further information is available at www.passport.ie.

  It will still be possible to submit a passport application by attending the Passport Office in either Dublin or Cork. Priority at these public counters is given to those travelling at short notice. For those wishing to apply or renew a Passport at the Passport Office in Dublin, the Passport Service has launched a new appointment service www.passportappointments.ie. This service enables customers to book an appointment between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday to meet each customer’s specific passport requirements. It is planned to roll out the appointments system in our public office in Cork in the coming months.

  Announcements of these new arrangements were placed in daily papers both north and south as well as in a range of Sunday titles. Many local papers have carried stories about the changes. Additionally the Director of Passport Services was interview by national and local radio stations. Our website prominently displayed this information as did our twitter account. There is considerable signage inside and outside of the Passport Office in Molesworth Street. Staff in the passport office have reported that the vast majority of people now presenting themselves at the office have made appointments as a result of learning of the new service.


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