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 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-20
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Humanitarian Access
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Middle East Peace Process
 Header Item Overseas Development Aid Expenditure
 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 826 No. 1

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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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Foreign Conflicts

 10. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he sees a role for Ireland and the EU in resolving the conflict in South Sudan; if he will make representations at European level on same and the involvement there has been of the Irish ambassador in Ethiopia.  [1436/14]

 15. 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 his attention has been drawn to the deepening crisis and continued violence in South Sudan; if his Department pledged funding and assistance to those affected; and if he has discussed the crisis with his EU counterparts. [1441/14]

 19. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his response to recent events in South Sudan. [1486/14]

 32. 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 Ireland and the EU continue to offer assistance towards bringing about a peaceful solution in southern Sudan; the degree to which the EU and Ireland in general can bring moral pressure on the opposing factions there with a view to alleviating violence and the disbursement of humanitarian aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1432/14]

 80. 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 the assistance provided by Irish Aid to South Sudan; the proposals there are to provide additional humanitarian assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1637/14]

 88. 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 degree to which he and his EU-UN colleagues have focused on the situation in southern Sudan with a view to addressing issues affecting the civilian population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1774/14]

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. 10, 15, 19, 32, 80 and 88 together.

I share the deep concern at the escalating conflict in South Sudan and in particular by reports of violence perpetrated against the country’s civilian population. The violence, which erupted in the capital Juba on 15 December last, has spread very quickly and is now affecting most of the country, displacing more than 200,000 people, including some 60,000 seeking shelter in UN peacekeeping bases in the country.

On 2 January last the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, issued a statement on behalf of the EU which called for an immediate ceasefire, with effective monitoring to spare the people of South Sudan any further suffering. The statement appealed to all parties to allow access for humanitarian workers and observers and also encouraged immediate peace talks.

Ireland is working closely with our EU partners to monitor and co-ordinate efforts in response to the unfolding political and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The EU is supporting ongoing mediation efforts by the African Union and The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The peace talks, which are taking place in Addis Ababa, are vitally important and it is imperative that a negotiated solution is found as a matter of urgency. The EU’s Special Representative to the region, along with EU Ambassadors, are also working to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis. I look forward to discussing the latest situation in South Sudan with my colleagues in the Foreign Affairs Council next Monday, when we will have an opportunity to consider possible further measures in response to the unfolding crisis.

Ireland provided €4 million in humanitarian funding to South Sudan in 2013. Of this, a total of €2.5 million has been disbursed to the UN-managed Common Humanitarian Fund for South Sudan. In addition, over €1.5 million in funding has been disbursed through NGOs to meet humanitarian needs across the country in 2013.

Two airlifts totalling 40 tonnes of emergency supplies, with a value of €400,000 have been dispatched to South Sudan from our pre-positioned stocks in Accra, Ghana. These supplies consist mainly of blankets, Jerry Cans, Tarpaulins, Kitchen sets and Mosquito nets. In addition, the European Union is making €50 million available to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Our funding is saving lives.

Ireland is also addressing the issue of security in South Sudan. There are four defence personnel serving with the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) there, providing important technical training on bomb disposal techniques to local police. Three members of Ireland’s Rapid Response Corps were deployed to UN agencies in South Sudan in 2013. A further deployment to UNICEF in South Sudan is scheduled for later this month.

My Department is also providing consular assistance to Irish citizens in South Sudan through our Embassies in Addis Ababa and Kampala and the Consular Crisis Section in Dublin and our travel advice has been updated to advise against travel there.

Humanitarian Access

 11. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the progress and support Ireland has given in terms of establishing humanitarian corridors to allow aid to get into Syria; the extent to which his Department will step up its efforts to support Syrian refugees and the setting up of humanitarian corridors in response to the barrel-bombing of more than 500 people in Aleppo since 15 December which included a high number of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1434/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The protracted and tragic crisis in Syria and in neighbouring countries has resulted in unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, requiring a sustained and urgent response from the international community. There are now nearly 9 million people who are in need of immediate life saving support. This figure includes 6.5 million people who are displaced within Syria, and more than 2.3 million Syrians who have fled the violence to take refuge in neighbouring countries.

  I am acutely aware that there are many people inside Syria who have not received any assistance in a long period of time. While reaching these populations under siege is an urgent priority, the fact remains that humanitarian access across Syria is exceptionally difficult as a result of increasing disregard by armed groups on both sides of the conflict of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. Recent attacks on civilians as witnessed in Aleppo, in addition to abductions of humanitarian personnel, clearly illustrate this highly risky operating environment and shrinking humanitarian space.

  The question of establishing humanitarian corridors within Syria is a complex one, in that to do so would likely necessitate the provision of foreign military protection to humanitarian convoys. This could have the unwelcome and unintended result of placing already vulnerable civilians and aid workers at further risk. We therefore share the caution of the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and many of our other partners in respect of the calls for military intervention in support of humanitarian action and believe that negotiated access remains the most effective approach.   

  Ireland supports UN Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, in her call for humanitarian pauses to ensure safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys into hard-to-reach areas. We must consider alternative forms of aid delivery, including cross border delivery of assistance which complies with the humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality, impartiality and humanity. While the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement of 2nd October was a welcome and necessary step, as the humanitarian situation continues to worsen, full political weight now needs to be brought to bear through the Security Council to ensure its implementation. Ireland is disappointed with the negligible impact of this initiative on the ground, with humanitarians still being denied access to populations in need.

  In view of the immense needs in Syria and neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees, Ireland will continue to advocate for increased support to the humanitarian relief effort at all relevant international fora. Ireland is one of the most generous contributors to the humanitarian response on a per capita basis, having already provided over €14 million in assistance since the crisis began. My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello, T.D. is today attending the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria and the region in Kuwait where he has announced Ireland’s pledge of €12 million in support to the humanitarian relief effort over the course of 2014 which will bring our total assistance to over €26 million.

  The Government has matched its material humanitarian contribution with concrete support to international efforts to find a sustainable political solution to the crisis and to advocate for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. We have called for all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law and to refrain from the targeting of civilians. We continue to stress the need for a comprehensive political solution to this crisis, every day that passes leads to further suffering and the international humanitarian response can only do so much.

  Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 9.

Human Rights Issues

 13. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the extent of his engagement with the American authorities on the continued imprisonment of the Cuban five, only one of whom has been released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1435/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers of the Cuban citizens imprisoned in the US.

  As this is a bilateral consular issue between the US and the Cuban authorities, the Government has no standing in the matter.

  Ireland’s bilateral relations with Cuba continue to be positive and I look forward to the further development of relations in the period ahead.

Human Rights Issues

 14. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will contact the Egyptian Government to protest against the imprisonment of a number of pro-democracy activists (details supplied) and others who were recently imprisoned for unauthorised protests to demand their immediate release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1475/14]

 26. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the intervention the Irish Government had made or is planning to make with the Egyptian Government to ensure pro-democracy activists are not penalised or imprisoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1476/14]

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. 14 and 26 together.  

  I have made clear Ireland’s strong support for an urgent return to democracy and the constitutional order in Egypt and the lifting of all unwarranted restrictions on Egyptian civil society and Egyptian citizens.

  I have also personally intervened in the case of our own citizens from the Halawa family, seeking to ensure that they receive fair and transparent justice from the Egyptian authorities.

  Ireland stands firmly with the public statement made by the EU's High Representative, Cathy Ashton, who stated on behalf of the EU on 23 December that she was concerned about the guilty verdict, the prison sentences and the financial penalty handed down by a court in Egypt against political activists Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 Movement, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel and hoped that these sentences could be reviewed in an appeals process.

  I strongly support her statement and the concerns expressed by both the EU and the UN Secretary General on recent legislative restrictions imposed on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression in Egypt. These are issues which will be pursued in further political dialogue, both at the bilateral and EU level, with Egypt.

  The appeals process is currently underway with the recent appeal hearing on 9 January adjourned for a further two weeks. Our Embassy in Cairo has been monitoring these cases and reporting on developments.

  Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 10.

Middle East Peace Process

 16. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his plans to provide full diplomatic recognition to Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1485/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Ireland has for many years supported the achievement of a fully sovereign state of Palestine as an essential element to the resolution of the Middle East conflict. Both nationally and in concert with our EU partners, we work for the realisation of this goal and to help build up the Palestinian institutions for statehood.

  Ireland’s position has always been clear that full diplomatic recognition of an independent Palestinian State will take place in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians which, inter alia, formally provides for the establishment of a Palestinian State. That is also the policy of the EU.

  In January 2011, Ireland upgraded the status of the Palestinian delegation in Ireland, in recognition of the continuing progress being made by the Palestinian Authority in building up the institutions of a future Palestinian State. A similar upgrade took place in a number of other EU countries. The Palestinian Representative Office in Ireland was re-titled as the Palestinian Mission, headed by an 'Ambassador – Head of Mission'. In November 2013 the new Palestinian Head of Mission, for the first time, presented his credentials directly to the President. Internationally, in 2012 Ireland led EU support for the admission of Palestine as an Observer State at the United Nations.

  I very much hope to be able to extend full Irish recognition of a Palestinian State, as part of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Overseas Development Aid Expenditure

 17. 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 confirm that in applying the most recent reduction to Ireland’s overseas aid budget he will ensure that those programmes that are most directly linked to real and lasting changes for poor people are exempt from those cuts; if he will reaffirm his commitment to the 0.7% of GNP target for oversees development aid by 2015 as set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [1478/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s overseas aid programme and to its place at the heart of Ireland’s foreign policy. Our new policy on International Development, 'One World, One Future', focuses sharply on the poorest countries and communities in sub-Saharan Africa and on three goals: reducing hunger, building sustainable growth and good governance. I believe that this new Policy will ensure that our aid programme remains one of the best and most effective in the world.

For 2014, the Government will be providing in the region of €600 million for Official Development Assistance - a clear indication of this Government’s commitment to the aid program. Our new Policy provides a coherent framework for the prioritisation and allocation of resources across the programme to maximise impact, strengthen accountability and demonstrate value for money. It also commits to improving efficiencies and strengthening performance across all the partners supported. Most of all it is about making a real and sustainable difference in the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.

The new Policy also reconfirms our commitment to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7% of Gross National Product for ODA, when economic circumstances permit.

Northern Ireland Issues

 18. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the supports and assistance that are being provided and will be provided by his Department to the Northern Ireland Executive parties and the British Government in the wake of the unsuccessful conclusion of the panel of parties talks. [1268/14]

 44. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his view on the talks chaired by Dr. Richard Haass into contentious issues in Northern Ireland; his views on the proposals put to all parties in Northern Ireland; the way he expects the issue to now progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [1118/14]

 65. 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 if he will take a more proactive role in the peace process following the collapse of the Haass-O’Sullivan proposals and not tolerate any veto on progress on this Island. [1415/14]

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. 18, 44 and 65 together.  

  As I stated earlier in my reply to Questions Nos. 1, 2 and 3, I have made clear the Government's view to all participants and stakeholders that the Panel of Parties Talks presented an opportunity to make further progress towards advancing reconciliation and the creation of a truly reconciled and prosperous society in Northern Ireland. That remains the Government’s view and we will continue our engagement with the Northern Ireland Political Parties and the British Government to that end.

  While acknowledging that the issues to be addressed in the talks are difficult and contentious, the Government encouraged Drs. Haass and O’Sullivan to be ambitious in their approach and for all Talks' participants to engage actively with the process. I welcome that very significant progress was made within the talks process over a short period on a number of the most difficult issues that face society in Northern Ireland. The priority now should be to safeguard and give practical effect to what has been achieved.   

  I want to send a clear message of support from this House to the five Northern Ireland Executive Parties as they continue the vital task which they have set in train. The Government, along with the British Government, will play its role in partnership with the NI Parties to the full as they complete their work on an Agreement. It is in all our shared interests to see Northern Ireland make further progress towards reconciliation in line with the vision of the Good Friday Agreement. Our support and our work in this regard continues unabated.

  Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 10.

Foreign Conflicts

 20. 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 his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Basque Political Prisoners Collective agreed to endorse a peace process strategy and to pursue political objectives through exclusively political means; if he welcomes this step; and if he will discuss the issue with the Spanish Government and encourage them to recognise and reciprocate this valuable contribution. [1437/14]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I have closely followed developments in relation to the Basque Country since the declaration by ETA on 20 October 2011 that the organisation had "decided on the definitive cessation of its armed activity".

  I have also taken careful note of the public statement on 4 January by a group of former ETA prisoners in which they expressed regret for the suffering inflicted on all sides during the ETA campaign and accepted full responsibility for the consequences of the conflict.

  As I have stated previously, the Government welcomes and encourages all efforts that are aimed at securing a definitive peace in the Basque Country.


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