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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 402-419
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Measures
 Header Item Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility
 Header Item Workplace Relations Commission
 Header Item Anti-Terrorism Measures
 Header Item Anti-Terrorism Measures
 Header Item Irish Prisoners Abroad
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Syrian Conflict
 Header Item Northern Ireland
 Header Item Passport Services
 Header Item Departmental Properties
 Header Item Northern Ireland
 Header Item Acht na Gaeilge
 Header Item Registration of Births
 Header Item Middle East Issues
 Header Item Foreign Naval Vessels

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 402-419

Youth Unemployment Measures

 402. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which the various youth unemployment alleviation measures have resulted in successful full-time job placements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18342/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Government policy to reduce unemployment is twofold.   First, through policies set out in the Action Plan for Jobs, to create an environment in which business can succeed and create jobs; and second, through Pathways to Work, to ensure that as many as possible of these new jobs and other vacancies that arise in our economy are filled by people taken from the Live Register, including young people.

  Reflecting the impact of government policy, and the overall improvement in the labour market, youth unemployment continues to fall with a rate of 13.9% (29,700 persons) in March 2017 estimated by CSO, as compared to 17.3% (33,700 persons) in March 2016 and a peak of over 31% (70,600 persons) in 2012.    

  While systemised data is not readily available on employment outcomes for all programmes, some indicative figures are available for people aged under 25 at a national level. For example:

   - The evaluation of JobBridge by Indecon (report published October 2016), shows on the basis of self-reported survey results that 61% of interns aged 20 to 24 years (and 53.8% of those aged 15-19) were currently in employment at the time of the survey. Overall, individuals similar to those who participated in JobBridge had a 36.6% probability of securing employment within one year, whereas the JobBridge interns’ probability of securing employment within one year increased to 48.4% (an 11.8 percentage point difference and a 32% increase in the probability of becoming employed).

   - JobsPlus provides subsidies to employers for the full-time employment of those formerly long-term unemployed on the Live Register. In October 2016 there were 4,323 participants benefiting from JobsPlus, 765 (17.7%) of whom were under 25.

   - In 2015 the level of satisfaction among under 25 year old Intreo clients with getting on to course, training or getting a job was very high at 4.27, out of a possible maximum of 5. Results from the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey will be published shortly and show a similar high level of satisfaction among under 25 year old Intreo clients with getting on to course, training or getting a job.

  Under the Government’s policies to support the young unemployed, the first intervention is to provide case officer support to help newly unemployed young people find and secure sustainable jobs. There is monthly engagement with all young jobseekers by a case officer, and a Personal Progression Plan is developed to chart the steps to be taken to facilitate a return to employment, which may include further education and training or other opportunities.

  For those who do not find employment, through the process just described, additional offers are provided for. Most such offers (over 70%) are in existing further education or training programmes. Others are in existing community-based employment programmes/workplace based interventions such as CE, Gateway and Tús and First Steps; or in subsidies to employers, through JobsPlus Youth. Long-term unemployed jobseekers under 25 are also referred to JobPath, a contracted, payment-by-results employment services that provides additional resources and supports to those long-term unemployed.

  The strategy document Pathways to Work 2016 to 2020 includes some additional actions in relation to addressing youth unemployment:

  1) increase the relative share of workplace-based interventions (Gateway, TÚS, Positive to Work etc.) for youth unemployed;

  2) ensure the frequency of engagement with all young unemployed people is a minimum of one case officer meeting per month;

  3) restructure the First Steps programme for young unemployed people to improve take-up by offering a higher level of support to jobseekers and employers;

  4) implement the Defence Forces Skills for Life employment support programme.

  Each of these actions is either ongoing or has been completed.

  I am satisfied that these policy measures, together with an improving labour market, will continue to address youth unemployment and support further improvements in the labour market situation for young people.

Social Welfare Benefits Eligibility

 403. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the extent to which the self-employed can qualify for various social welfare supports now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18343/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Self-employed people who earn €5,000 or more in a contribution year, are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4%, subject to a minimum annual payment of €500.

This provides them with access to the following benefits: State pension (contributory) and widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension (contributory), guardian’s payment (contributory), maternity benefit and adoptive benefit and, since September 2016, the newly introduced paternity benefit.

Core to the Programme for Government is improving the position of the self-employed generally, including the commitment to introduce an enhanced PRSI scheme for the self-employed.

Making progress on this commitment has been one of my key priorities since becoming Minister in this Department. On Budget Day, I was pleased to announce a number of important measures which will benefit the self-employed.

From the last week in March, the self-employed now have access to the treatment benefit scheme which includes free eye and dental exams, and contributions towards the cost of hearings aids. Treatment benefit entitlements will also be extended, for all workers including the self-employed, from October 2017 so as to provide further dental and optical benefits.

More significantly, self-employed contributors will be eligible for the invalidity pension from December 2017. For the first time, this will give the self-employed access to the safety net of State income supports if they have a serious illness or injury that prevents them from working without having to go through a means test. These measures will affect more than 300,000 self-employed contributors.

The self-employed will also benefit from the further increase in Earned Income Tax Credit announced by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, as well as the extension of entrepreneurship supports.

All of the self-employed improvements were introduced without any increase in the 2017 rate of PRSI contribution paid by self-employed workers.

I plan to continue extending cover for the self-employed to other benefits on a phased basis in future Budgets. In this regard, in 2017, my Department will carry out detailed work to establish how to provide a better safety net for self-employed including, for example, access to schemes such as jobseeker’s benefit and carer’s benefit.

  Question No. 404 answered with Question No. 395.

  Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 367.

Workplace Relations Commission

 406. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the adjudications and the findings of the Workplace Relations Commission in respect of public bodies in each of the years 2015 to 2016 and to date in 2017, that have not been accepted by his Department having consulted the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; the numbers involved and the reasons for this. [18740/17]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There have been no adjudications or findings of the Workplace Relations Commission in respect of my Department or the bodies that come under its aegis during the period in question, that have not been accepted by my Department having consulted with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Anti-Terrorism Measures

 407. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the attention of the Coast Guard and Civil Defence was drawn to an arrangement between the RAF and the State to facilitate the shooting down of hijacked planes over Ireland. [18174/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I cannot comment on any reports concerning national security matters or responses that might be taken in the event of an attack on Ireland or a serious and immediate security threat to Ireland and the Irish people. However, I can confirm that no agreement has been entered into by the State to grant permission to the RAF to shoot down hijacked planes over Ireland.

Anti-Terrorism Measures

 408. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the attention of senior officers in An Garda Síochána was drawn to the agreement entered into by the State to grant permission to the RAF to shoot down hijacked planes over Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18175/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I cannot comment on any reports concerning national security matters or responses that might be taken in the event of an attack on Ireland or a serious and immediate security threat to Ireland and the Irish people. However, I can confirm that no agreement has been entered into by the State to grant permission to the RAF to shoot down hijacked planes over Ireland.

Irish Prisoners Abroad

 409. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the welfare of a person (details supplied) currently detained in Egypt in view of renewed concerns for their health and well-being; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17545/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan This consular case continues to be a top priority for the Government and substantial resources and time are being devoted to it, by the Taoiseach and the Government and by my Department. Reports about this man’s health are a matter of the utmost concern to the Government. In light if these concerns the Government took the unprecedented step last month of making arrangements for an Irish doctor, nominated by the Chief Medical Officer, to visit him in prison and to make an assessment of his health.

While the doctor’s findings are, of course, a private and confidential matter, I can confirm that the Irish doctor shared his assessment and recommendations with the prison authorities who have a clear responsibility to ensure this man’s welfare while he remains within the Egyptian prison system. The Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have consistently underlined our concerns in all contacts with Egyptian interlocutors and made clear that we expect them to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to this man’s welfare and well-being. Ireland’s Embassy in Cairo is continuing to follow up on these matters.

I have been concerned by persistent reports that the citizen in question is pursuing a hunger strike. The Government has consistently stressed to him and to his family that he should not pursue such a course of action, which will only be damaging to his well-being and his cause, and that he should look after his health by eating properly and cooperating with medical tests and investigations that are arranged on his behalf.

The Taoiseach has in recent days renewed the Government’s appeal to the Egyptian President to release this Irish citizen and return him to Ireland without delay. This is the Government’s objective, and we are working day-in and day-out to seek to secure that outcome.

The court case in which this person is accused is now moving forward at a much more accelerated pace. At the most recent hearing in the case, on 5 April, 11 more witnesses were called and cross-examined. Also at that hearing, lawyers representing our Irish citizen made a request for his release on health grounds and the presiding Judge undertook to examine the matter. The same judge has previously ordered on a number of occasions, that there should be medical evaluations of this man’s health. The next hearing in the case is scheduled to take place on 26 April. Officials from the Irish Embassy will again be in court to observe proceedings, as they have been at every hearing in the case to date.

Our Ambassador and his team in Cairo have done exceptional work on this case with an unprecedented number of consular visits being undertaken to ensure that this citizen’s health and welfare is monitored and that any concerns are immediately followed up with the responsible authorities.

European Council Meetings

 410. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on his most recent meeting at the European Foreign Affairs Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17631/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I attended the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 3 April where Syria, Yemen and Libya were on the agenda. My EU counterparts and I also met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Abou El Gheit. The conflict in Syria is causing untold suffering and displacement of civilians on the ground. At the Council meeting, I and my EU counterparts condemned once again the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, especially the Syrian regime. We made clear that the Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population, and call upon the regime and its allies, notably Russia, to undertake all efforts to ensure a full cessation of hostilities; the lifting of sieges; and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access.

Ireland's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Syria crisis reached €76 million as of March 2017, and we pledged a further €25 million at the recent conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” which was held in Brussels on Wednesday 5 April. This is Irish Aid's largest response to a single crisis in recent years, which is indicative of the level of priority we attach to the issue.

EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is also of grave concern. I have previously discussed Yemen with my counterparts in the Gulf region, and raised concerns about the humanitarian situation and attacks which have directly impacted on civilians. I and my EU colleagues reiterated our strong support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to achieve a resumption of negotiations and called on all parties to urgently agree on a cessation of hostilities to be monitored by the UN as a first step towards the resumption of peace talks under UN leadership. Ireland has provided almost €6 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen since the conflict began and will maintain our support in 2017.

The Council also discussed the political situation in Libya, and the urgent need for a political solution that would unite the country under the Libyan Peace Agreement.

This was the first meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council since the UK formally triggered Article 50 on 29 March and the circulation of the draft negotiation guidelines on 31 March. I continued my extensive engagement with EU counterparts by having bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Austria respectively to discuss ongoing preparations for the upcoming Brexit negotiations and Ireland’s priority issues, namely the economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area and our vision for the future of the EU.

Syrian Conflict

 411. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will provide an update on the situation in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17632/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The situation in Syria continues to be a matter of grave concern. 13.5 million Syrians are now in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria including 6.3 million internally displaced people, 1.5 million are living under siege conditions which gives rise to serious protection concerns, and a further 5 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and the wider region. I was horrified to learn of the apparent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week which killed scores of civilians and seriously injured many more. The attack was simply barbaric, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I condemn unreservedly the attack and those responsible.

I am also aware of course of the US missile strikes on Shayrat Airfield in Syria. I understand that the US intention was to prevent further chemical attacks. The High Representative, Federica Mogherini, issued a statement on behalf of EU Member States in response to those missile strikes.

The attack in Khan Sheikhoun further underlines the need for accountability and a genuine political transition in Syria. The search for a sustainable peaceful resolution to the conflict, and, as part of that, ensuring full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, is a top foreign policy priority for Ireland.

I had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Syria with EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council last week. My EU colleagues joined me in condemning the continued widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, especially the Syrian regime. We also agreed the new EU Strategy for Syria, and reiterated our position that there can be no EU support for reconstruction until a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, owned by the Syrian people, is firmly under way.

Minister of State McHugh attended the Conference on supporting the future of Syria and the Region in Brussels last Wednesday at which Ireland pledged an additional €25million in humanitarian assistance for Syria and the neighbouring refugee hosting countries in 2017. Ireland has already contributed €76.5 million to the humanitarian effort in Syria. This is Irish Aid’s largest response to a single crisis in recent years, which is indicative of the level of priority we attach to this issue.

Ireland fully supports the UN-led Geneva peace process and the work of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and remains committed to supporting efforts towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It remains to be seen how the events of the past week will impact on these efforts.

Northern Ireland

 412. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will provide an update on the current political situation in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17633/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Following the Assembly election, I spoke on 5 March with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the Taoiseach spoke with Prime Minister May. Both Governments agreed on the need for intensive engagement to address outstanding issues and commitments to ensure the early establishment of an Executive. As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, both Governments have a role to play in supporting the effective operation of the devolved institutions, and in upholding both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement as a whole, in the interests of all in Northern Ireland. In this context I am representing the Government in the ongoing intensive talks in Belfast. The talks have two objectives. Firstly, to allow the political parties to reach an agreement on the formation of a new Executive. Secondly, to address the implementation of outstanding issues from previous Agreements. These current discussions structured around a shared approach put forward by both Governments follow on from talks last month where it did not prove possible for the political parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on the establishment of a power-sharing Executive before the statutory deadline of 27 March.

Overall there is encouraging progress being made in this renewed phase but I am under no illusions about the challenge of resolving the core issues that remain outstanding. Serious issues remain to be resolved - including those which were to the fore before the collapse of the last Executive and during the election campaign. However with resolve and determination from all the parties, and support and encouragement from the two Governments, I believe a successful outcome is possible.

As part of my engagement with the Secretary of State and with each of the parties in the discussions in recent days, I have strongly emphasised the critical importance of forming a new Executive so that Northern Ireland’s interests can be effectively represented, as part of the process of the EU-UK negotiations which are about to commence. I very much hope that the new Executive will be in place as soon as possible so that it can directly represent the interests of the people of Northern Ireland in these negotiations which are of major significance.

I will continue to participate in the discussions in Belfast this week as required, working with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the political parties to see the power-sharing Assembly and Executive restored to effective and harmonious operation. As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement the Government is determined to uphold the principles of the Agreement and protect its institutions.

While time is extremely tight, I remain hopeful of a positive outcome to the discussions, and strongly urge all parties to work intensively and cooperatively, to secure the power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, and ensure effective devolved government, as was so evidently voted for by the people in Northern Ireland in the recent election.

Passport Services

 413. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will address concerns with regard to the passport express service (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17734/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Passport Service aims to process passport renewal applications submitted through Passport Express within 15 working days of receipt, assuming that all documentation is in order. Applicants are advised that this is a target rather than a guarantee of service and that turnaround times will vary depending on factors such as seasonal demand.

  As the Deputy will be aware, there has been a surge in passport applications in recent months. Between 1 January and 31 March over 250,000 applications were received, representing an increase of 26% over the same period last year. The average processing time for renewal applications submitted through the An Post Passport Express service is 16 working days, one day over the target 15 working day turnaround and this has been notified to An Post.

  First-time applications and those for renewal of lost or stolen passports are subject to longer turnaround times due to the extra verification steps involved (current turnaround time is 24 working days). My Department keeps An Post apprised of changes to the advised turnaround times for each category of applicant and these are updated weekly on the Passport Service website. In all cases, applicants are strongly encouraged to allow at least six weeks for the processing of a passport and to submit their application through Passport Express only if they have no immediate travel plans i.e. if they are travelling in three weeks or more.

  The new online passport application service for adult renewals will result in considerable efficiencies and will alleviate pressure on passport processing. This service offers a target turnaround of ten working days (two weeks), plus postage. It is convenient and secure and I would urge the Deputy to encourage eligible applicants to use this channel via the Department’s website at www.dfa.ie.

  I would also ask the Deputy to promote the Passport Service’s free email reminder facility, which alerts a passport holder when his or her passport is coming due for renewal. The service can be accessed at: www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/top-passport-questions/when-should-i-apply-for-a-new-passport/.

Departmental Properties

 414. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of vacant buildings in his Department’s ownership or control; the locations of same; and the time they have been unoccupied in each case. [17926/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan My Department does not own or control any vacant building. Any properties occupied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the State are rented and discharged by the Office of Public Works.

Northern Ireland

 415. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he has raised with the US Administration the appointment of a special envoy to Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18009/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Successive US Administrations have provided immensely valuable support to the peace process over the last three decades and the Government hopes that the new US Administration will also remain actively engaged with Northern Ireland. The work of successive US Envoys – from Senator George Mitchell to, most recently, Senator Gary Hart – has been very helpful in sustaining momentum and overcoming obstacles in the peace process.

During my visit to Washington DC in February of this year, I conveyed the Government’s appreciation for US engagement with the peace process to senior political figures, as did the Taoiseach during his recent visit for the events around St. Patrick’s Day. While the appointment of a new US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland is a matter for consideration by the US Administration, the Government would of course strongly welcome such an appointment.

In the immediate period ahead, the Government would particularly welcome the continued support of the US Administration and Congress in encouraging the parties in Northern Ireland to take the necessary steps to ensure that the devolved power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are re-established without delay, which is in the interests of all in Northern Ireland.

Acht na Gaeilge

 416. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan an n-aontaíonn sé go gcaithfidh stadás oifigiúil don Ghaeilge a bheith mar chuid d’aon Acht Gaeilge ó thuaidh; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh.  [18026/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Tá roinnt eilimintí de Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus Chomhaontú Chill Rímhinn nach bhfuil curtha i bhfeidhm go hiomlán go fóill, iad siúd a bhaineann le hAcht Teanga ina measc. Is é seasamh daingean an Rialtais ná go gcaithfidh Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus na Comhaontuithe comharba a bheith curtha i bhfeidhm ina hiomlán, agus feictear é seo sa Chlár do Rialtas Comhpháirtíochta. Rinneadh foráil i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn in 2006 d’Acht Teanga i dTuaisceart Éireann a bheith achtaithe ag Rialtas na Breataine. Rinne Rialtais na hÉireann i ndiaidh a chéile tacú le hAcht Teanga agus leanann muid ar aghaidh ag obair ar a son. Faraor, go dtí seo ní raibh aontas laistigh den Fheidhmeannas ar ábhar atá anois déabhlóidithe chun é a thabhairt chun cinn.

In idirbheartaíocht Comhaontú Teach Stormont go déanach in 2014, agus mé féin is ionadaithe eile ó Rialtas na hÉireann ag moladh go mbeadh onóir tugtha don choimitmint seo agus é curtha i bhfeidhm, faraor níorbh fhéidir aontas a shroicheadh do ghealltanas chomh follasach. É sin ráite, sa téacs den leagan deiridh de Chomhaontú Teach Stormont (Nollag 2014), rinne an Rialtas agus Rialtas na Breataine, ag cuimhniú ar na gealltanais ó na Comhaontuithe a tháinig roimhe, eadóirseacht don gá le meas agus aitheantas don Ghaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann.

Is nithe tábhachta de Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta iad éagsúlacht teangeolaíoch agus an Ghaeilge.

Sna plé leanúnach i Stormont ar na gealltanais ó na Comhaontuithe a tháinig roimhe nach bhfuil curtha i bhfeidhm, tá sé ráite agam go soiléir do Rialtas na Breataine agus na páirtithe polaitiúla, go tacaíonn an Rialtas go soiléir agus go leanúnach le bunús reachtúil don Ghaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann, mar a bhí i gceist i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn. I mo phlé le Rúnaí Stáit Tuaisceart Éireann sna seachtainí seo caite, leag mé béim freisin ar an ról ceannaireachta gur gá leis an dá Rialtas a imirt le chinntiú go dtugtar an meas cuí do gach foráil ó na Comhaontuithe a tháinig roimhe agus go bhfanann an fócas ar cur i bhfeidhm iomlán a bhaint amach.

Tá an cheist den méid sonrach lena mbeidh i reachtaíocht ar an nGaeilge i mbun plé gníomhach idir na páirtithe polaitiúla mar chuid de na plé leanúnacha i Stormont agus tá súil agam gur féidir le comhaontú a shroicheadh ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo.

Registration of Births

 417. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of foreign birth registrations from 2012 to date in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18136/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Foreign Birth registration is a process detailed in Irish legislation whereby a person born outside the island of Ireland, who has a parent who is an Irish citizen but who was also born outside the island, can be registered on the Foreign Births Register in order for him/her to obtain Irish citizenship. Once a person is entered onto the Foreign Births Register by my Department they are an Irish citizen and therefore entitled to apply for an Irish passport.

  The table details the number of Foreign Births Registration Certificates issued by my Department since 8 October, 2012 when the Náisiún processing system was introduced. There are difficulties in providing comprehensive and accurate statistics prior to that date.

  At the beginning of this year, my Department allocated extra temporary resources to deal with the significant increase in the volume of applications that have been received since the middle of 2016. This deployment resulted in a significant increase in Foreign Births Registration Certificates issued in the first quarter of 2017. We continue to process a large volume of applications, with a particularly high continuing volume of applications being received by our Embassy in London.

Foreign Births Registration Certificates issued
2012 (from 8 October 2012)754
20135056
20146127
20155826
20168519
2017 (to 31 March 2017)5901

Middle East Issues

 418. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on the circumstances surrounding the resignation of a person (details supplied) as Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia of the UN arising from criticism they received for taking a stand on the treatment of the Palestinian people. [18197/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am aware of the resignation of the former UN Under-Secretary General and Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Executive Secretary, Rima Khalaf, and also of the report commissioned and published by the ESCWA member states on 15 March. I understand also that another ESCWA report was withdrawn last month on the instruction of the UN Secretary General.

I cannot comment on the content of the report, which has been withdrawn on the order of Secretary General Guterres, who said that proper procedures had not been followed in issuing the report. Similarly, I do not wish to comment on Ms Khalaf’s resignation without being fully sighted on the circumstances surrounding her decision.

It is relevant also to note that the majority of the eighteen ESCWA member states do not recognise the State of Israel.

Nonetheless, there are issues of enormous concern in the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, and a clear need for these to be discussed in an open and impartial manner.

I have argued consistently and repeatedly at EU and UN level that there needs to be a greater focus on the actions and developments in the occupied Palestinian territory which are unjust and which undermine the possibility of reaching a peace agreement. Ireland has focused in particular on settlement expansion, and on related issues demolitions, evictions and expropriations, but also on a broader range of concerns such as the treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli security forces, restrictions on the provision of humanitarian assistance to populations in need, and restriction of access to water supplies. We have also made known our concerns regarding unequal treatment of Palestinians under the law.

Foreign Naval Vessels

 419. Deputy Mick Barry Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his Department has received reports of US Navy personnel berthed in Cobh, County Cork, bearing arms onshore in March 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18203/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan In response to a request from the US Embassy, my Department granted permission for the visit of US naval vessel, USS Donald Cook, to the port of Cobh from 21-25 March 2017. The purpose of the visit to Ireland was crew rest and relaxation.

  Security arrangements for visits by ships paying routine calls to Irish ports, such as this visit, are a matter for An Garda Síochána with whom my Department consults before granting permission for a ship to visit.

  My Department has received no reports about any US personnel carrying weapons while onshore.


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