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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 46-58
 Header Item State Bodies Data
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item State Bodies Data
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Passport Services
 Header Item Passport Applications
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Irish Aid
 Header Item Brexit Preparations
 Header Item Passport Applications
 Header Item Mortgage Debt
 Header Item State Bodies Data

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 66 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 46-58

State Bodies Data

 46. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number and percentage of women on each State board under the remit of his Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15705/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The only State board currently under the aegis of the Department of Defence is the Army Pensions Board. The Army Pensions Board is an independent statutory body established under the Army Pensions Act 1927. The Act specifies that the Board shall consist of a chairman and two ordinary members. The two ordinary members must be qualified medical practitioners of whom one must be an officer of the Army Medical Corps. The chairman and the non military ordinary member are appointed by the Minister for the Defence with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Army Medical Corps ordinary member is appointed by the Minister for Defence on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

On both 8th March 2016 and 8th March 2019 one of the three members of the Board, or 33% of its membership, was a woman.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 47. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if the Defence Forces study group convened to review the standards of height for entry have presented their report to him; if so, if he will publish the report; if not, when the report will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15780/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The age limits, minimum height and physical standards for general service recruitment are set out in Defence Force Regulation (DFR) A10. This prescribes a minimum height requirement for enlistment for general service in the Permanent Defence Force of 157.48cm. This requirement was made following recommendations by a Defence Forces Working Group, which reported in January 2006 and reduced the previous height requirements for both males and females.

The determination of a minimum height requirement for enlistment in the Defence Forces (DF) is based on the ergonomic requirements for all members of the DF to train and carry out operations at home and overseas with service Personal Load Carrying Equipment.

The height requirements currently in place were introduced following a detailed consideration and were intended to ensure that personnel can conduct safely the various military tasks assigned to them, and they are of general application to all recruits.

A study group was convened by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) in September 2018 to review the standards of height for entry into the Defence Forces. The terms of reference for the group provided for the group to assess and recommend changes to the current height standards.

The group contains representatives from all three services of the Defence Forces and includes medical personnel, personnel from training establishments and military HR.

I am advised that the report is not yet finalised but I expect to receive it in the coming weeks.

State Bodies Data

 48. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number and percentage of women on each State board under the remit of his Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15709/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There are no State Boards under the remit of my Department.

Brexit Issues

 49. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the existing freedom of movement and residence rights for EU citizen spouses of Irish citizens moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland will be assured following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15728/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is important to note in the first instance that both the Irish and British Governments have confirmed that neither Irish citizens in the UK nor British citizens in Ireland are required to take any action to protect their status and rights associated with the Common Travel Area.

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the UK which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens, and vice versa. After the UK leaves the EU, both Irish citizens in the UK and British citizens in Ireland will continue to enjoy these rights.

For the specific case of an EU citizen moving, as the spouse of Irish citizen, after the UK exits the European Union, from Ireland to Northern Ireland, or to anywhere else in the UK, the draft Withdrawal Agreement safeguards the rights of all EU citizens who were residing under EU law in the UK and all UK nationals who were residing under EU law in one of the EU27 Member States by the end of the transition period 31 December 2020. In the event of a no-deal scenario emerging, the UK will not have ratified the draft Withdrawal Agreement and will not be bound by its terms and in that scenario, non-Irish EU citizens moving to the UK would need to comply with UK immigration rules as they apply at that stage. Further clarity would be required from the UK Government on its approach in this scenario.

The Political Declaration setting out the framework for the Future EU-UK Relationship, which has been endorsed by the European Council, sets out the ambition of the EU and UK to have a deep and comprehensive partnership, including across a range of areas of importance to Ireland.

Ireland wants the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, including on trade, in order to minimise the impact on our trade and economy and our people.

The Withdrawal Agreement represents the best way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal which protects the Good Friday Agreement, and will enable both sides to move on to negotiating a deep and comprehensive future partnership. The Government continues to work to this end.

Passport Services

 50. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his office and the Passport Office will no longer deal with inquiries about passports from Deputies. [15732/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to ensure resources are used effectively many of my Department's functions, including communication channels, are centralised. Accordingly, my office is the dedicated point of contact for public representatives. This ensures consistency, efficiency and fairness in response to the queries of all public representatives. Any passport related queries raised through this channel are dealt with without delay.

Passport Applications

 51. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason it takes applicants more than ten working days to receive their passports through the passport express service in view of the fact that the Passport Office has taken on more staff to deal with the backlog. [15733/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As the Deputy will be aware, the Passport Express Service provides an option for citizens to submit their passport application through the network of more than one thousand post offices across the State. The advertised turnaround time on our website and in all communications with the public for renewal applications made through the Passport Express channel is 15 working days and 20 working days for first time applicants. The Passport Service is currently meeting and in many cases exceeding this target. There is no backlog in the Passport Express system.

A range of measures have been undertaken to ensure that we are in this position despite the unprecedented volume of passport applications received so far this year. These include the recruitment of temporary and permanent staff as well as a number of technological and customer service initiatives. The management of the overall demand for passports is continuously under review to ensure that adequate resources are in place to meet the demand. The Online Passport Renewal service, which was introduced in March 2017 for adults and November 2018 for children, means this cohort of Irish citizens can now renew their passports anywhere in the world, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. The service brings significant benefits with faster turnaround times of 10 working days (excluding postage), with over 50% of applications processed in less than 10 working days. In addition, the cost of renewing a passport online is significantly cheaper than alternative methods, with fees for all online applications reduced by €5 across all applications types.

Brexit Issues

 52. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the Alberto Costa amendment in the UK (details supplied). [15737/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The proposal by Alberto Costa MP was that the UK Government should seek a joint UK-EU commitment to adopt the section of the Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens’ Rights even if the British Parliament fails to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.

While I very much understand and indeed sympathise with Mr Costa's motivation and objectives, I do not believe this particular proposal would be workable.

It is the EU's view, shared by the Government, that it would not be possible to treat certain aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, in isolation. This would amount to a reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement, and, as the European Council made clear on 21 March, the Withdrawal Agreement is not for renegotiation.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a carefully balanced and inter-connected legal text. The citizens’ rights provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement rely on the general rules providing for the governance of the Agreement and the structures underpinning its applicability and enforceability.

Equally, the Agreement contains other provisions, outside of ‘Part 2,’ that are relevant to the protection of other rights of citizens – for example, on personal data protection, the orderly completion of judicial cooperation procedures in criminal/civil matters, and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. Carving out certain provisions, as part of the ring-fencing exercise proposed by Mr Costa, would, therefore, risk the unequal treatment of certain categories of EU and UK citizens.

However, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, remain a priority for the EU, as they have throughout the negotiations. In the event of a no deal scenario, the rights of British nationals residing in the Union will be addressed by each Member State, depending on its national law. In this context, like Ireland, EU Member States have taken the necessary measures to regularise the position of UK nationals resident in their countries, and to provide them with legal certainty for the longer term. The Commission has also proposed a number of unilateral contingency measures specifically to address citizens' rights, for example, by agreeing, on a reciprocal basis, that UK citizens will be exempt from the need to have a short-term visa to visit EU countries.

With regard to Ireland, the rights of UK nationals in Ireland, and Irish nationals in the UK, are dealt with under the Common Travel Area. The Common Travel Area is a long-standing arrangement between the UK and Ireland which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens and vice versa. Both the Irish and UK Governments have committed to the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, and the associated rights and entitlements of Irish and British citizens under this longstanding reciprocal arrangement, in any circumstance. To that end, both Governments have committed to undertaking all the work necessary, including through legislative provision to ensure that the Common Travel Area rights and privileges are protected. Ireland has completed its internal procedures, including with the enactment of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019, and I understand that the UK has done likewise.

Foreign Conflicts

 53. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has made representations to his Nigerian counterparts concerning the killing of approximately 120 Christians in the Middle Belt region of the country in March 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15774/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon I am deeply concerned by the tragic events that took place recently in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. The violent clashes between nomadic herders and sedentary agrarian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region have escalated in recent years and pose a serious challenge to stability and security.

While the vast majority of herders are Muslim and many of the farmers are Christian, the roots of this violence lie in access to land, in a context of scarce natural resources due to rapid climate change in the Sahel.

Ireland works bilaterally, within the European Union, and with UN partners to promote peace and security in areas affected by armed groups and insecurity. Ireland’s Embassy in Abuja actively monitors developments in the country, advises on the humanitarian response, and supports Ireland’s engagement in EU and UN forums.

The humanitarian situation in Nigeria arising from the Islamist insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria affects millions of people. In 2018, Ireland provided €4.8 million in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. The EU provided €90 million to the region. Ireland is one of the top ten donors to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which last year allocated €43 million to the Lake Chad region. With humanitarian need likely to remain acute in 2019, Irish funding will continue to target those most in need.

This violence is a reminder of the potential of climate change to fuel instability and humanitarian need. In our new international development policy, A Better World, the Government has committed to action to prevent dangerous climate change and to address the needs of those most vulnerable to its effects.

Irish Aid

 54. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if funding will be provided through Irish Aid or other organisations under the aegis of his Department to facilitate or support access to the termination of pregnancy overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15775/19]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon No such funding is envisaged.

Brexit Preparations

 55. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of times in the past two months his officials have participated in discussions with the European Commission on no-deal scenarios for trade within the island of Ireland; the personnel involved; if the personnel were provided with instructions regarding their participation in these discussions; if papers were exchanged; if he has been informed of the content and outcome of the discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15861/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There is ongoing and regular contact between the Government and the European Commission, at all levels, in relation to our preparedness and contingency measures for Brexit, including a no deal scenario. This has included, for example, the visit to Ireland on 4-5 February of the Commission's Brexit Preparedness Group to review our comprehensive, cross-Governmental preparations.

We are working closely with the Commission on how to mitigate against the negative impact on our trade and economy, and to ensure connectivity with the rest of the EU's Single Market, including via the landbridge.

More recently, discussions have had an additional focus on how to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border in the case of no deal, while also protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Customs Union and Ireland’s place in them. Ireland and the EU are at one in our determination to do all we can, deal or no deal, to avoid a hard border and to protect the peace process.

The latest meeting with the Commission at official level took place in Brussels on Friday, 29 March, and was attended by officials from the Departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the Revenue Commissioners. Discussions will continue this week.

If the UK decides to leave without the Withdrawal Agreement, initial, temporary arrangements will be required. Such arrangements will be suboptimal compared to the backstop, and, while we are absolutely determined to avoid physical infrastructure at the border, it would be difficult to avoid serious disruption to the functioning of the all-island economy. There are no easy answers. The seamless trade we enjoy today would not be possible, and the benefits of the backstop for businesses in Northern Ireland will be lost, at least in the short term.

For any sustainable long term solution, discussions between the EU, Ireland and the UK will be required, not least given the UK's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement as a co-guarantor of that agreement. For such a solution, it would be impossible to escape the need for close alignment with the Single Market and Customs Union, and the backstop would be the starting point for these discussions.

This is also why the Withdrawal Agreement is of such importance. It represents the only way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal, and we continue to work as a priority to support its ratification.

Passport Applications

 56. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a holder of a British passport (details supplied) will qualify for an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15908/19]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008. The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. In order to meet this, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship by providing acceptable documentary evidence of this entitlement.

  Entitlement to Irish citizenship is determined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, under which Irish citizenship may be obtained by birth, by descent, or by naturalisation.

  An individual born on the island of Ireland before 2005 is automatically an Irish citizen. For individuals born outside of Ireland, they may claim citizenship if they had at least one parent who was born in the island of Ireland before 2005.

  Individuals born outside of Ireland can also claim citizenship through a parent who was not born in Ireland but was an Irish citizen at the time of the individual's birth, or through a grandparent born in Ireland. Individuals who wish to claim citizenship through these means must have his/her birth entered on the Foreign Births Register (FBR). Citizenship commences after inclusion on the FBR. Further details regarding the process can be consulted at the Passport Service's website: www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/

  In cases where no Irish lineage exists, an individual may apply for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. Minimum residency terms must be satisfied before an individual is eligible for citizenship through naturalisation. The Department of Justice and Equality is responsible for citizenship matters, including applications for naturalisation.

Mortgage Debt

 57. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if his attention has been drawn to reports that a company (details supplied) is writing to all borrowers in arrears demanding all arrears be cleared within 30 days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15692/19]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I am advised by the Central Bank of Ireland that it is aware that a regulated entity has written to a number of buy-to-let (BTL) borrowers in arrears and that it is engaged with that particular entity but cannot comment on the specifics of any individual firm.

  Any borrower who is concerned or who has received letters should contact their regulated entity directly. If they are not satisfied with how they are treated, they are entitled to make a complaint to the regulated entity. If they are not satisfied with the response they receive, they can make a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.

  Where a mortgage loan is not secured by a borrower’s primary residence[1], the arrears handling provisions in Chapter 8 of the Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) apply to personal consumers in arrears. This includes a requirement that “where an account is in arrears a regulated entity must seek to agree an approach (whether with a personal consumer or through a third party nominated by the personal consumer) that will assist the personal consumer in resolving the arrears.” A regulated entity must ensure that the level of contact and communications from the regulated entity, or any third party acting on its behalf, with a personal consumer in arrears, is proportionate and not excessive.

  Where an account remains in arrears ten business days after the arrears first arose, a regulated entity must immediately communicate clearly with the personal consumer to establish in the first instance why the arrears have arisen.

  Where an account remains in arrears 31 calendar days after the arrears first arose, a regulated entity must within three business days inform the personal consumer and any guarantor of the loan, on paper or on another durable medium, of the status of the account. This information must include the following:

  a) the date the account fell into arrears;

  b) the number and total amount of repayments (including partial repayments) missed (this information is not required for credit card accounts);

  c) the amount of the arrears to date;

  d) the interest rate applicable to the arrears;

  e) details of any charges in relation to the arrears that may be applied;

  f) the importance of the personal consumer engaging with the regulated entity in order to address the arrears;

  g) relevant contact points;

  h) the consequences of continued non-payment, including where relevant, sharing of data relating to the consumer’s arrears with the Irish Credit Bureau or any other credit reference agency;

  i) if relevant, any impact of the non-payment on other accounts held by the personal consumer with that regulated entity including the potential for off-setting of accounts, where there is a possibility that this may occur under existing terms and conditions; and

  j) a statement that the personal consumer may wish to seek assistance from MABS and contact details for the MABS National Helpline and the link to the MABS website.

  Where the arrears persist, an updated version of the above information must be provided to the personal consumer, on paper or on another durable medium, every three months.

  Under General Principle 2.2 of the Code, regulated entities “must ensure that in all its dealings with customers and within the context of its authorisation it acts with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers.’’  

  Primary Residence: means a property which is:

1. the residential property which the borrower occupies as his/her primary residence in this State, or

2. a residential property which is the only residential property in this State owned by the borrower.

State Bodies Data

 58. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the number and percentage of women on each State board under the remit of his Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15708/19]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Details of the number and percentage of women on each State Board under the aegis of my Department on 8 March 2016 and 8 March 2019 are in the table:

State Board

8th March 2016 8th March 2019
Central Bank Commission 3 – 30% 3 – 30%
Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo) 2 – 16.66% 2 – 66.66%

(Caretaker Board while awaiting dissolution)
Financial Services Ombudsman Council 4 – 40% N/A - Merged with Pensions Ombudsman in January 2018 to create the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman
Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Council N/A – Established in January 2018 following the merger of the Financial Services Ombudsman Council and the Pensions Ombudsman 4 – 57%
Home Building Finance Ireland N/A – Established December 2018 0 – 0%

There are currently 3 male board members, all serving in an ex officio capacity.

An appointment process to fill the 4 remaining board vacancies (including a new Chairperson) is currently underway.

This appointment process is being undertaken in full compliance with the 2014 Guidelines on the Appointments to State Boards published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Irish Fiscal Advisory Council 1 – 20% 2 – 40%
National Asset Management Agency 1 – 14% 2 – 29%
National Treasury Management Agency 3 – 33.33% 4 – 50%

(An appointment process is underway to fill an existing board vacancy)
Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland 4 – 44.4% 3 – 33.3%


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