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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 128-146
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item UN Security Council
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item Dublin-Monaghan Bombings
 Header Item Brexit Negotiations
 Header Item Programme for Government
 Header Item Visa Agreements
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Brexit Preparations

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 128-146

Foreign Policy

 128. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his response to the barring of the Catalan President from public office; if the issue will be raised with his EU counterparts. [28452/20]

 131. Deputy Martin Browne Information on Martin Browne Zoom on Martin Browne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the removal from office of the Catalan President for the crime of disobedience to the Spanish state; his views on the fact that he is the third successive Catalan president to be removed from office by the Spanish authorities; and the steps the Government has taken and will take to support democratic politics in Catalonia. [28467/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 131 together.

I am aware of the recent verdict of the Spanish Supreme Court against the former President of the Catalan region in connection with disobeying an instruction from the Electoral Commission to remove political symbols from public buildings during an election campaign.

As in Ireland, we respect the separation of powers in Spain and it would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment beyond noting that in this case, as in the cases relating to the two previous regional leaders, the Court addressed issues relating to Spanish law.

The freedom to express contesting views is essential in any democracy, including our own. However, at the same time it is important that differences of opinion are contested with full respect for the law, and the rights of all citizens.

With regard to the broader situation in Catalonia, I know that the Spanish Government maintains dialogue with different strands of political opinion there. This Government’s position remains that the constitutional and political arrangements in Spain are matters to be determined by their own citizens, through their own institutions, and in keeping with the rule of law. As I have stated before, Ireland respects the constitutional and territorial unity of Spain.

  Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 122.

UN Security Council

 130. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of preparations and changes made by his Department to ensure full participation by Ireland as a member of the UN Security Council. [28226/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland will take up its seat as an elected member of the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term on 1 January. We intend to make a constructive contribution across the agenda of the Council, which has nearly tripled since Ireland last held a seat 20 years ago.

Three principles will underpin our approach: Building Peace, Strengthening Prevention, and Ensuring Accountability. The Taoiseach elaborated on these principles in his address to the UN General Assembly on 26 September. Work is now ongoing to identify specific priorities and areas of focus, taking into consideration where we can have most impact.

In the period ahead, I will undertake a series of consultations with permanent and elected members of the Council, and other key partners. I have discussed UN Security Council issues with a number of counterparts in recent weeks, including during my visit to Washington last week.

I also intend to consult with a range of other UN Member States, including those of States that host UN Missions, and countries that contribute troops to Peacekeeping Operations, as well as with civil society.

We are keen to ensure an open dialogue with domestic partners, and make use of the extensive expertise available within Irish civil society organisations and academia and a stakeholder forum has been established in partnership with the IIEA.

A UN Security Council Task Team has been established in DFA Headquarters to coordinate our work on the Council. The Permanent Mission in New York will play a key role, and its staffing has been expanded to meet the increased workload.

Our term of the Council is a Government-wide effort, and we will work closely with other Departments. This includes the Department of Defence and Defence Forces, given our longstanding engagement in UN Peacekeeping. The Secretaries General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence met recently to discuss a joint programme of work to prepare for Council membership.

I look forward to keeping the Oireachtas informed of our work on the Council.

  Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 128.

Foreign Policy

 132. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the actions taken to support the people of Yemen. [28336/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy The people of Yemen continue to be confronted with multiple threats to their lives and livelihoods. In addition to the prolonged conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis, they are now facing a health emergency caused by Covid-19.

The underlying cause of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is armed conflict. Along with the UN and the EU, Ireland believes that the only way to bring about a long-term sustainable improvement in the situation is through a negotiated end to the conflict. Ireland fully supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. We urge all parties to the conflict to engage with the Special Envoy without pre-conditions, to enact confidence-building measures to secure a sustainable peace and to allow the people of Yemen to begin to rebuild their lives.

Ireland reiterates that all parties to conflict have a duty to uphold International Humanitarian Law, and we remind all parties to the conflict in Yemen of their legal and moral obligations to take all necessary steps to prevent attacks on civilians and civilian buildings.

Humanitarian assistance will not resolve the crisis in Yemen but it is vital for the immediate welfare of its people. Since 2015, Ireland has contributed €27 million to address the situation in Yemen, with over 90 per cent of that total, including €5 million in 2020, going to the Yemen Humanitarian Fund. This Fund mobilises and channels funding to NGOs and UN agencies which have the capacity and are best placed to deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable. Ireland will continue to provide support through the agencies and mechanisms at the heart of the humanitarian response.

In Yemen, every day is a struggle for humanitarian and health workers to provide basic care. We call on all parties to the conflict to ensure those workers have safe, secure, unfettered access to all people in need within Yemen.

  Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 109.

  Question No. 134 answered with Question No. 120.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

 135. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the outcome of recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the UK Foreign Secretary on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the need for a full investigation with access to UK files and papers pertaining to the atrocities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28449/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This year marked the 46th anniversary of the appalling attacks of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 33 people were murdered. The Government stands in solidarity with all those who lost loved ones or were injured on that day.

The implementation of the All-Party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is a priority for the Government, as highlighted in the Programme for Government. The All-Party motion on the 1974 Dublin Monaghan bombings adopted by the Dáil on 25 May 2016 has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government. These motions call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin Monaghan bombings.

The Government will continue to seek the full truth of these appalling attacks, and some measure of closure for those affected. We have consistently raised the issue with the British Government on a bilateral basis, including at the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference.

I have made clear to my counterparts that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government, and that there remains a pressing need for a response.

The Government welcomed the announcement by the PSNI on 30 November 2019 that former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher will head an Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on the Glenanne Gang series of cases. We will be supportive of facilitating this investigation, subject to the requirements of the law, as we have other investigative processes in Northern Ireland, in relation to the attacks that were, or may have been, linked to the Glenanne Gang and other cases from the Troubles.

The Government will continue to engage with the British Government on this request, at senior political level and in official level engagement by my Department, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House and until a satisfactory resolution is found.

Brexit Negotiations

 136. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan Information on Christopher O'Sullivan Zoom on Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the main obstacles to a deal between the European Union and the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28486/20]

 139. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the ninth round of Brexit negotiations with the EU and the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28492/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 139 together.

The ninth round of negotiations in the EU-UK Future Relationship took place from 28 September to 3 October. While a degree of progress was made, there remains some distance to go on the key issues of fisheries, the level playing field and governance. Unlocking these issues is key to moving towards a more intensified phase of the talks. The EU has been clear that an overall agreement on the Future Relationship cannot be secured without progress on these fundamental issues. Commission President von der Leyen spoke to PM Johnson on 3 October to take stock of the negotiations. Contacts between the EU and UK will continue in the period ahead with a view to making further progress.

On the level playing field in particular, both the EU and UK agreed in the Joint Political Declaration in October 2019 that, because of our proximity and economic interconnectedness, measures to ensure a level playing field would be an integral part of the Future Relationship. Those measures are designed to protect fair and open competition. The arrangements that the EU is proposing in this area reflect the level and intensity of our trade with the UK.

The UK will be the EU’s partner, but also our competitor, and it is important that we have clear rules in place to make sure that this competition operates fairly and in a way that protects our businesses and our consumers.

Fisheries remains a challenging area in the negotiations. A positive resolution of this issue is an important priority for Ireland. We are seeking to protect the interests of the Irish fleet in terms of both access and the quota share it currently enjoys in British waters. The Task Force is continuing to push for better UK engagement in this area. We, together with other affected Member States, remain in close contact with the Task Force on this issue.

We are all aware that time is growing short, and that a no deal outcome is in no one’s interests. Ireland is engaged in these negotiations as part of the EU27, and we have been working hard to ensure that the EU’s approach to these negotiations reflects Ireland’s values and interests.

Only a few weeks remain to secure a deal. Ireland, and the EU, will continue to engage positively and in good faith in the time remaining.

I must also be clear that together with our focus on the Future Relationship negotiations, the EU will also be working hard in the weeks ahead to find a resolution to the challenge created by the UK's Internal Market Bill. Certain provisions of this Bill amount to a unilateral reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement, which is unacceptable. We remain committed to building a future relationship with the UK, but it can only be on the basis of trust and confidence that the Withdrawal Agreement is being fully implemented.

On 1 October, the Commission issued a letter of formal notice to the UK for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the UK.

The EU27 remain firmly united in support for the Commission's approach to both the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Relationship negotiations. Michel Barnier and his team have Ireland's full confidence. We will stay in close contact with them in the coming days and weeks.

Programme for Government

 137. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the steps that will be taken in 2020 and the resources that will be made available to deliver on the commitment in the programme for Government to develop third-level opportunities at Ulster University's Magee campus, County Derry. [25615/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”, the Government affirms that it will work with the Northern Ireland Executive and the British Government to commit to investment and development opportunities in the North West and Border communities, including third-level opportunities for young people from across the region at the Ulster University Magee Campus in Derry.

  This confirms the commitments made by the Government on 9 January 2020, when the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I published the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement, which was the basis for the political parties in Northern Ireland to resume operating the power-sharing Executive and Assembly.

  The Irish and British Governments, at the same time, each announced their own separate sets of financial and other commitments in support of the resumption of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont and the work of the North South Ministerial Council. These commitments, which are annexed to the NDNA Agreement but do not form part of it, include a commitment in principle to contribute to capital investment to support expanded provision at the Ulster University Magee Campus in Derry, alongside the commitment made in the context of the agreement by the British Government.

  The Government welcomes the development of plans for ambitious new higher education provision at the Magee Campus, including in the context of the British Government’s City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund initiative which is being advanced by Derry City and Strabane District Council. This investment has the potential to increase access to third-level education for young people on a cross-border basis, enable further cooperation between third-level institutions in the North West and underpin broader economic development and opportunities in the region.

  We look forward to continued engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive including in taking the NDNA commitments forward through the regular pattern of Ministerial-level Sectoral meetings across the North South Ministerial Council’s twelve policy sectors over the coming months.

  The funding requirement in the years ahead to deliver these projects will depend on the timing and details for projects being agreed on a North/South basis, and will need to take account of necessary discussions with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council, the progress of implementation of each project, and, where relevant, our engagement with the British Government.

  Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 122.

  Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 136.

  Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 116.

Visa Agreements

 141. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if progress has been made on establishing an E3 visa agreement between Ireland and the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28423/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The House will be aware that the issue of Irish immigration into the United States has been a high priority for successive Governments and it continues to be prioritised by this Government.

I have continuously raised immigration issues, particularly the E3 visa, in my interactions with the US Administration and US political leaders, including most recently during my meeting with US Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney in Dublin on 28 September and during meetings at senior political level in Washington D.C. last week. The E3 Bill was also raised by the then Taoiseach when he spoke with Mr. Mulvaney in February, and with members of the US administration when he visited Washington D.C. for St Patrick's Day this year. Our Embassy in Washington D.C. also continues its extensive outreach in support of the E3 Bill, working with a range of Members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate, from both sides of the aisle.

The Bill is currently before the US Senate, having been passed in the House of Representatives. It was reintroduced by Congressmen Neal and Sensenbrenner in May 2019, having failed to gain Senate approval the previous year. If passed, this could allow access to thousands of US visas per year to Irish citizens, providing new opportunities for Irish citizens to live and work in the US. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted upon the congressional agenda; however, we hope that when the circumstances allow, the Bill will also be passed in the Senate, and we will continue to explore all available options for securing this.

While comprehensive immigration reform is a complex and sensitive political issue in the US at present, our Embassy, along with our Consulates General across the United States, will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to engage with any Federal and State initiatives on this issue. They are supported in this work by the US & Canada Unit of my Department.

Human Rights

 142. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will use the upcoming role of Ireland on the UN Security Council to highlight the ongoing human rights violations being perpetrated on ethnic Uighurs in China, in particular with his Chinese counterpart on the Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28459/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland has not been quiet on this matter, and I have spoken in this House about our concerns regarding the situation in Xinjiang on numerous occasions.

The promotion and protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law is central to Ireland’s foreign policy. The United Nations is the primary platform for multilateral cooperation among states, and Ireland engages in a principled way with the UN, across the three pillars of its work – development, human rights, and peace and security.

In our national statement at the UN Human Rights Council on 25 September, Ireland reiterated our deep concern regarding the treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, and urged China to allow unrestricted access to the region for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ireland was one of 27 states to issue a Joint Statement at the UN Human Rights Council on 30 June 2020, which called on the High Commissioner to provide regular information about the situation in the region. Ireland previously supported a Joint Statement at the UN Third Committee in October 2019, and a Joint Letter at the UN Human Rights Council in July 2019, which called for the Chinese Government to uphold its international obligations and respect human rights in Xinjiang.

This week, Ireland is supporting a Joint Statement at the UN Third Committee which reiterates our grave concern regarding the situation in Xinjiang, and recalls the exceptional letter of concern issued by 50 UN Special Procedures mandate holders which called on China to respect human rights and to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers.

At EU level, the deterioration of the human rights situation, including the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang, was raised by EU leaders with China on 14 September, and it was agreed to discuss these issues further at an EU-China Human Rights Dialogue later this year.

Ireland is now working on preparations for taking up our seat on the UN Security Council next January. We will engage openly with all members of the Council, including China, across the Council agenda. Our approach will be informed by our record as a country that has a consistent, principled and independent foreign policy.

  Questions Nos. 143 to 145, inclusive, answered with Question No. 112.

Brexit Preparations

 146. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent to which he continues to make alternative provisions in respect of the post-Brexit era in the event of no agreement and limited access to the UK landbridge for exporters and importers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28442/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the end of the transition will mean substantial and lasting change. The UK will be outside the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union from 1 January 2021. This means that any business that moves goods to, from or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not apply today.

Ensuring that the UK landbridge remains an efficient and effective route to market for Irish traders is a priority of the Government's Brexit planning. When the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, operators will still be able to move goods via the landbridge but the way they use the landbridge will change. Each movement will involve new procedures and require a financial guarantee to be in place.

While the UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) is welcome and we continue to work positively with our EU partners on addressing challenges in EU ports for transit landbridge traffic, delays and blockages at UK ports for Irish operators using the landbridge is a very real and substantial risk, and outside of our control. The Government has pointed out for some time now including in our readiness plans in 2019 and 2020 that there will likely be delays at ports immediately after the end of the transition period, with Dover-Calais identified as a particular likely bottleneck. This is also the view of the UK Government which has written to traders in the UK and published its ‘Reasonable Worst Case Scenario’ modelling which envisages queues of up to 7,000 HGVs in Kent, in the vicinity of Dover Port and of a possible 60%-80% reduction in trade flows using the crossing. It is vital that all operators understand the risk of delays and the changes that will arise for importers and exports on 1 January and take steps to address them. These are outlined in detail in the Government's Brexit Readiness Action Plan published on 9 September where there is a specific chapter on trade in goods and using the landbridge.

By contrast, goods moving directly between Ireland and elsewhere in the EU will not be subject to any new procedures. The Government has been engaging extensively with the shipping sector to assess the capacity available on direct routes to continental ports and I am working closely with my colleague Eamonn Ryan, the Minister for Transport. The sector has indicated that sufficient capacity is available on direct routes and that the sector is capable of responding to any further increase in demand. I encourage engagement between traders, hauliers and ferry companies to align capacity with needs.

A number of new direct services have been launched in the past year and extra sailings are also planned on existing routes. Traders should now consider switching to direct route options where feasible.

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