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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 282-301
 Header Item Wastewater Treatment
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes
 Header Item Local Authority Funding
 Header Item Housing Issues
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes
 Header Item National Parks
 Header Item Housing Provision
 Header Item Project Ireland 2040
 Header Item National Parks and Wildlife Service
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Election Monitoring Missions
 Header Item Ministerial Meetings
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item Brexit Preparations
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Diplomatic Representation
 Header Item Military Aircraft

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 88 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 282-301

Wastewater Treatment

 282. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans to support Irish Water to take in charge existing private wastewater treatment plants in existing housing estates in which there is no public treatment plant available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43229/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien On 21 September, I announced allocations under the new multi-annual capital investment programme for the progressive resolution of housing estates with “developer provided water services infrastructure”, to enable the taking in charge of these estates. The announcement followed an independent Expert Panel review of all valid bids. The Panel’s recommendations are based on criteria set out in the Framework document issued to local authorities when requesting bid proposals.

  The focus of the first multi-annual programme is on estates in towns and villages where the resolution is to connect their water services to the public networks. The programme will also support a number of pilot projects where connection is not feasible in the immediate future. These pilot projects, together with a major study to be under taken by Irish Water, will inform future policy on resolving sub-standard developer provided infrastructure with sustainable solutions in such areas. This, the first funding cycle of the new multi-annual programme, runs to the end of 2021.

  All local authorities that submitted bids were informed about the outcome of their bids in a circular which included a copy of the Expert Panel report on the bids process. The report provides the commentary of the Panel on their evaluation in the case of unsuccessful bids and guidance for the local authority in making future bids in upcoming programmes.

  The circular is available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/water/water-services/circular-ldpi01-2020-approval-projects-residential-estates-under-developer

Water and Sewerage Schemes

 283. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans to address the serious issue in County Galway regarding the fact that Galway County Council and An Board Pleanála have refused planning permission for small housing developments in rural towns and villages due to both planning authorities refusing proposals for individual septic tanks or private wastewater treatment plants (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43230/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of public water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels.

As part of Budget 2021 my Department secured funding of over €1.4 billion to support water services. This includes €1.3 billion in respect of domestic water services provision by Irish Water. This overall investment will deliver significant improvements in our public water and wastewater services, support improved water supplies right across Ireland, including rural Ireland, and support a range of programmes delivering improved water quality in our rivers, lakes and marine area.

The Programme for Government commits to supporting the take-up of Irish Water’s Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme which is intended to provide water and wastewater growth capacity in smaller settlements which would not otherwise be provided for in its Capital Investment Plan.

It should be noted that Irish Water is subject to independent economic regulation by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities – the CRU - which determines the revenue required by Irish Water to meet its efficient operating and capital costs to ensure that Irish Water operates in an efficient manner in delivering its services to customers.

Therefore, Irish Water brought forward proposals for a Small Towns and Villages Growth Programme, as part of its Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024 to the CRU for consideration. The Programme is intended to support of a number of the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes under the National Planning Framework.

I understand from Irish Water that an allocation of €97.5m for this programme was approved by the CRU. I also understand that projects are now commencing design, and that investment under the Programme will begin to deliver in the coming years. Irish Water is working with local authorities across the country in ensuring the investment supports the growth of identified settlements where these are prioritised in line with the local authority development plans.

In addition to the major investment delivered by Irish Water, my Department also funds rural water investment under the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme. This Programme supports investment in community based Group Schemes as well as supports for the improvement of wells and septic tanks. The current investment programme is based on recommendations from the Working Group established in April 2018 to conduct a review of rural water services.

There is a two-strand approach to the considerations of the Working Group. Strand 1 considered the composition and distribution of funding for under the Rural Water Programme, while Strand 2 is considering the long-term future resourcing of the rural water sector more generally. The issue of wastewater infrastructure in villages not serviced by Irish Water is a matter which the Working Group will consider as part of its work. My Department expects a further report from the Group in 2021.

Local Authority Funding

 284. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien his plans to create an equalisation fund to increase the Local Government Fund for local authorities such as Galway County Council, whose fund is one of the lowest per head of population despite the fact that the county has the second largest area in the country and has a diverse range of issues, including islands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43232/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Peter Burke): Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke The Programme for Government 'Our Shared Future', commits to bringing about reforms in the workings of Local Property Tax (LPT). These reforms will involve bringing new homes, which are currently exempt from LPT, into the taxation system as well as providing for all money collected locally to be retained within the county. This will also be done on the basis that those counties with a lower LPT base are adjusted via an annual national equalisation fund paid from the Exchequer, as is currently the case. It is my intention that an examination of local authority funding baselines will be considered in this context next year. In the meantime, local authority members had various tools available to them as part of the recent local authority budget process, including the LPT local adjustment factor, that they could have used to increase the funding available to their local authority and to support the delivery of services in the area.

Housing Issues

 285. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if his Department has considered the report of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government on building defects in houses; and if he has identified the recommendations that his Department plans to implement during this term of Dáil Éireann. [43254/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects and provides for an examination of defective housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, "Safe as Houses".

  In this regard, my Department is actively engaging with key stakeholders and I have had several meetings with stakeholder representative groups on this matter over recent months. My Department is currently working to establish the structures to examine the issue of defective housing, this will include apartment buildings, in line with the commitment in the programme for government.

  In addition, I believe that the ongoing building control reform agenda, with its many initiatives, already provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of real compliance within the construction industry. The reform agenda includes:

  - Amendments made to the Building Control Regulations;

  - Establishment of a shared services National Building Control Management Project; and

  - The ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

  I acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes, however, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme.

  Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings.

  Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities which have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under statute.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

 286. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the details of the new sewage treatment scheme announced recently in local media in County Clare for the village of Broadford to be administered by local authorities; if it is still possible to have Mullinahone, County Tipperary, included as a pilot scheme; the criteria or competitive process used to select Broadford as the pilot project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43363/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No. 283 on today's order paper in respect of unsewered villages.

  I understand that Irish Water is investing in an upgrade of an existing waste water treatment plant in Mullinahone. Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of public water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels.

  Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

National Parks

 287. Deputy Brian Leddin Information on Brian Leddin Zoom on Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the way in which the rare habitats of Killarney National Park are being protected; the way in which sustainable development is being promoted in the larger Kerry biosphere reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43376/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Malcolm Noonan): Information on Malcolm Noonan Zoom on Malcolm Noonan Killarney National Park was originally awarded UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status in 1982. In January 2013, UNESCO revised the criteria for Biosphere Reserve status. To meet criteria for UNESCO Biosphere reserves under Article 4 of the Seville Strategy, Kerry County Council with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department submitted a successful application extending the Killarney National Park UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to include areas hydrologically and ecologically connected to the existing Core Area. The newly defined UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is known as the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

  The National Park forms the “Core Area” of the UNESCO Kerry Biosphere Reserve. While NPWS take the in lead with regard to the core area, Kerry County Council is the lead partner for the overall Biosphere Reserve which extends far beyond the National Park itself. The wider Biosphere areas are generally not in State ownership but are hydrologically linked and have habitat connectivity with the Core Area of the Biosphere (Killarney National Park).

  In terms of actions undertaken in the wider Biosphere, Kerry County Council, is best placed to respond to the Deputy in terms of actions undertaken. The Council have, through the South Kerry Development Partnership, appointed a dedicated Biosphere Officer. One of the Biosphere Officer's first initiatives was to organise an Autumn Event Series in the Kerry Biosphere Reserve. During this event series, a strategic initiative was launched in partnership with UNESCO Kerry Biosphere Reserve, Creative Ireland Kerry and the EPA. “Our Plant, Your Biosphere” aimed to promote citizen well-being through arts and heritage engagement with the native habitats and species of the Kerry Biosphere Reserve and to raise awareness of the part we as stewards of the land play in protecting nature and biodiversity.

  The MacGillycuddy Reeks European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Project aims to improve the sustainability and economic viability of farming in the MacGillycuddy Reeks. This will be done through the development of practical, achievable actions and innovative solutions in order to improve the condition of the habitats of this unique Natura 2000 area, in close conjunction with the landowners/farmers in the area. The MacGillycuddy Reeks Project is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) Locally Led Scheme. The Project is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. If you would like to find out more about our project please refer to: www.macgillycuddyreekskerry.com.

  The Biosphere Officer has also begun engaging with local businesses to develop sustainable business partnerships in the Region and plans to develop a Business Charter are moving apace. The Biosphere Partnership is in its infancy and yet, despite the challenges presented by Covid 19, the Biosphere Officer has made considerable impact in respect of her outreach programmes. The Biosphere Officer is finalising a programme for 2021 and can be contacted at kerrybiosphere@skdp.net.

Housing Provision

 288. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien the status of a housing project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43388/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien My Department received a Capital Appraisal for this project in late November. This is currently being reviewed and a response will issue to Limerick City and County Council once this process is complete.

Project Ireland 2040

 289. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if he or his officials have had an engagement with a local authority on the Cork event centre. [43409/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Cork Event Centre is included as a commitment under Project Ireland 2040 and it underlines the Government’s objectives around urban regeneration, enhanced amenity and heritage, associated quality of life standards, balanced regional development, and the regeneration and development of Cork City Centre.

It was agreed in the context of Budget 2020 that responsibility at central Government level for making the grant aid support available for the project would transfer to my Department.

Responsibility for the advancement of proposals for the development of the Cork Event Centre remains, in the first instance, a matter for Cork City Council. There has been no recent contact from the Council on this matter.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

 290. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien if the NPWS would continue to make use of a predator control contractor if its attention was drawn to the fact that the contractor accessed private land without permission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43486/20]

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (Deputy Darragh O'Brien): Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I assume the Deputy is referring to an alleged incident involving a contractor in Connemara. NPWS has reviewed this matter and is satisfied that the contractor did not access private lands without permission. NPWS have full confidence in this contractor in his ability to carry out this difficult predator control work for the conservation of threatened and vulnerable breeding birds in the Western Region.

Human Rights

 291. 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 the efforts he can undertake to raise awareness through the EU of the plight of a journalist (details supplied) who has been tortured and is being detained illegally in Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43054/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland is deeply concerned by the appalling human rights situation in Belarus. Media freedoms have been curtailed and journalists, both local and international, face violence, harassment, intimidation and detention simply for doing their jobs. This is totally unacceptable and Ireland has been vocal in our condemnation of the actions of the Belarusian authorities.

We have joined statements at the UN, including at the Human Rights Council, that specifically call for media freedoms to be respected. We also joined a statement of the co-chairs of the United Nations Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists, which expressed profound concern over the deteriorating situation of human rights in Belarus, including multiple reports of harassment, arbitrary arrests, intensifying persecution and detention of journalists and media workers, as well as the human rights defenders and other members of the Belarusian civil society.

The individual in question has been detained, along with many others, for their political views. The EU delegation in Minsk follows the situation closely and we are kept appraised of developments in relation to detainees. We have repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those unjustly detained in Belarus, including political prisoners and we will continue to do so. We will continue to make our voice heard on this, both within the EU and in other international bodies.

The credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, including of the individual in questions, are extremely worrying. We have called on the Belarusian authorities to heed the recommendations of the international community at the Human Rights Council and the recommendations of the OSCE Rapporteur's Moscow Mechanism report. We have been clear that the violence must stop.

Ireland has provided funding for a project in Belarus that seeks to support the protection of media freedoms through the European Endowment for Democracy and we will continue to use our voice in international settings to call for the persecution of journalists to end.

Election Monitoring Missions

 292. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the measures his Department takes to capture information on disability provided by election observers; and the way in which the data collected in the EU and Organization for Security and Co-operation in European, OSCE, profiles, the only criteria for selection of election observers, is incorporated in his Department's selection of observers. [43062/20]

 293. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the legal rights in regard to disability possessed by persons serving as election observers who have been nominated by his Department; the number of disabled observers on the roster; his Department’s obligations to persons with disabilities in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43063/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy I propose to take Questions Nos. 292 and 293 together.

  The Department of Foreign Affairs enables participation by Irish citizens in overseas election observation missions organised by the EU and the OSCE through nomination of volunteers from our Election Observation Roster. The current roster (2019-2023) was mustered through an open, competitive application process in 2018. Although Ireland nominates volunteers from this roster, the final decision on selection of election observers rests with the relevant third party organisation, either the EU or OSCE.

  Members of the roster are required to keep their personal profiles on the EU and OSCE election observer databases up-to-date. In keeping with data protection protocols, the Department is not permitted to access these profiles except for limited, specified purposes, such as when nominating a roster member. The information is used to verify the suitability for a given mission of a volunteer who has expressed interest in being nominated.

  The Department of Foreign Affairs holds no record of the number of persons with disabilities on the Election Observation Roster or of any individual disability. With regard to provisions for people with a disability, the Department of Foreign Affairs is committed to giving applicants' requests for reasonable accommodation at the roster application stage all due consideration, and to making accommodations as appropriate to ensure that people with a disability enjoy equal opportunity. The Department has consulted the National Disability Authority in this regard.

  I refer the Deputy to the Information Note on the Overseas Election Observation Roster prepared for the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade (JCFATD), in which matters relating to the establishment and operation of the Election Observation Roster, including in respect of disabilities, have been comprehensively addressed and which is attached to this response, and, further, the Composite Note published on the election observation pages of the Irish Aid website, also attached to this response.

  The issue of reasonable accommodation for disabilities as it pertains to the application process for and operation of the Election Observer Roster has also been addressed in the responses to Parliamentary Questions No. 60 of 23 January 2019, No. 153 of 5 February 2019, No. 65 of 6 February 2019, No. 58 of 7 February 2019, No. 124 of 12 February 2019, No. 129 of 19 February 2019, Nos. 100 and 105 of 26 February 2019, Nos. 117 and 119 of 5 March 2019, Nos. 74, 76 and 81 of 6 March 2019, No. 68 of 12 March 2019, No. 157 of 26 March 2019, Nos. 117 and 119 of 16 April 2019, No. 73 of 29 May 2019, No. 119 of 25 June 2019, No. 109 of 10 July 2019, No. 186 of 13 October 2020, No. 113 of 11 November 2020, and No. 256 of 26 November 2020.

1.   https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/debates/questions/supportingDocumentation/2019-07-10_pq108-10-7-19_en.pdf

2.   https://www.irishaid.ie/media/irishaid/getinvolved/electionroster/Composite-Response.pdf

Ministerial Meetings

 294. 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 if he has spoken formally with the South Korean ambassador to Ireland in the past three months; and if so, the issues discussed. [43104/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland enjoys strong relations with the Republic of Korea with a focus very much on economic and people-to-people cooperation. While I have not spoken formally with the Ambassador to Ireland in the past three months, there has been regular contact at senior-official level covering a range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including boosting trade relations, Ireland's upcoming tenure on the Security Council and co-operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brexit Issues

 295. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if there has been consideration of a scheme allowing long-term residents in Ireland from the UK to apply for an Irish passport in the aftermath of Brexit. [43203/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (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 2008 Act"). The 2008 Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him or her. In order to meet this requirement, 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.

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 is responsible for citizenship matters, including applications for naturalisation.

Foreign Policy

 296. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if Irish citizens or businesses based in Hong Kong have been affected by the rise in the freezing of bank accounts of those linked to pro-democracy protests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43246/20]

 297. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the status of the response of his Department to the recent rise in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43247/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

The Government is closely monitoring the situation in Hong Kong, following the adoption of the National Security Law on 30 June by the Chinese National People's Congress. I made a statement on 1 July to express Ireland's concern in relation to the adoption of this law, and the situation has been raised directly with the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland.

The EU has made a number of statements in relation to this situation, most recently on 12 November following the disqualification of members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. This statement reiterated our concern regarding Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy under the One Country, Two Systems principle, and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

In addition to this, the Council of the EU adopted Conclusions on Hong Kong on 28 July 2020 in response to the adoption of the National Security Law. These set out a coordinated package of response measures in various fields, including the operation of Member States' extradition agreements and other relevant agreements with Hong Kong.

In line with these Conclusions, the Government agreed on 13 October to suspend Ireland's Extradition Agreement with Hong Kong.

This decision, which was taken in concert with a number of other EU Member States, clearly signals Ireland's concerns in relation to the rule of law in Hong Kong and the erosion of judicial independence promised under the One Country, Two Systems principle.

The matter was discussed last week at the EU Foreign Affairs Council where Ministers agreed on their assessment of the situation, which has been strongly deteriorating, and as a minimum will continue to implement the Council Conclusions from July 2020, expressing political support for Hong Kong's autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.

Hong Kong maintains a legislative approach to its financial system aimed at combating money laundering. As far as my Department is aware, no Irish citizens or businesses have been affected by the freezing of bank accounts related to pro-democracy protests. My Department, through our Consulate General in Hong Kong and our Embassy in Beijing, will remain alert to the situation in Hong Kong and, along with our EU partners, will continue to raise our concerns with Chinese authorities.

Brexit Preparations

 298. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a national audit of Brexit preparedness and readiness has been carried out; if so, if such an audit will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43277/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Government has been planning for Brexit since before the UK Referendum to ensure that Irish citizens and businesses are as ready as possible for all scenarios. As part of this work, the Government has published Brexit Contingency Plans in December, 2018, July 2019 and most recently in September 2109.

Our September 2019, Brexit Readiness Action Plan outlines in substantive detail the changes that will arise at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. It provides information on the actions Government is taking and the steps that citizens and businesses should take to mitigate the risks that arise from these changes.

All Departments and Agencies continue their intensive preparation for the end of the transition period. This work takes account of two scenarios, a limited FTA (including fisheries) or a hard Brexit with the EU and UK trading on WTO terms. This includes overseeing work for which they have direct responsibility as well at outreach to the specific stakeholders to assist them. All this work is support by a comprehensive communications programme including TV, radio, media and social media advertising.

Our Readiness work is overseen at official level by the Assistant Secretaries group on Brexit readiness, co-chaired by an official from my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach, meets on a weekly basis and manages the whole-of-Government readiness agenda. All relevant Departments and Agencies report in to this group on their work in areas such as trade flows, support for trades, infrastructure, connectivity and transport, services, sectoral issues such as data and energy, communications and outreach and legislation. This group reports to the Secretaries General group chaired by the Secretary General to the Government.

I, and other Ministers, are briefed on an ongoing basis and provide regular updates to the Government on the status of our Brexit readiness work. I did so most recently on 8 December. We also, as the Deputy is aware, brief the Oireachtas on an ongoing basis. I will be updating the Dáil on Thursday 17 December during Statements on Brexit Readiness.

Departments will use the remaining 16 days to refine their readiness work and support their stakeholders. Plans are being finalized by relevant Departments and Agencies for the provision of helplines and call centres over the initial period after the transition.

I have always been very clear that Brexit means disruption and change and that the seamless nature of trade between the EU and UK will no longer be possible. The Government has undertaken a significant amount of work to mitigate the risks for business and citizens. However, not all risks can be mitigated as a number are outside are control. However, we will continue in the remaining days and into next year to work with all stakeholders in addressing the challenges Brexit brings.

Human Rights

 299. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the actions he will take to assist a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43348/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Colm Brophy): Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy I am aware of the case raised by the Deputy. The person whose details are supplied is a child who was sentenced to ten years in prison by a Sharia Court in the State of Kano, northern Nigeria, following a conviction for blasphemy handed down on 10 August.

Following the sentencing, on 16 September UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano State Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence, on the basis that it is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991, and a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003.

On 26 November, an appeal against the sentence was heard by the High Court in the city of Kano, northern Nigeria. A judgment is currently awaited in this case. Any further decision may be appealed before Nigeria’s Federal Court of Appeal.

Ireland works bilaterally, within the European Union, and with UN partners to promote and protect human rights including the rights of the child and freedom of religion or belief for all.

The Embassy of Ireland in Nigeria regularly engages on human rights issues with other EU Member States in Nigeria, and with the Nigerian authorities. The Embassy is aware of this case and, as an active Member State, is supporting the European Union Delegation in Nigeria in its engagement with the Nigerian authorities on this case.

Diplomatic Representation

 300. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney further to Parliamentary Question No. 304 of 8 December 2020, if he will provide a schedule of costs incurred on consultancy, construction and decoration of the embassies that have been refurbished to date in 2020 (details supplied); and if he will include the budgets for same in respect of embassies that are scheduled to be refurbished in 2021. [43360/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables.

  Buildings refurbished in 2020

Mission Premises Total Cost Consultancy costs Professional fees Construction and related costs
Athens Chancery
€135,044
0
€13,100
€121,944
Brussels Irish Liaison Office to Partnership for Peace
€814,655
N/A
N/A
The amount shown was Ireland's pro-rata contribution towards the cost of a €15.7m building renovation project and was shared equally with the Department of Defence.
London Chancery
€143,546
0
€24,081
€119,465
Paris Chancery
€9,900
0
0
€9,900
New York Consulate-General
€193,231
0
0
€193,231


  Renovations currently planned for 2021
Mission Premises Nature of proposed works Estimated cost
Bratislava Chancery Refurbishment of office accommodation; installation of universal access bathroom facilities.
€50,000
The Hague Chancery Security upgrade; new elevator to facilitate universal access; installation of solar panels.
€72,000
London Chancery Fire safety and physical security upgrades; renovation of basement offices.
€100,000
Washington Chancery Repairs to air-conditioning; roof repairs; repainting; fire safety up-grade.
€200,000

Military Aircraft

 301. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 403 of 10 November 2020, if US military aircraft never carry arms, ammunition or explosives, are never engaged in intelligence gathering or never form part of military exercises or operations when travelling through Irish airspace or landing at an Irish airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43368/20]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Arrangements under which permission is granted for foreign military aircraft, including US aircraft, to land at Irish airports are governed by strict conditions. These routinely include stipulations that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question must not form any part of military exercises or operations. Requests for exceptions to these conditions are received on occasion. Such exceptions, would only be agreed to in relation to the carriage of a personal service weapon by personal protection officers on VIP flights, the transport of equipment to a UN-authorised peacekeeping or crisis management operation or where an aircraft was experiencing an emergency.

With regard to overflights, specific arrangements for the US were established in 1959. As advised in my response to the Deputy's question number 43369, overflights of US military aircraft are permitted without prior notification, on the basis that the aircraft are unarmed, carry only cargo and passengers and comply with navigational requirements. If a proposed military overflight does not meet these criteria, blanket clearance does not apply and advance permission must be sought. The standard conditions would then apply, and these do not permit carrying arms, ammunition or explosives, or engaging in intelligence gathering of forming part of military exercises of operations.


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