Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Dáil Éireann Debate
207. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of foreign aid that has been paid to Uganda and Syria and if there are any plans to alter these arrangements. [8242/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Over the past 5 years, Ireland has allocated over €196 million in aid to Uganda through our aid programme, including through civil society organisations. This aid is working. Since commencing our work in Uganda in 1994, we have witnessed huge improvements in the quality of life for the Ugandan people. Peace has returned to most of the country after generations of war. There are now 8.3 million pupils in primary schools compared to 2.5 million 15 years ago. The HIV prevalence rate has been reduced dramatically from 18% in the 1990s to just over 6% today. Poverty has more than halved over the last two decades. These are real achievements, which have been made possible with the support of donors such as Ireland. Following the fraud at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2012 which involved the loss of €4 million in Irish Aid funds, the Government suspended all aid provided directly through Ugandan Government systems amounting to €16 million. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government of Uganda has since refunded the €4 million to Ireland. Ireland has made it clear to the Ugandan Authorities that no Irish Aid support will be channelled directly through Government systems until there has been sufficient follow up to the fraud and until we are satisfied with appropriate assurances from the Ugandan Government around its internal financial systems. We will continue to work with other development partners and directly with the Ugandan Government to assess progress in this regard.
An interim development cooperation programme for Uganda in 2013 is under consideration. This will be a smaller programme compared to recent years involving support to programmes managed through non-government partners. Most of these are a continuation of existing programmes and commitments in education, HIV/AIDS, governance and social protection. Consideration is also being given to providing direct support to important oversight institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General. Over the course of this year, options will be considered for a longer term strategic approach to the development cooperation programme in Uganda.
The Syrian conflict is now almost two years old. In excess of 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has seen the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and residential areas, as well as humanitarian and medical actors. With more than 820,000 individuals having fled the desperate situation in the country, the majority of whom are women and children, neighbouring countries have shown great generosity but also endured great strain in hosting those in need. Ireland has responded promptly and generously, both within Syria and in the neighbouring countries most affected by the humanitarian crisis.
As early as March 2012, the Government began providing emergency assistance through partner agencies on the ground, and to date, our total contribution stands at €7.1 million. This includes the recent pledge of €4.7 million made at the High Level Donor Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City on 30 January 2013 attended by Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, T.D. Delivered through key UN partners, trusted NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross, this support is helping to address the pressing medical and food needs of those requiring life-saving assistance. Ireland’s contribution also includes supplies of non-food items from our stocks in Dubai through our Rapid Response Initiative. Into the future we will continue to monitor the situation so that we can review the effectiveness of our contribution and assess how, within our means, we may be able to further respond to humanitarian needs within the region.
Holding the Presidency of the European Council, Ireland is striving to build momentum behind international efforts to ease the terrible humanitarian burden faced by the Syrian people, emphasising the need for all parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access and aid delivery to the people in need, to ensure the neutrality of humanitarian aid and to abide by International Humanitarian Law. Ireland is using the EU Presidency to call on all donors to fulfil pledges made, in coordination with the UN and in full respect of humanitarian principles.
208. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the reinstatement of Villa Spada as Ireland's Vatican Embassy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8289/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): As I have stated consistently, the decision to close the resident Embassy to the Holy See will not be reversed in the immediate term. However, in the context of the budgetary situation, I will continue to review the deployment of our diplomatic resources overseas. The Villa Spada is now the location of our Embassy to the Italian Republic. Any discussions with the Holy See on arrangements whereby it might be possible to re-establish a resident Embassy at a future date are best conducted in confidence.
209. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the reports that hundreds of families have been forcibly evicted from two makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, namely around 600 families from Camp Place Sainte-Anne and about 84 families from another camp called Fanm Koperative; if his attention has been further drawn to concerns raised by Amnesty International that these residents, and others in displacement camps, continue to be forcibly evicted in contravention of international human rights standards; if he will raise the matter with his counterpart in Haiti; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8292/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): I am aware of recent reports of forced evictions of nearly seven hundred families from two makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince. On 22 January, the third anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. It has been reported that police officers forcibly evicted around six hundred families from Camp Place Sainte-Anne in the municipality of Port-au-Prince. Ten days later another eighty-four families were reportedly evicted from Camp Fanm Koperativ. In both cases agencies on the ground say that there was little or no notice of the eviction before their shelters were destroyed.
Amnesty International has called on the authorities to stop all illegal and violent evictions of people living in make-shift camps and to take meaningful steps to provide them with appropriate housing. Ireland supports these calls to halt illegal and violent evictions and to identify durable housing solutions for the displaced in Haiti.
While over 75% of the 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the earthquake have successfully returned to their homes or have received assistance to relocate, the situation of the 358,000 people still remaining in camps must be addressed in a dignified and sustainable way as a matter of urgency through the identification and provision of durable housing solutions for the displaced people. the EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Summit of Heads of State and Government that took place last month in Chile, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met with the President of Haiti, H.E. Michel Martelly. They discussed the challenges facing Haiti, with a particular focus on the provision of durable housing for the Internally Displaced population. The Tánaiste was briefed by President Martelly on progress to date, as well as on the Haitian Government’s strong commitment to providing those who are still in camps with appropriate housing solutions.
The Haiti Humanitarian Action Plan identifies shelter as a top priority requiring assistance of $46 million. Since the earthquake in Haiti over three years ago, Ireland’s response to the humanitarian needs has been significant and sustained. In 2010 Ireland pledged funding of €13m for Haiti for the period 2010-2012. This pledge has now been exceeded, and to date, €13.9 million in funding has been disbursed. This funding has focused on the most vulnerable and the most pressing needs, including emergency shelter and reconstruction. The Tánaiste availed of the opportunity of his recent meeting with President Martelly to assure him that Haiti remains a priority for Ireland in terms of humanitarian engagement. It is anticipated that Ireland will provide additional funding to Haiti in 2013 in order to continue our support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction process.
The reconstruction and provision of institutional support for Haiti is also a priority for the European Union which to date has provided €213 million in humanitarian assistance to the country, including an additional € 30.5 million allocated in January to help those still homeless as a result of the earthquake, cholera victims and those badly affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Reconstruction of Haiti is one of the five core areas identified for closer cooperation in the recently adopted Joint Caribbean – EU Partnership Strategy.
210. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline Ireland and the EU's current relations with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia; if he will outline current developments here and the EU's relations with Ukraine and on the continuing imprisonment of Ms.Yulia Tymoshenko former Ukrainian Prime Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8410/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan was launched in January 2010, and a Single Economic Space, based on a set of agreements covering subjects from the coordination of macroeconomic and fiscal policies to labour migration and technical regulation, became operational in January 2012. The Presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have declared their intention to form a Eurasian Economic Union by 2015. The EU endorses regional economic integration processes that are based on voluntary association and that are consistent with WTO commitments. Russia is the EU's third biggest trade partner, and the EU will continue to work with Russia to advance mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
The EU wishes to conclude a New Agreement with Russia that would preferably contain strong trade and investment provisions. It recognises the emerging political reality of the Customs Union although, given the non-WTO membership of Kazakhstan and Belarus, it could only conclude a free trade agreement with the Russian Federation.
In common with its EU partners, Ireland sees the value in closer relations between the EU and Ukraine and believes that the conclusion of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine will benefit both parties in political and economic terms, and in enhanced people-to-people contacts. However, the EU has stated clearly the areas of concern which Ukraine would need to address convincingly to enable progress to be made towards signature of the Association Agreement. This message will be reiterated at the EU-Ukraine Summit on 25 February.
On the specific case of Ms Yulia Tymoshenko, this remains a matter of deep concern to Ireland and to its EU partners. I refer the Deputy to my reply to the Dáil on this matter on 16 January. In common with our EU partners, we will continue to monitor developments in regard to this case. The EU has continually impressed on the Ukrainian authorities that progress towards the signature and ratification of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine would require it to address, among other issues, the question of politically motivated convictions . The Conclusions adopted by EU Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council last December called on Ukraine to demonstrate ‘determined action and tangible progress’ in three areas of concern, including that of selective justice. Ireland strongly supported this stance.
211. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason an Irish citizen (details supplied) is still being detained in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8684/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): As the Deputy will be aware from previous responses to questions in relation to the person named my officials remain in close and direct contact with the person’s wife and family and they liaise directly with her on all developments in his case. The Ambassador and officers in the Embassy in New Delhi, which is accredited to Sri Lanka, and the Honorary Consul of Ireland Office in Colombo have also been very active in this difficult case.
The person named by the Deputy has been detained in Sri Lanka since 5 September 2007. No charge was brought against him until 29 January 2013. I am informed that at his trial on that date a sentence of one month was imposed on him. Subsequently, he was informed that he would be released on Tuesday, 12 February 2013. Based on this information his family made flight arrangements for him to return to Ireland. Officials from the Honorary Consulate attended the prison on 12 February to be present on his release and to offer any possible consular assistance. They were informed that the release would not go ahead and that 4 charges would be brought him.
I am personally very concerned about this latest development and especially by the sudden manner by which his release was revoked. I have written to the Minister for External Affairs expressing in the strongest possible terms my disappointment and concern at the latest developments in this case and asking that the Minister act to ensure that all possible due process of law is afforded to the person named by the Deputy. Arrangements have been made for our Ambassador in New Delhi to travel to Sri Lanka next Wednesday, 20 February in order that he may pay a prison visit to him. The Ambassador also requested a meeting with the Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs and he will personally deliver my letter to the Minister.
I can assure the Deputy that all possible consular assistance will continue to be provided in this very difficult case and that my officials will continue to liaise with the family of the person named by the Deputy.
212. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding Irish aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8768/13]
214. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding Irish aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8827/13]
215. Deputy Ray Butler asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps being taken to ensure that human and civil rights are protected in countries receiving overseas development aid from Ireland; if he will consider establishing multi stakeholder independent review mechanisms in priority countries to assess the effectiveness of Government systems when it comes to preventing or dealing with threats against civil society campaigning and advocacy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8828/13]
218. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the proposals there are to introduce as a condition of funding under overseas development aid that recipient countries should provide adequately for civil society space as outlined in a document (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8906/13]
220. Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will ensure that Irish Aid, through funding and diplomacy, will guarantee safe spaces for community organisations, leaders and local people to advocate for their rights in Irish Aid's priority countries; if he will establish independent review mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of Government systems when it comes to preventing or dealing with threats against civil society space; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8975/13]
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): I propose to take Questions Nos. 212, 214 to 216, inclusive, 218 and 220 together.
213. Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will consider issuing a new passport to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8797/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Passport Service has no record of a new application on behalf of the persons named. It is therefore not possible to make a statement on whether a new passport can issue at this time.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Ireland has not permitted, does not permit and will not permit the use of Shannon Airport for the practice of extraordinary rendition. The Government’s complete opposition to this practice is reflected in the Programme for Government, which states that ‘we will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with international law’.
In this context, should anyone have evidence to suggest that any person subject to extraordinary rendition has transited through an Irish airport, this evidence should be made available to An Garda Síochána so that an investigation can take place.
219. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the fact that Israel is in breach of the human rights clause (Article II) of the Euro Mediterranean Association Agreement which states that respect for human rights and democratic principles are an essential element of the treaty, if he will now call for the suspension of Israel from the Euro Mediterranean Association Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8970/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement states that respect for human rights and democratic principles are an essential element of the Agreement. This is an important clause which has been included at the EU’s insistence in all the Association Agreements with neighbouring states. It puts human rights clearly on the table as a matter for mutual concern and discussion. This obviates the argument of many states that human rights are a purely domestic issue and establishes the EU’s right to raise these issues in the structures established by the Association Agreement for that purpose.
It is the EU which has sought to formalise relations with its neighbours in the form of these Agreements. The Agreements themselves make plain that human rights concerns are understood to exist in relation to Association partners and it provides for dialogue to address these. Such dialogue on human rights issues is actively pursued within the current structures of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. No EU member State, including Ireland, has considered that the existence of unresolved human rights problems in itself makes the Agreement invalid. If this were the case, then probably all of the Association Agreements, which the EU has painstakingly put in place, would have to be abandoned.
There is no provision in the EU-Israel Association Agreement for its suspension. Instead, the Agreement provides for disagreements over its implementation to be raised at the annual Association Council. There would be no support whatever at EU level for the suspension or cancellation of this Agreement.
221. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views regarding the possibility of a referendum being held in Britain on their future membership of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2396/13]
223. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the effect of Britain opting out of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5096/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 223 together.
The UK’s relationship with the European Union is of course a matter, in the first instance, for its Government and people. Any question of a referendum is therefore a matter for the Government and people of the UK. I would, however, hope to see it continue to play a full and active part in the EU into the future.
In common with all Member States, the UK gains significantly from its membership of the European Union, not least through free access to a Single Market of more than half a billion people. At the same time, the UK also makes a valued contribution to our Union. The EU is, without a doubt, stronger for having the UK as a Member State and I believe that the UK would continue to be better served as a member of the EU rather than opting-out.
Nationally, our excellent bilateral relations with the UK are reflected in our close working relationship with them in an EU context, not least on the range of issues on which we are like-minded, such as exploring the considerable opportunities presented by the Single Market and the EU’s ambitious trade agenda.
222. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to any diplomatic concerns raised over the proposed venue in Northern Ireland for the future G8 Summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2301/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Cameron last November that Enniskillen in County Fermanagh would be the venue for the G8 summit. The announcement has also been warmly welcomed by political leaders in Northern Ireland. The summit will be the biggest international diplomatic gathering to be held in Northern Ireland and underlines the ongoing progress of the peace process. The summit will also help to promote Ireland internationally in this year of the Gathering. No diplomatic concerns have been raised with me with regard to the proposed venue for the G8 summit next June.
224. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has received any representations in relation to the Boston College papers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5087/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Boston College has a long history of positive support for, and engagement in, the field of Irish Studies. It has played an important role in recording the history of Northern Ireland and the peace process which will be of ongoing value to historians and the study of conflict resolution. In March 2011 the British Government, acting on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, initiated proceedings with the US Department of Justice under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the two countries for the release of archived interviews held in Boston College. The archives are part of the Belfast Project, an oral history of Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries compiled by Mr McIntyre and Mr Moloney and deposited in the Burns Library at the College . Some of those whose testimony is included in the project have since died, including Dolores Price who passed away in recent months.
225. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on meeting groups representing the undocumented Irish when he is in Washington, USA, in March; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6832/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The welfare of the Irish abroad in general and especially the position of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States remains an important priority for the Government. A resolution of the situation for undocumented Irish migrants will continue to be an important priority for the Government in our ongoing contacts with the US Administration and Congress. This issue will remain a central feature of the Government’s engagement with the US authorities over the St Patrick’s day period, and my programme and that of other members of the Government, while not yet finalised, will include meetings with key political figures and the Irish community groups that provide assistance to the undocumented. The advice of Ireland’s friends and contacts within the US Administration and Congress has long been that comprehensive reform of the US immigration system and procedures is likely to be the only manner by which such a resolution can be achieved. The prospects for such reform have advanced in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. The emphasis he placed on immigration reform in his inauguration address as well as in subsequent speeches, including the State of the Union address, sent a very positive signal in this regard. The indications of emerging bipartisan support for reform in Congress is also encouraging. Much further debate and discussion is likely to be required within the US political system before the shape of any legislative deal is clear. It is therefore not possible at this stage to identify an exact timescale in which these may become clear but the area will continue to receive the Government’s close attention over the period ahead.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The visit to Dublin by President Barroso and the College of Commissioners on 10 January was an important opportunity for the Irish Presidency to outline its priorities and to consult with the Commission on how best these could be advanced. The visit opened with a plenary meeting between the Government and the College which confirmed a high level of support for the Presidency priorities of Stability, Jobs and Growth, and for the specific measures we are advancing to realise those objectives.
At the meeting I spoke about the urgent need for action by the EU on tackling youth unemployment and the priorities set out in the Irish Presidency programme to address the issue including the Youth Employment Package and the Youth Guarantee, improved skills and training and removing barriers to worker mobility. I also highlighted the prospects for job creation in policy areas such as the Single Market, Digital Single Market and the research and innovation sector which the Irish Presidency is prioritising. As Chairman of the General Affairs Council I spoke about the urgent need to reach a decision of an adequately funded budget for the EU from 2014-2020 (Multiannual Financial Framework/MFF) to underpin economic recovery and job creation. I also outlined the Presidency’s objectives in relation to the PEACE programme, developing new markets for the EU’s exporters through enhanced foreign trade agreements. I highlighted the issue of EU-US Trade at that time and we are very satisfied to now see that work underway.
On the external relations agenda facing the Union I undertook to give full support to the work of HRVP Ashton and indicated that the Irish Presidency priorities would include human rights, development aid and enlargement.
Following the plenary, Ministers met with their Commission counterparts in a number of smaller thematic meetings to review and discuss policy aspects of the Irish Presidency programme in greater detail. As chair of the General Affairs Council I met with Commissioners Almunia, Rehn, Lewandowski. Šefčovič, and Hahn with Ministers Noonan and Howlin. The issues discussed included the need for a timely deal on the MFF, to allow the Irish Presidency to seek agreement on the range of programmes of the Union that will create stability and drive growth and job creation in Europe for the remainder of the decade. We also exchanged views on the related issue of cohesion funding. We discussed the Presidency’s objectives in relation to the Banking Union and the agenda of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and the broader Presidency growth agenda.
227. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised the issue of the murder of human rights solicitor Pat Finucane at the December 2012 EU summit or in any of the bilateral meetings he held on the margins of the EU summit. [2332/13]
230. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has been in contact with the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in relation to the recent publication of the De Silva Report into the murder of human rights solicitor Pat Finucane. [2325/13]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 230 together.
The Irish Government continues to seek an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane as committed to in the Weston Park Agreement; on the basis of the findings of Judge Cory on the likelihood of state collusion. The work undertaken by Desmond De Silva QC can facilitate this, in my opinion, by helping ensure that an independent public inquiry need not be lengthy, open-ended and inordinately expensive. As I said at the time, we must build on the progress made thus far.
I did not attend the EU Heads of State and Government Summit in December 2012, however, in my contacts with Secretary of State Villiers following the publication, I made clear that the Irish Government will continue to seek an independent public inquiry. The Taoiseach also conveyed this directly to Prime Minister Cameron. I will continue to set out the case with the Secretary of State for full implementation of the Weston Park Agreement.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.
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