Header Item Written Answers Nos 1-43
 Header Item Northern Ireland
 Header Item Prison Facilities
 Header Item Diplomatic Representation
 Header Item Foreign Policy
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Official Engagements
 Header Item Israeli Settlements
 Header Item Overseas Development Aid Expenditure

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 1-43

  The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 9 to 24, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 25 to 30, inclusive, answered orally.

Northern Ireland

 31. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the breakdown in talks in Northern Ireland, particularly in respect of legacy issues. [16460/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Following the Assembly election, I spoke on 5 March with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the Taoiseach spoke with Prime Minister May. Both Governments agreed on the need for intensive engagement to address outstanding issues and commitments to ensure the early establishment of an Executive. As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, both Governments have a role to play in supporting the effective operation of the devolved institutions, and in upholding both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement as a whole, in the interests of all in Northern Ireland.

In this context I am representing the Government in the intensive talks in Belfast. These talks have two objectives. Firstly, to allow the political parties to reach an agreement on the formation of a new Executive. Secondly, to address the implementation of outstanding issues from previous Agreements. The discussions are structured around a shared approach put forward by both Governments following on from talks last month where it did not prove possible for the political parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on the establishment of a power-sharing Executive before the statutory deadline of 27 March.

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

In regard to legacy issues, I have been closely involved in the ongoing discussions in Belfast with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the political parties to seek a way forward for the early establishment of the Stormont House framework. In the discussions, I have been very clear on the urgent need to achieve progress, so that the institutions can be established and start working to meet the needs of victims and survivors and to support broader societal healing and reconciliation. I have also emphasised in discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the political parties, the need to ensure that legacy inquests are properly resourced, and urged all with responsibilities in relation to the legacy inquests to move forward as quickly as possible to implement the helpful proposals of the Lord Chief Justice.

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

As the formal talks pause briefly for Easter, I encourage everyone to maintain informal contacts and to reflect on what can be achieved if, in the weeks ahead, an Executive is established that operates effectively and sustainably. I am convinced that all parties are willing to play their part in reaching such a sustainable agreement which will provide for stable power-sharing government in Northern Ireland underpinned by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Irish Government as a co-guarantor of that Agreement and the peace process will continue to play its part in facilitating these ongoing talks, working with the British Government and encouraging all parties to reach agreement on the formation of a new Executive that is demonstrably in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

  Questions Nos. 32 to 36, inclusive, answered orally.

Prison Facilities

 37. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he has had discussions recently with the British and Northern Ireland authorities regarding unresolved issues for prisoners in a prison (details supplied); and the way he could progress these issue as a matter of urgency. [18231/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I wish to reiterate my ongoing concerns about conditions in Maghaberry Prison, Northern Ireland.

Maghaberry Prison was identified by the Criminal Justice Inspector, Brendan McGuigan, in a 2015 report as needing work to make the prison safer and to improve conditions for staff. Since publication of that report, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate has continued with a programme of announced, low impact, visits to the prison which find that the situation has stabilised and that some progress has been achieved. More work remains to be done. In making the desired progress in Maghaberry, the cooperation of both the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the prisoners themselves is required. I would encourage all with influence to move forward in the right spirit.

The Northern Ireland Executive last summer agreed to implement the recommendation of the Fresh Start Paramilitary Panel that a review of the separated regime in Maghaberry be established. I look forward to the review panel being appointed following agreement on the formation of a new Executive and to seeing their work completed. I believe that the review opens up an opportunity to address genuine concerns regarding separation, including such issues as association on the landings and access to education. My Department engaged fully in the Paramilitary Panel’s consultation process.

Complicating matters has been the sense of threat which prison officers and their families perceive. The murders of two prison officers, Adrian Ismay last March and David Black in 2012, have set back relations, in addition to being a tragedy for their families and friends.

Conditions in the prison form part of my regular discussions with political interlocutors in the North. I look forward to continuing that active engagement as and when a new Minister for Justice is in place in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has certain responsibilities around the separated regime and he is aware of my views. In addition, my officials maintain regular contact with the Department of Justice in the North, the Prisoner Ombudsman, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Belfast office and other relevant agencies.

Diplomatic Representation

 38. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on whether an Irish representative from his Department should be present at all meetings and stages of the UK-EU Brexit negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18001/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The procedural arrangements that will apply on the EU side in the negotiation process were agreed at the meeting of 27 Heads of State or Government including the Taoiseach on 15 December 2016. These arrangements are based on the provisions of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

The European Commission will be the Union negotiator. Its team will be led by Michel Barnier and will include a representative of the rotating Presidency of the Council. A representative of the President of the European Council will be present alongside the European Commission representatives at all negotiating sessions. As is the case in all European Union negotiations, individual Member States will not be present at these sessions.

The EU27 Member States will monitor progress and give guidance to the Commission through a dedicated Working Party, which in turn will report to Coreper, on which Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the European Union sits. It is expected that the Working Party will meet at least once per week.

This will ensure that the negotiations are carried out under the overall strategic and political guidance of the EU27 Member States through the European Council and the General Affairs Council, supported by a very high level of scrutiny at senior official and Ambassadorial levels.

In line with the arrangements agreed by the 27 Heads of State and Government in December 2016 and following the notification by the UK Government on 29 March of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, the President of the European Council circulated draft EU negotiating guidelines to the 27 Member States.

These draft guidelines will be discussed among the EU27 throughout the month of April, with a view to their adoption by the European Council on 29 April following a preparatory meeting of the General Affairs Council on 27 April. On the basis of the guidelines adopted, negotiating directives will subsequently be prepared for adoption by the General Affairs Council in May. The negotiating directives will provide a formal mandate for the European Commission negotiating team. It will be open to the European Council and Council to update the guidelines and negotiating directives as necessary as the negotiations proceed.

We welcome this balanced approach to the negotiations and will engage fully and intensively with a view to pursuing our national interests and priorities within this framework. We are ready and we will negotiate firmly and fairly, from a position of strength as a member of the EU27 team.

Foreign Policy

 39. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on recent events in Venezuela; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18292/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am deeply concerned by the situation in Venezuela following rulings on 28 and 29 March by the country’s Supreme Court which rescinded the constitutional powers of the democratically elected National Assembly of Venezuela. Venezuela is facing grave and deteriorating political, economic, and social crises.

While domestic and international pressure led to the rescinding last week of most of the rulings of the Supreme Court, it remains the case that the Court has declared the National Assembly as being in contempt of the constitution and ruled that legislation passed by the National Assembly is null and void. This order which has been in place since August 2016 undermines the core democratic principle of the separation of powers.

I reiterate the European Union’s call for all parties in Venezuela to respect the country’s constitution and the role of the National Assembly, as well as democratic principles and the rule of law. My EU counterparts and I discussed Venezuela at the recent Foreign Affairs Council and we agreed on the importance of a peaceful solution to the current crisis. Critical to this is the establishment of a clear electoral calendar. In this context I welcome the resolution passed unanimously by the Organisation of American States on 3 April urging action by the Venezuelan government to ensure the full restoration of democratic order and share the grave concern expressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at restrictions on freedom of movement, association expression and peaceful protest in Venezuela.

I am alarmed by the shortages of food and medicines being faced by the people of Venezuela, and the unacceptable level of violence used by Government authorities in recent days against protesters and in particular against democratically elected opposition Deputies attempting to reach the National Assembly building.

The Government of Venezuela must restore the country’s democratic institutions and work together with the National Assembly and other national actors to address the many serious challenges facing the country.

European Council Meetings

 40. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April 2016; the steps he intends to take to support Iraqi and Syrian nationals impacted by the conflict to come here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18305/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 3 April. My EU counterparts and I also met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

The conflict in Syria is causing untold suffering and displacement of civilians on the ground. I and my EU counterparts made clear that the Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population, and called upon the regime and its allies, notably Russia, to undertake all efforts to ensure a full cessation of hostilities; the lifting of sieges; and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access. Ireland's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Syria crisis reached €76 million as of March 2017, and we pledged a further €25 million at the recent conference on Syria which was held in Brussels on Wednesday 5 April.

The severe humanitarian situation in Yemen is also of grave concern. My EU colleagues and I reiterated our strong support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen to achieve a resumption of negotiations and called on all parties to urgently agree on a cessation of hostilities to be monitored by the UN as a first step towards the resumption of peace talks under UN leadership. Ireland has provided almost €6 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen since the conflict began and will maintain our support in 2017.

The Council also agreed on the urgent need for a political solution that would unite Libya under the Libyan Peace Agreement.

I continued my extensive engagement with EU counterparts by having bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Austria respectively to discuss ongoing preparations for the upcoming Brexit negotiations and Ireland’s priority issues, namely the economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area and our vision for the future of the EU.

The question of support for Iraqi and Syrian nationals impacted by the conflict to come to Ireland is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality.

Official Engagements

 41. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on his visit to Rome and the opening of the embassy to the Holy See; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18304/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I made an official visit to Italy over the St Patrick’s Day weekend, 15-19 March. The visit began in Milan on 15 March where I had a series of engagements to promote Irish business involving clients of Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Tourism Ireland. Growing our bilateral trade and investment relations with Italy and other EU partners is an important part of the Government’s diversification strategy in response to Brexit.

  The following day I travelled to Rome where I had a very productive meeting with Italy’s foreign minister, Angelino Alfano. The focus of our discussions was Brexit but we also discussed migration, the future of Europe and bilateral relations. I gave an interview to the leading Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica which subsequently appeared in print and online. The main topic of the interview was Brexit and I was pleased to have an opportunity to again highlight Ireland’s unique concerns. I also availed of the opportunity to emphasise positive developments in the economy.

  I addressed a gathering of Irish Community at the Ambassador to Italy’s residence and at the Irish Celtic Ball on Saturday night, 18 March.

  On St Patrick’s Day I paid an official visit to the Holy See. As part of the visit, I officially opened the new Chancery of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See. The opening was attended by senior officials of the Holy See including Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. I also had a separate meeting with Archbishop Gallagher and we had a constructive and engaging discussion on a range of issues of mutual interest, including recent developments in Northern Ireland, the future of Europe, Brexit, and the World Meeting of Families which is due to take place in Ireland in 2018. We also discussed bilateral relations between Ireland and the Holy See.

Israeli Settlements

 42. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his attention has been drawn to the Israeli Government’s decision to build a new illegal colonial settlement in the occupied West Bank (details supplied); if he will raise his objections to this new illegal colonial settlement and the other 143 with his Israeli counterpart; and his views on whether sanctions should be placed on Israel for its continued and blatant violations of international and human rights law. [18296/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan There have been a number of deeply disappointing and damaging announcements by the Israeli Government in relation to settlements in recent months, both large scale construction approvals and now the authorisation of an entirely new settlement.

I have consistently made clear Ireland’s views on the settlement enterprise. Settlements are illegal, they actively undermine the prospects for a sustainable negotiated two-state solution, and the relentless expansion of settlements inherently involves injustice for Palestinians. These actions gravely damage Israel’s reputation, and are incompatible with its government’s declarations of support for a negotiated, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is particularly troubling when, as in the case of this new settlement announcement, seizures of Palestinian land and breaches of international law are undertaken in what might be seen as a manoeuvre in Israeli domestic politics, to ‘compensate’ settlers and nationalists for a political disappointment on some other front.

The international community has very clearly expressed its similar views on settlements, most recently in Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted in December, and the Declaration of the Paris Conference, which I attended in January.

Ireland’s concerns about settlements are raised with the Israeli authorities on every appropriate occasion, and are also clearly expressed at EU level and in other international fora. They are very well aware of our views.

The suggestion of sanctions is made regularly by the Deputy and others. Sanctions are not a standard response to breaches of human rights: there are very many states around the world about whom we would have very serious human rights concerns. Crucially, moreover, they can only be applied if there is general agreement to them. Successive Ministers have made quite clear that there is no prospect of sanctions being agreed at EU or UN level.

Overseas Development Aid Expenditure

 43. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to reverse the decline in the percentage of GDP allocated to overseas development aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18293/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Government is strongly committed to Ireland’s overseas aid programme, and to its place at the heart of our foreign policy. In the Programme for Government we have set out our ambition to make progress towards the UN target as resources permit. I have consistently stated that progress needs to be made in a sustainable and manageable way, which continues to strengthen Ireland's recognised role as a reliable and effective partner in providing humanitarian assistance and contributing to the fight to end global poverty and hunger.

Yesterday, the OECD published the official ODA figures for 2016. I am pleased to report that Ireland’s total contribution to ODA in 2016, increased by some 12 % on the 2015 levels, to €725 million. This is the third consecutive year of growth in the ODA volumes, and is a very clear demonstration of this Government’s commitment to increasing resources to our Aid Programme as economic conditions allow. The OECD also confirmed that we last year reversed the trend of a declining ODA/GNP percentage. Ireland’s percentage rose to 0.33% for 2016, up from 0.32% in 2015.

The challenge now is to continue to make sustained, manageable progress in meeting our commitment towards moving towards the UN target, while ensuring our aid programme continues to focus relentlessly on the core objectives of eradicating global hunger, reducing extreme poverty and providing humanitarian assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.


Last Updated: 13/04/2017 19:54:59 First Page Previous Page Page of 97 Next Page Last Page