Question No. 25
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he formally raised the expansion of illegal settlements with the Israeli Prime Minister during his recent visit to the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I propose to answer Questions 25, 41 and 43 together.
Earlier this month I undertook a four-day working visit to the Middle East, with meetings in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Gaza. In my visit to Israel and Palestine, I met with key representatives of the Government of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority, as well as leaders of other Israeli political parties, our partners in UN agencies, and non-governmental organisations. In all of these meetings I conveyed the importance the Irish people attach to the resolution of the Middle East Peace Process, something that has been a priority for me personally since I took office.
In my meetings with the Israeli authorities, I expressed Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation, including settlement construction. I had a frank discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the prospects for returning to negotiations between the parties, and how Ireland and the EU can play a constructive role in the MEPP. I set out the urgent need to break the downward spiral of the situation in Gaza, which is clearly unsustainable, and talked about ways in which it could be alleviated. I put on record my view that to bar individuals from Israel, on the basis that they hold views critical of the Government's policies, is not the way to deal with criticism.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Foreign Minister Malki, with whom I discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian people, and the prospects for reinvigorating the effort towards peace in the Middle East. I also heard about work to restore the Palestinian Authority to its role in Gaza, giving Palestinians a unified Government, an effort that I encouraged and supported. The Irish Government has for many years consistently supported the objective of Palestinian reconciliation. I also met with the UNRWA Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl, and with representatives of OCHA, and to hear first-hand about their work and the challenges they face.
I was very pleased to be able to meet in Gaza with the Palestinian Authority Minister for Public Works and Housing, as a sign that efforts to restore the Palestinian Authority role in Gaza are underway. I also met there with officials from UNRWA and the OHCHR, as well as representatives of civil society. I saw at first hand the effects of the blockade, and the effects that this is having on young people's prospects and hopes, leading to a dangerous sense of despair. I reaffirmed Ireland's commitment to working to end this situation.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the provision of a new primary school for Swords in view of the fact the existing primary schools are at capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy may be aware, in order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. My Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and my Department's own databases. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post-primary level to determine where additional school accommodation is needed.
Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:
-Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools
-Extending the capacity of a school or schools
-Provision of a new school or schools.
Nationwide demographic exercises involving all school planning areas, including the Swords school planning area, which will determine where additional school accommodation will be needed in the future is currently ongoing and this work is almost complete.
My Department has also recently contacted all of the primary schools in the Swords area to review their projected enrolments for September 2018. The schools concerned generally commenced their enrolment process for the new junior infants in early January of this year and this process is not yet complete. In that regard, the level of demand for all schools is not available at this point. Each school has issued invitations for enrolment through school notes and local announcements and are currently offering places in line with their respective enrolment policies. My Department will continue to liaise with the schools and their Patrons to keep the matter under review in the coming weeks with a view to putting any necessary arrangements in place to address any accommodation needs.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if sexual harassment complaints have been received in relation to Irish Aid or other agencies tasked with delivering ODA and funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the procedures his Department has in place to protect against the staff of aid agencies being involved in sexual abuse and exploitation; if he is reviewing their procedures in view of reports of same in the media with a view to improving them; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Sexual exploitation and abuse in any context is an affront to our values and the humanitarian imperative to ensure the safety, security and dignity of people affected by disaster or living in extreme poverty.
Effective delivery of any aspect of Ireland’s Overseas Development Assistance programme requires not only the achievement of results but also sustained investment in robust systems of governance and oversight, financial management, human resource management, and safeguarding procedures across those organisations which help deliver the programme.
Grant compliance, a condition for receipt of funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, is regularly assessed through appraisal of aid partners’ organisational systems as well as monitoring of results achieved.
The Department expects partner agencies to manage all cases of staff misconduct effectively, in compliance with the terms and conditions of their employment contracts and local law.
Organisations in receipt of funding from the Department are expected to have in place: robust human resource management policies which outline organisational standards of behaviour and related safeguarding practices; a clear framework for reporting issues internally as they arise, keeping in mind the protection and wellbeing of those making a complaint; and, documented procedures for investigation and disciplinary action, and / or referral to statutory authorities when necessary. Sharing information on complaints of sexual harassment must be handled with the utmost sensitivity and diligence by all organisations.
Reporting obligations for organisations are detailed within funding contracts. While the Department is not a statutory body with specific responsibility for handling cases of sexual exploitation or abuse, it does expect to be informed of issues that indicate a breakdown of any organisational systems necessary for effective programme delivery. Compliance issues linked to these systems are addressed on a case-by-case basis as they arise, in line with contractual obligations of funding.
As part of the process of ongoing grant monitoring and oversight, the Department will continue to request updates from partners on compliance with their policies and procedures.
The Department is convening a meeting with NGOs receiving Irish Aid funding, to share good practice in the area of safeguarding and to continue to strengthen systems to prevent and respond effectively to cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s processes for dealing with bullying, sexual harassment and related complaints are outlined in the 2015 “Dignity at Work” policy – an anti-bullying, harassment and sexual harassment policy for the Civil Service. The policy aims to promote respect, dignity, safety and equality in the workplace. Prior to 2015, such complaints were dealt with under the “Positive Working Environment” policy.
The Department examines all formal complaints made to its Human Resources Unit no matter what category they fall under. The Human Resources Unit of the Department has not received any complaints of sexual harassment against staff of its Development Cooperation Division (Irish Aid) under either the Dignity at Work” or “Positive Working Environment” policies.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to invest in its own systems and to promote best practice principles in aid delivery, to prevent and respond to issues of sexual exploitation and abuse; principles to which we expect every organisation in receipt of funding to adhere.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the primary schools newly occupied since July 2016 or due to be open by December 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am pleased to provide the Deputy with the list of new primary school buildings completed and occupied in 2016 and 2017 together with the new primary school buildings expected to reach substantial completion by the end of 2018.
The allocation of new gardaí to the Dublin metropolitan region, specifically to Swords Garda station
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the allocation of new gardaí to the Dublin metropolitan region, specifically to Swords Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8 February, 2018.
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the allocation of new gardaí to the Dublin metropolitan region, specifically to Balbriggan Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8 February, 2018.
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the allocation of new gardaí to the Dublin metropolitan region, specifically to Malahide Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8 February, 2018.
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the allocation of new gardaí to the Dublin metropolitan region, specifically to Lusk Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 8 February, 2018.
As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
The Garda Stations of Swords, Balbriggan, Malahide and Lusk are all located in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Division. I am informed by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the D.M.R. North Division on 31 December 2017 was 670 with 45 Garda Reserves and 39 Garda civilian staff also attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
As Minister Stanton outlined earlier today in the Dáil, the Garda College in Templemore was closed in 2010. It was closed by the then Government because of the severe and catastrophic economic crisis that the country was plunged into. The closure of the College and the moratorium imposed at that time has obviously had an impact on numbers in An Garda Síochána. When the last Government came into office, the initial focus was on stabilising the public finances and then returning the country to growth. Once that had been achieved, one of the Government’s first actions was to re-open the Garda College in Templemore.
I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 1,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 123 have been assigned to the D.M.R. North Division with 15 and 23 assigned to Swords and Balbriggan Garda stations respectively. I am pleased to say that Garda numbers, taking account of retirements, increased to 13,551 at the end of 2017 - a net increase of over 600 since the end of 2016.
I am also pleased that funding is in place to maintain this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. This year a further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. Also 800 Garda trainees are scheduled to attest during the year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, reach 14,000 by the end of 2018.
In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Division, including the D.M.R. North Division.
In so far as the allocation of newly attested Gardaí is concerned, this is a matter for the Commissioner. I am assured by the Commissioner that the needs of all Garda Divisions are fully considered when determining the allocation of resources. However, it is important to keep in mind that newly attested Gardaí have a further 16 months of practical and class-room based training to complete in order to receive their BA in Applied Policing. To ensure that they are properly supported and supervised and have opportunities to gain the breadth of policing experience required, the Commissioner's policy is to allocate them to specially designated training stations which have the required training and development structures and resources in place, including trained Garda tutors and access to a permanently appointed supervisory Sergeant who is thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme. I am informed that Lusk and Malahide Garda Stations are not training stations therefore new probationer Gardaí are not allocated to either station. However, it is important to note that the allocation of probationer Gardaí to a Divisional training station facilitates the reassignment of Gardaí to other stations within the Division, if required, by the Divisional Officer.
I know the Deputy had an opportunity to discuss these issues with Minister of State Stanton earlier this evening.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the amount his department has spent on temporary accommodation for a school (details supplied) in each of the years 2000 to 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) St Mologa's National School, Balbriggan, Co Dublin,
I wish to advise the Deputy that details of expenditure on temporary accommodation, at the school referred to, are available on my Department’s Financial Management System from 2003. The details of any costs incurred between 2000 and 2003 cannot be readily located. The available information is set out in the table below. I wish to advise that the amounts include both rental and buy-out costs of temporary accommodation approved for the school.
Considerable safety concerns arising from cars that have been poorly or improperly maintained by technicians
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the considerable safety concerns arising from cars that have been poorly or improperly maintained by technicians without adequate training; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Road Safety Authority, which comes under my Department's remit, has responsibility for the National Car Testing Service and Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test, both of which will detect vehicles that do not meet the required roadworthiness standards.
However, the standards of vehicle maintenance, as with other service standards, is a consumer rights matter and falls within the responsibility of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, which is under the aegis of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and do not come within the remit of my Department. Neither does the training of technicians who carry out such maintenance, or the adequacy thereof, which is a matter for Quality and Qualifications Ireland under the Minister for Education and Skills.
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his plans to introduce a national accreditation programme for car mechanics; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The introduction of a national accreditation programme for car mechanics does not fall under the remit of my Department.
In general, Further Education and Training awards, the validation of education and training programmes, and the National Framework of Qualifications are administered by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, which falls under the aegis of the Minister for Education and Skills.
Contacts with Dublin city council in relation to the plans to reduce inbound traffic at Fairview, Dublin 3 to one lane
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his contacts with Dublin city council in relation to the plans to reduce inbound traffic at Fairview, Dublin 3 to one lane; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, including the building and maintenance of cycling infrastructure or the regulation of traffic on public roads.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the development and implementation of public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) and I understand they are working closely with the relevant roads authority, Dublin City Council, on this specific scheme.
Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for a more detailed reply with regard to this particular project. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.
To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport his contacts with Dublin city council in relation to the plans to pedestrianise College Green, Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport however I am not involved in the day-to-day development of public transport or sustainable transport interventions, including the specific plans for College Green.
As the Deputy may be aware Dublin City Council and the NTA jointly published the Dublin City Centre Transport Study in 2015 which sets out the various measures proposed for the city centre to ensure the efficient functioning of transport with the city centre. Those two bodies, in collaboration with Dublin Bus and TII, are progressively implementing the measures set out in that document to enable the continued development and growth of the city.
The College Green Plaza proposal is being progressed by Dublin City Council whilst the regulation of traffic flows including pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, buses and the Luas, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), both agencies under the aegis of my Department, and Dublin City Council.
In advance of the City Council's plaza proposal being formally determined by An Bord Pleanala, the NTA have collaborated with Dublin Bus and Dublin City Council to reduce bus vehicle volumes passing through the area, in order to allow city centre junctions and signals to function more effectively. The NTA, TII and Dublin City Council also continue to collaborate on provisions for pedestrians and cyclists in relation to the Luas tracks. These parties continue to work together to ensure that the Dublin City Centre Transport Study in 2015 measures, including the plaza proposal, enhances the city centre environment, including for users of all transport modes.