To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the provision of coastal erosion protection measures at Portrane, County Dublin; the funding he has allocated for this project; the expected commencement date of work on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien TD
The management of problems of coastal protection in the area indicated is a matter for Fingal County Council in the first instance. The Council must assess the problem and, if it is considered that specific measures and works are required, it is open to the Council to apply for funding under the Office of Public Works' (OPW) Minor Flood Mitigation Works & Coastal Protection Scheme. Any application received will be assessed under the eligibility criteria, which include a requirement that any measures are cost beneficial, and having regard to the overall availability of funding. Where funding is provided to a local authority under the Minor Works scheme, it is a matter for the local authority to progress and oversee the completion of the works. The OPW does not become involved in the implementation of the works.
I have been advised that my Office is not in receipt of any application currently under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for Portrane.
I am aware however, that Fingal County Council is currently progressing the procurement of a study to provide solutions to the Coastal flooding at this location. OPW will liaise with FCC as appropriate in this regard.
Number of companies that have made formal inquiries to government departments, State agencies or the Central Bank in regard to relocating here as a consequence of Brexit
To ask the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation the number of companies that have made formal inquiries to government departments, State agencies or the Central Bank in regard to relocating here as a consequence of Brexit; the number of jobs that have been created here as a direct consequence of companies locating here as a result of Brexit; the number of jobs she expects to be created as a consequence of companies locating here; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The IDA continues to work hard to secure new foreign direct investment (FDI) for Ireland, including from companies that may be attracted to locate or expand here on account of Brexit. Convincing these companies to invest in Ireland, however, can be a delicate process that requires perseverance and patience. This is especially the case with regard to Brexit-related investment. It is therefore not in the country’s interests to describe, in detail, the engagement to date between the IDA and new investors or any inquiries that the Central Bank may have received. In fact, to do so would risk both compromising the progress that has been made with prospective new clients of the IDA and losing the potential jobs that might accompany any such new future investment here.
It is not possible to quantify the precise number of FDI-related jobs that may have been created here on account of Brexit. That is partly because companies that have expanded or invested in Ireland over the last 12 months have done so for many different reasons, not simply because of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union.
I am confident that Ireland will remain attractive to new investment in the time ahead, whether Brexit-related or otherwise, and that we will continue to see significant FDI-related job creation. That is because the attributes that have made this country one of the leading global locations for FDI – including our talented workforce, first-rate education system and pro-enterprise policy environment – continue to be highly valued by multinational companies.
Recent actions taken to address the situation of the undocumented Irish in the United States of America
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent actions taken to address the situation of the undocumented Irish in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
The Government’s objectives regarding our undocumented citizens in the United States remain unchanged, namely: to achieve relief for the undocumented and facilitate greater pathways for legal migration to the United States.
In pursuit of these objectives the Government and Ireland’s diplomatic representatives in the US systematically avail of opportunities to raise immigration and the situation of the undocumented with the US Administration and Congressional representatives.
I raised these issues myself during my meetings in January and early February with senior members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and representatives of the new Administration in Washington DC.
The Taoiseach subsequently used the opportunity of his meetings with President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Speaker Ryan, and other senior US leaders during the St. Patrick’s Day engagements in Washington DC to raise immigration-related issues and to convey the continuing importance which we attach to them.
My colleague, Minister of State Joe McHugh, visited New York in March, where he met a number of emigrant support groups who are directly involved in supporting the undocumented and heard their perspectives on recent developments. Subsequently, on 3 May, Minister of State McHugh convened a discussion in my Department’s Headquarters on the challenges facing the undocumented Irish community in the US. This event took place on the eve of the Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin and brought together leading figures who are committed to this issue, including a number of our Senators and representatives of Irish Immigration Centers, as well as the deputy head of mission in our Embassy in Washington, and a representative of families of undocumented citizens abroad.
Minister of State McHugh also recently announced an additional €50,000 funding from the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme budget for the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres, which provides authoritative advice and vital services to our undocumented citizens in the US.
Issues around immigration and the undocumented are an important element of the work of Ireland’s diplomatic representatives in the US. Our Embassy in Washington and our six Consulates across the United States work with Irish immigration centres on a daily basis in providing support to Irish citizens.
I can assure the Deputies of the Government’s continued commitment to pursuing these matters on behalf of our citizens in the US.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of additional staff that have been deployed to embassies and consulates since 23 June 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25615/17 Lottery: 12 Proof: 53
Additional capabilities and resources have been assigned across my Department to address issues arising from the complex process of the UK exit from the EU. In general terms, all of our diplomatic Missions across the EU are working extensively on the UK exit issue as are a number of embassies further afield.
At Headquarters the key Divisions of European Union Division and the Ireland, UK and Americas (IUKA) Division, both headed at Second Secretary General level, have been assigned additional resources. The European Union Division contains a dedicated team focused exclusively on the EU-UK negotiations, led by a senior officer at Counsellor level. Within the IUKA Division, there is a Brexit-specific policy co-ordination function now in place and there are teams focused on Northern Ireland and on wider British-Irish Relations; their duties include Brexit related issues.
Many business units of the Department at its headquarters in Dublin are involved as part of the strategic response to the UK exit and staff numbers have been augmented, for example in the Legal Division, the Trade Division and the Policy Planning Unit. There is also an intra-Departmental senior management group focusing on issues relating to the UK exit, chaired by the Secretary General and comprising senior officials from across all relevant business units of the Department.
A number of officers are seconded to the Department of the Taoiseach and working on EU matters, while two officers are seconded to the International and EU Relations Division of the Department of Finance.
In relation to citizen services there has been a marked increase in demand for passports and citizenship via foreign birth registration from applicants in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. In response to this and a significantly increased seasonal demand, we have recruited over 300 temporary and fulltime clerical officers to meet demands for our Passport and Consular Services and these additional resources have been assigned to our Dublin, Cork and London operations.
Overseas, specific additional senior diplomatic posts have been assigned to our Embassies in London, Berlin and Paris as well as the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels. The Permanent Representation in Brussels has a unit dedicated to managing our response to this issue comprising a Counsellor, First Secretary and Third Secretary.
Berlin and Paris each have had senior diplomats assigned to the embassy teams with a specific Brexit remit. London has augmented both its diplomatic staff and its administrative teams.
These measures, which comprise the initial phase of our response to the UK decision to leave the EU, remain under review as the Government carries out its work in response to the UK referendum decision and as preparations for the forthcoming negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU intensify.
Detail of the requirement for all first time passport applicants aged 18 years of age and over to have a public service card
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the detail of the requirement for all first time passport applicants aged 18 years of age and over to have a public service card; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25614/17 Lottery: 11 Proof: 52
Part Transferred Out.. Details ---> Social Protection - White No 77
Since 29 March last year my Department has required all first-time passport applicants aged eighteen and above who are resident in Ireland to hold a valid Public Services Card. This requirement also applies to the small number of adult passport applicants whose last passport was issued before 1 January 2005 and has since been reported as lost, stolen or damaged.
This measure has been an important step in protecting against fraud and identity theft and in upholding the integrity of the Irish passport. It also ensures that the identity of first-time applicants for Irish passports continues to be verified to a high standard.
The impact on adult first-time passport applicants is that they no longer need to supply a certified copy of a document such as a driving license or student card for identification purposes. The card also dispenses with the current requirement for additional proof of name. Proof of address is still required. The introduction of the requirement has had no significant impact on customer service or on the processing time for first-time passport applications.
If Ireland's neutrality status or corporate tax rate was discussed in any of the meetings he has attended at EU level to discuss and agree the Brexit negotiation guidelines
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland's neutrality status or corporate tax rate was discussed in any of the meetings he has attended at EU level to discuss and agree the Brexit negotiation guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For PRIORITY answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25701/17 Lottery: 3
Over the course of the past eleven months since the referendum in the UK, I – along with my Government colleagues – have been engaged in an extensive programme of engagement with our EU partners on Brexit. There have been over 400 such engagements with the 27 EU Member States and the EU Institutions, which has included most recently the visit of the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to Ireland. This programme of engagement has been led by the Taoiseach, as well as my colleagues from across Government, complemented by official level meetings. For my part, I have had nearly 100 engagements with my EU counterparts and with the EU institutions.
A central goal of this engagement has been to ensure Ireland’s unique concerns in relation to Brexit are understood by our EU partners and to seek explicit recognition of these issues and priorities in the EU’s position for the withdrawal negotiations.
Throughout my engagement with partners I have laid particular emphasis on the political imperative of achieving flexible and imaginative solutions in relation to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, in particular with a view to avoiding a hard border. In so doing, I have been equally clear that we will only pursue solutions that are compatible with our aim of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.
This extensive political, diplomatic and official campaign has been effective. This was reflected most recently in the clear statement of support given by Michel Barnier when he said during his address to Joint Houses of the Oireachtas that Ireland’s interests in the upcoming negotiations will be the EU’s interests. Even more importantly, this has been demonstrated in practice through the strong acknowledgement of Ireland’s issues in the European Council Guidelines, the detailed negotiating Directives and the European Parliament’s resolution on Brexit.
The EU Guidelines adopted by the Taoiseach and his counterparts on 29 April fully take account of the Government’s priority of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including the need for flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland as well as recognising bilateral agreements and arrangements between Ireland and the UK, including the Common Travel Area.
The EU’s negotiating directives, which were agreed by the General Affairs Council on 22 May are fully in line with the EU Guidelines and additionally reflect the need to take full account of the situation of Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland who will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens. They also recognise the need to address issues arising from Ireland’s unique geographic situation, including the transit of goods to and from Ireland via the UK.
Neither Ireland’s neutrality status nor our corporation tax have been raised in any of my engagements with EU partners, or those of my officials, in relation to the EU’s Negotiating Guidelines and Directives. These are matters which have no bearing on the forthcoming negotiations between the EU and the UK.
Moreover, I have been struck by the very genuine level of engagement and understanding demonstrated by our EU partners with regard to the significant political challenges that Brexit poses to Ireland and in particular the peace process. Finding solutions will be a difficult exercise, but my engagement with EU partners has left me fully confident that we can count on their support as we seek the right outcome for Ireland at the end of what will be complex negotiations.
Number of new and renewal passport applications respectively in the system; the target turnaround time for each category of applicant
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of new and renewal passport applications respectively in the system; the target turnaround time for each category of applicant; the actual turnaround time for each category of applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For PRIORITY answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25613/17 Lottery: 1 Proof: 64
PQ Type changed from ---> Oral; (White No - 38; on 30/05/2017)
As of 26 May, there were almost 80,000 passport applications in the processing system. Of these, approximately 34,000 were first-time applications and 46,000 were renewals.
The turnaround time for online applications is 10 working days plus postage.
The target turnaround time for Passport Express renewal applications is 15 working days and this is currently being met.
The target turnaround time for first-time applications and applications for renewal of lost, stolen or damaged passports through Passport Express is 20 working days. These categories of application take longer due to the extra security checks involved.
The average turnaround time for these applications is currently 24 working days. This is mainly as a result of the exceptionally large volume of applications in the processing system.
As more applicants use the Online Passport Application Service, the efficiency gains will help improve turnaround times more broadly. I urge all Deputies to promote the use of this service to all adults who qualify.
I would like to take the opportunity also to reiterate how important it is that applicants choose the most appropriate application channel, depending on their individual circumstances. The Passport Express option should only be used by those who are travelling in three weeks or more. Anyone renewing a passport who needs to travel in under three weeks should make an appointment online to apply in person at the Passport Offices in either Dublin or Cork. However, naturally there is a limited number of such appointments available and it is very important that we collectively promote best practice and encourage citizens to check their passport is in date before booking travel. It is considered best practice to allow six weeks for a passport application as difficulties can arise where an application is incomplete.
My Department provides a free renewal reminder email service and, again, I would ask Deputies to join me in promoting the use of this service.
All applicants are advised on notes accompanying the passport application form to check current turnaround times online on website of my Department. These are updated weekly.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that have been taken by the European Union to address the ongoing situation in Turkey which has resulted in a shutdown of the media and the arrest of thousands of persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017.
Ref No: 25720/17
Since the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, the EU and its Member States, including Ireland, have continued to monitor developments, and have repeated our serious concerns about democracy, human rights, rule of law and freedom of expression, including media freedom. The ongoing negative developments in Turkey, particularly in light of the referendum passed by a narrow majority on 16 April, were most recently discussed in detail at the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (Gymnich) on 28 April, which I attended.
Foreign Ministers agreed that the long-term future of all the citizens of Turkey is at the heart of the EU-Turkey relationship. In that context, the accession process with Turkey would not be ‘suspended or ended’: if Turkey is interested in proceeding, the criteria, including on core EU values, are clear and Turkey knows what it has to do.
While the EU acknowledges that Turkey has a right to decide its own governance, it has called for investigations into alleged irregularities in the conduct of the referendum as highlighted by both the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The EU will continue to work closely with the Council of Europe in encouraging frank, open and serious discussions with Turkey.
On 25 May, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council, Donald Tusk met President Erdogan in Brussels. They reiterated the EU’s concern at the situation in Turkey in relation to recent developments.
Ireland agrees with the EU’s approach - it aligns completely with our own views about the future of the relationship with Turkey.
I have previously expressed my concern at the number of dismissals and detentions in Turkey, and I repeat that it is critically important that the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial are respected. The ongoing media crackdown has resulted in the closure of over 170 media outlets, the arrest and detention of over 150 journalists, and the blocking or slowing down of social media accounts and websites eg Wikipedia. My concerns about the restrictions on freedom of media expression have not abated since the referendum.
The relationship with Turkey will remain on the EU agenda, and I will continue to raise my concerns about democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression, including media expression at every appropriate opportunity.
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding progress on a permanent school building project for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) Rush National School, Rush, Co. Dublin
The major school building project to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of
architectural planning - Stage 2(b). All Statutory approvals have been secured
and the Design Team are completing the preparation of Tender Documents.
The design team will submit the stage 2(b) report to my Department when it is completed and my Department will revert to the school with regard to the further progression of the project
following consideration of that report.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice her views on whether the government will meet its target of accepting 4,000 persons under the Irish refugee protection programme by the end of 2017
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to parliamentary question numbers 156 to 158 of 23 May 2017, her views on whether the government will meet its target of accepting 4,000 persons under the Irish refugee protection programme by the end of 2017 in view of the fact that to date it has only accepted 1,238 persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton)
The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of mass migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Under this programme, the Government has pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State, 2,622 through the EU relocation mechanism established by two EU Council Decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, 1,040 (519 by the end of 2016 and the remainder in 2017) under the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme currently focussed on resettling refugees from Lebanon, and the balance through a variety of mechanisms. Some elements of this intake, such as the relocation strand, come with a time limit of two years and other elements are not time limited.
As regards the resettlement strand of the Programme Ireland had taken in 519 of the original commitment of 520 by the end of 2016 a year ahead of schedule. Last year the Government doubled its commitment under resettlement to 1,040 and the total to have arrived from Lebanon under refugee resettlement now stands at 779. The remaining 261 persons to arrive under resettlement have been selected and assessed and are expected to arrive later in the year.
In terms of the relocation aspect of the IRPP, allocations under the relevant EU Council Decisions are composed of three elements:
an intake from Greece of 1,089 asylum seekers
an intake from Italy of 623 asylum seekers and
an allocation of 910 asylum seekers which has not yet been assigned to either Italy or Greece.
Ireland will meet in full its commitment to Greece. 459 of the allocation of 1,089 are already in the State and a further 320 have been assessed and are awaiting transportation. A further mission to assess the next 100 is scheduled to take place in Athens next week and missions to fill the remaining 210 places under this strand of the Programme have been scheduled with the Greek authorities between now and September 2017. However, as explained in responses to a related parliamentary question tabled by the Deputy last week, Italy, unlike Greece, will not permit security assessments to be undertaken by other States on its territory. Accordingly, Ireland has been unable to undertake security assessments on its territory of the asylum seeker cohort eligible for relocation to Ireland. It has therefore not been possible for Ireland to take asylum seekers from Italy. Intensive efforts are ongoing to resolve this, both bilaterally with Italian counterparts at official, diplomatic and Ministerial level, and at EU level, including through the European Commission. A solution may yet emerge from a recent meeting held in Rome between senior officials from Ireland and Italy.
In terms of the unallocated portion contained in the two EU Council Decisions referred to above, which in the case of Ireland amounts to 910 persons, Ireland cannot access this component until a decision is taken at EU level to allocate these numbers as between Greece and Italy. It is understood that the European Commission are examining allocating this "unassigned" portion and if they do Ireland will immediately work towards relocating them.
Ireland is doing everything it can to give effect to the EU relocation Decisions and what can unambiguously be said is that, should it be the case that despite all Ireland's efforts, the relocation mechanism does not permit Ireland to take in sufficient numbers of asylum seekers under relocation, then the Government commitment to take in 4,000 people remains and Ireland will take in these numbers through other mechanisms should this prove necessary.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section