Tanaiste, Foreign Affairs and Trade

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his involvement in Congo - 30th April 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 63 of 8 April 2014, the Government’s position regarding the Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN allegations regarding his involvement in Congo.

REPLY

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore)

As highlighted in my response to Question No. 63 of 8 April 2014, Ireland is actively engaged at both European Union and United Nations level in relation to the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region.

The Government, along with our partners at the EU and UN, condemns all forms of external support to destabilising forces active in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The focus by all sides must be on finding a durable solution to the ongoing crisis in the DRC and the region. It is imperative that regional Governments, including the Government of Rwanda, cooperate with the United Nations and play a positive role in searching for peace and stability. In this regard, I note that Rwanda is one of the signatories of the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Great Lakes Region which was signed in the presence of the UN Secretary General in Addis Ababa on 24 February 2013.

Ireland is supporting former President Mary Robinson in her important role, as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Great Lakes region of Africa, to coordinate and assess the implementation of national and regional commitments under the Framework Agreement. In December 2013, Ireland contributed €300,000 to the UN Trust Fund in support of the Office of the Special Envoy. We are also actively considering support for the Women’s Platform for the peace process in the Great Lakes Region which is under the guidance of Special Envoy Robinson.

Since 2009, Ireland has provided €44.6 million in response to the crisis in the DRC. In 2013 alone, Ireland provided over €5.5 million in humanitarian funding to the DRC – €3.8 million was provided to the Common Humanitarian Fund for the DRC, while the remaining €1.8 million was allocated to NGO partners.

 The ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo – 8th April 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the Government’s position regarding Rwanda President Paul Kagame and UN allegations regarding his involvement in Congo.

Reply

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to face one of the most complex and enduring humanitarian crises in the world. Ongoing conflict, human rights violations and gender-based violence in the east of the country continue to displace hundreds of thousands of people internally and across borders into neighbouring countries. It is vital to counter and deal with all destabilising forces in the region, that regional Governments, including the Government of Rwanda, cooperate with the United Nations on this and play a positive role in searching for peace and stability. Central to this is the process of reconciliation, justice for the perpetrators of human rights abuses and peace building, so that the myriad development needs of the people in eastern DRC can be met.

The EU pursues a comprehensive approach to the DRC and Great Lakes region encompassing political, security, development and humanitarian response. The main focus of the EU’s political engagement is supporting the implementation of the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Great Lakes Region which was signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February 2013. The signatories of the Framework Agreement are the DRC and its 10 neighbours, including Rwanda.

Former President Mary Robinson was appointed on 18 March 2013 as the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Great Lakes region of Africa and her role is to coordinate and assess the implementation of national and regional commitments under the Framework Agreement. Ireland is committed to supporting this work and in December 2013, Ireland contributed €300,000 to the UN Trust Fund in support of the Office of the Special Envoy. We are also actively considering support for the Women’s Platform for the peace process in the Great Lakes Region which is under the guidance of Special Envoy Robinson.

Since 2009, Ireland has provided €44.6 million in response to the crisis in the DRC. In 2013 alone, Ireland provided over €5.5 million in humanitarian funding to the DRC – €3.8 million was provided to the Common Humanitarian Fund for the DRC, while the remaining €1.8 million was allocated to NGO partners.

System of scoring for the Department’s election monitoring roster (No.3) - 4th March 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 132 of 11 February 2014, if he will provide details of the election missions in which the OSCE specified that a second relevant local language, other than Russian, would be desirable for missions in 2013 and 2014 and the language in question for each mission; if marks were awarded to applicants claiming to have such languages as part of the assessment process; if he will detail the way language abilities claimed by applicants were tested as part of the selection process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Joe Costello):

Further to my replies to two Parliamentary Questions on this matter last month, I can confirm that Ireland nominated observers for eight OSCE monitoring missions between 1 January 2013 and 28 February 2014. The missions were to Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As set out in a previous reply, English is the primary language used on OSCE Missions, and knowledge of a second relevant language is usually indicated as desirable. For all eight missions since the start of 2013, the OSCE stated that ‘command of the English Language is essential and knowledge of local languages is desirable, but not essential’.

Ireland’s Election Observation Roster services both EU and OSCE-led election observation missions. Since the start of 2013, we have provided observers for eleven EU monitoring missions. For six of these, the observers were required to have fluency in a language other than English.

I regard it as important that language proficiency was one of the four criteria for the selection of roster members. All applicants for the new roster were required to set out their language proficiency in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic. Applicants could also indicate their proficiency in other languages. Candidates were asked to indicate their levels of proficiency, what formal study had been undertaken, and their usage of the languages. Although language skills were not tested orally, it is important to note that the EU carries out spot checks on language proficiency among candidates nominated to take part in election observer missions.

Irish participation at international conference on humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Mexico – 13th February 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will play an active part in the second international conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, taking place in Mexico on 13-14 February 2014.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

The Deputy may be assured that Ireland strongly supports international efforts to focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and that we will continue to play an active part in all related discussions, including at the Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Mexico this week. Officials from my Department will actively participate in that Conference.

At the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva in 2012, which marked the beginning of the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review cycle, Switzerland delivered a joint statement on behalf of sixteen countries, including Ireland, on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament. Since then, over successive NPT and UNGA First Committee meetings, support for the statement has grown from 16 to 35 to 80 and, at the 2013 First Committee meeting of the UN General Assembly, to 125 states – a majority of UN members.  Ireland participated in the First International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the Norwegian Government in Oslo on 4 and 5 March 2013.  We will remain closely associated with this humanitarian initiative, as one of the original sixteen initiators of the joint statement.

I believe that discussion of the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear detonation offers a basis for reframing the nuclear disarmament debate in such a way that the catastrophic consequences so evident in Hiroshima and Nagasaki guide international efforts to eliminate nuclear arsenals entirely.

System of scoring for the Department’s election monitoring roster (No.2) -11th February 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 153 of 4 February 2014, the reason the four criteria carried equal weighting when one criteria, for example experience, is vastly more important than language skills as such supports are generally provided in-country.

Reply

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Joe Costello):

Further to my previous replies to Parliamentary Questions on this issue, I wish to reiterate the importance that Ireland attaches to participation in international election monitoring missions, particularly in the light of our strong commitment to the promotion of human rights and democracy.

Ireland’s election observation roster has been put in place to facilitate the deployment at short notice of suitably qualified individuals to participate in international election observation missions, organised in the main by the EU and the OSCE.

The EU and the OSCE set the specific skills requirements for election observation missions and make the final call in selecting observers to participate in individual missions. Requirements set for participation include relevant language skills, good knowledge and/or experience of electoral processes, knowledge of human rights and/or governance issues, and relevant regional experience.

Ireland has had very good success in recent years in terms of having nominees selected to participate in missions led by the EU and the OSCE. In order to ensure this continued success, it was critical that a new election observation roster contained the right mix of skills and experience, matching the specific requirements set by the EU and the OSCE.
Specific, often difficult, language skills are frequently sought by the EU and the OSCE in organizing missions. The importance of having this as a criterion for inclusion in the new roster is borne out by recent calls to serve on election monitoring missions. In 2013, for example, Irish roster nominees took part in eleven election monitoring missions overseen by the EU. Six of those missions required fluency in a primary language other than English. In the case of the OSCE, while English is the primary language used on missions, knowledge of a second relevant local language is usually indicated as desirable for election observers. The trend for 2014 so far mirrors the 2013 experience.

Given the range of experience and specific skills requested by both the EU and OSCE for participation in election observation missions, I am satisfied that the four criteria selected to assess applications for Ireland’s new roster were appropriate and merited equal weighting. The assessment of applications against these four criteria was carried out in a fair and impartial way. I am confident that, given the broad mix of skills and experience across our new roster, Ireland will be in a position to maintain our active participation in international election observation missions into the future.

Monitoring state expenditure on Africa Day – 4th February 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of money the State has contributed to the holding of Africa day in 2012 and 2013; the amount committed for 2014; the amount of money that went directly to consultants and the amount provided that went on consultancy fees including plans for 2014; the reason this money was not given directly to the communities and groups participating in Africa day; if the spend of this money is audited; and if he will provide a breakdown of this spend.

Reply

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Joe Costello):

Africa Day on 25 May is the official day of the African Union. Through Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has taken a leading role in encouraging and supporting initiatives to mark Africa Day in Ireland.  The objectives are to increase awareness of the Government’s aid programme, which is strongly focused on sub-Saharan Africa;  to build greater public understanding of Africa and African issues, by highlighting the diversity and potential of the continent and its people;  and to enhance awareness of the potential for bilateral trade and investment links between Ireland and African countries.

The Department encourages, and provides funding for, the organisation of community events throughout the country in cooperation with local authorities in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.  Community and civil society groups also receive support to participate in the National Flagship Event.  In 2013, this event was held in the Farmleigh Estate in Dublin.  Some 46 community groups and NGOs took-part, and 34,000 people attended the event, making it the most successful Africa Day in Ireland to date.

While the Department, through Irish Aid, has always taken the lead on Africa Day, in cooperation with community groups, local authorities and African community and diplomatic representatives, it is clear that the coordination, promotion and implementation of a programme of events on this scale requires some professional expertise.  To this end, a contractor with experience in large-scale event management and publicity has been engaged each year by the Department,  on the basis of an open tendering process.

The table below provides a breakdown of the costs to the Department of Africa Day, in 2012 and 2013.  This expenditure is subject to audit and review, both internally and externally.

Click here for table.

For Africa Day events in 2014 some €180,000 has been allocated provisionally at this stage, with approximately half of the funding to be directed to regional community events organised in cooperation with local authorities.  There has been no expenditure on the 2014 Africa Day programme so far.

System of scoring for the Department’s election monitoring roster – 4th February 2014

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 35 of 14 November and 51 of 12 November 2013, how it came to be, that using the system of scoring adopted by the Department, persons who had previously been selected to serve on the Department’s election monitoring roster when they had no prior experience in election monitoring abroad, were subsequently not selected for the new roster, even though they had by that time gained significant experience in election monitoring.

Reply

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Joe Costello):

International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights.  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains and administers a roster of observers for such missions.   The aim is to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level in international observation missions for both elections and constitutional referendums.

The Department carried out a comprehensive review of the election observation roster in 2013.  Following a call for applications which was issued by the Department in January 2013, a new roster comprising 200 individuals with a strong mix of skills and experience came into effect on 15th May 2013, for a five year period.

Applications to join the new election observation roster were invited from members of the existing roster and members of the public not on the roster.  All applicants were requested to submit an application form setting out their relevant qualifications, knowledge and experience.   263 eligible applications were received and included a combination of existing roster members and new applicants.

In the interests or fairness and transparency, all 263 applications were scored independently by two assessors external to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade against four criteria.  These criteria were clearly set out in the Information Note for applicants.  They were:  Language Skills; Experience of election observation; Knowledge of human rights and / or governance issues; and experience of living in challenging environments.  Applicants were asked to demonstrate their proficiency or experience as appropriate and to provide concrete written examples under each of the four criteria to support their application.

In order to ensure fairness and consistency in the scoring of applications, the external assessors were provided with a scoring guideline, which set out how marks were to be awarded under each criterion.  All four criteria carried equal weighting.   This methodology applied equally to all applicants.   Given the high quality of applications received, successful candidates had to score highly against more than one of the criteria in order to ensure selection for the new roster.

I am satisfied that all applicants were treated fairly and impartially.   I would note that unsuccessful applicants were invited to request feedback on their applications.  In addition, in my reply to a previous Question, I outlined the offer of a review process.

On foot of feedback received, two unsuccessful applicants requested a final review of their applications. In both cases, the reviewer was of the view that the scoring of the applications was fair and impartial across all four published criteria.   As indicated previously, it was recommended in one case that the applicant’s score be adjusted marginally upwards.  This adjustment did not affect the final outcome in relation to placement on the roster, however.

Getting on the roster for election observation missions – 12th November 2013

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 8 October, if he will be publishing a new roster in 2014; if the current roster will be amended in any way before a new roster is brought in; if any additions can be made to the existing roster; and if not what those persons interested in participating in observation missions should do in the interim.

Reply

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Joe Costello):

International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains and administers a roster of observers for such missions. The aim is to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level in international observation missions for both elections and constitutional referendums.

The Department carried out a comprehensive review of the election observation roster earlier this year. Following a public call for applications, and an appraisal process against published criteria, 200 individuals with a strong mix of skills and experience were selected to serve on a new roster. This new roster came into effect on 15 May 2013 for a period of five years. A reserve panel was established from which applicants will be drawn should any roster members leave the roster during the five year period.

The Department nominates roster members to participate in missions organised mainly by the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. These nominations are made following invitation by the organisations concerned. A number of international organisations, including the Carter Centre, the National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, also recruit directly for participation in election monitoring. It is open to persons interested in participating in such missions, who are not on the Department’s roster, to apply directly to these organizations if they are interested in participating in their missions.

Irish embassies in Libya – 18th September 2013

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when an Irish consul will be appointed to Libya; when an Irish Embassy will be established in Libya ; and if the Libyan National Transitional Council have offered to fund an Irish Embassy in Tripoli.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

The scale and deployment of our diplomatic and honorary consul network is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis taking account also of the resources available to us at this time.  There are no immediate plans to appoint an Honorary Consul in Libya nor to establish an Embassy there.  My Department is unaware of any offer to fund an Embassy having being made by the Libyan Transitional National Council, which was superseded in 2012 by the current Libyan Government and the National Assembly.

International Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Oslo – 19th February 2013

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will be represented at the forthcoming International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, to be held on 4-5 March in Oslo.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

I welcome and strongly support the initiative by the Norwegian Government to host an International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. I believe that this Conference — and, indeed, discussion around this topic more generally — will help to highlight the calamitous, unmanageable and immoral implications of any use, whether accidental or deliberate, of nuclear weapons. It will also help to demonstrate once again that the possession of nuclear weapons entails unacceptable risks and that there is no place for these weapons in defensive arsenals or security postures.

The Deputy may be aware that there was discussion of the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which expressed its “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed “the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law”.

When the preparatory process towards the next (2015) NPT Review Conference commenced in Vienna last May, Switzerland sought to generate discussion around this topic with a joint statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, which it delivered on behalf of 16 States. It delivered the same statement to the 67th UN General Assembly First Committee meeting in October on behalf of 34 States. Ireland was involved with both statements from the outset and we are associated by name with them.

I can confirm to the Deputy that Ireland will participate actively in the Oslo Conference. Last December I was invited by my Norwegian counterpart to nominate Irish representatives at senior official and expert level to participate in the Conference. The Director for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will attend on my behalf. Our Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, which covers disarmament issues, will also be represented. We are consulting with other interested Government Departments to establish how best we might frame a constructive contribution to the discussion in Oslo.

The Conference will be preceded by a civil society meeting, organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which will debate the same topic. A contingent of NGOs from the civil society meeting will then participate in the official conference. I believe that civil society has an extremely important role to play in raising awareness about this important issue and in contributing to debate. I would of course hope that Irish civil society will be able to feed into the useful and timely discussion now emerging.

Ireland has an established track record of support for efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and I can assure the Deputy that it is my intention that we will continue to participate actively in these efforts.

The use of depleted uranium in war munitions – 7th February 2013

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his position on the use of depleted uranium in war munitions.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

Ireland does not possess, and has never possessed, any weapons, armaments or ammunition containing depleted uranium. It is the firm policy of the Government that depleted uranium munitions will never be used by the Defence Forces.

Ireland has voted in favour of the four resolutions on depleted uranium taken at the United Nations General Assembly since 2007, most recently in December 2012 when General Assembly Resolution 67/36 was supported by 155 States. These resolutions requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of member States and relevant international organisations on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium.

Research carried out to date by the relevant international organisations, including by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has concluded that depleted uranium does not pose a significant radiological risk. Other research has consistently returned inconclusive results.

Following consultations with the Department of Defence, Ireland provided a national report to the UN Secretary-General in 2009. This confirmed that, while there is no practical method of testing people who may have been exposed to depleted uranium, thorough medical examinations are carried out on all Defence Forces personnel returning from deployment overseas. These include tests intended to detect signs of those disease processes most likely to arise in cases of contamination with depleted uranium. To date, no evidence of an unusual incidence of disease has been found.

At present, there is no international framework or treaty relating to depleted uranium munitions and, consequently, no internationally agreed definition or prohibition. To achieve the political momentum required for implementing an international ban, a necessary condition would be to establish conclusively the negative impact of depleted uranium on human health and on the environment.

The Government supports further study and research by relevant international organisations and the scientific community and is not currently considering the introduction of legislation on depleted uranium weapons. A number of like-minded partners, including Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain, have adopted a similar approach.

Employment practices in the civil service - 6th February 2013

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

Details are set out in the table provided of the retired officials of my Department who are currently contracted to the Department.

The temporary Clerical Officers were recruited through an open competition organised by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

My Department’s Development Cooperation Division also occasionally engages a small number of retired staff for short duration specialist consultancy projects connected with the activities of Irish Aid.

The policy of my Department regarding the re-engagement of retired officials is to do so to the minimum extent possible. However, for certain once-off or short-duration projects, it is more productive and cost-effective to re-engage retired staff who already have the relevant expertise and experience than to go through a time-consuming and relatively expensive recruitment, induction and training process. Where it occurs, retired staff are usually re-engaged on a pension abatement basis, which means in effect that they continue to receive their pensions and are paid correspondingly reduced salaries by the Department.

The records currently available to my Department do not enable me to respond in full as regards retired public sector workers currently employed. However, under the provisions of the Public Service Pensions (Single Schemes & Other Provisions) Act 2012, new employees are required to declare if they are in receipt of, or entitled to, a pension from previous service in the public sector.

Public Sector Rostering – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Eamon Gilmore):

I understand that the Deputy’s question relates to cases involving staff being moved from roster-working to annualised hours.  No such cases arise in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Actions points by Trociare regarding Ireland’s Presidency of the EU - 25th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will consider the seven action points put forward by Trocaire in relation to Ireland’s presidency of the EU in 2013; and his thoughts on same.

Reply

The Minister of State for Trade and Development (Joe Costello):

Ireland’s EU Presidency offers an important opportunity to lead and influence debate on international development issues, with a credibility based on the strength and effectiveness of our aid programme.  In focusing on EU development policy during the Presidency, we will seek to build on the strong focus in Ireland’s aid programme on the fight to end hunger and undernutrition and the growing impact of global challenges, including climate change.

The Irish Presidency comes at a crucial period for international development policy, as the international community opens discussion on the framework for global development after 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.  A special political meeting will be held at the United Nations, probably in September 2013, to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals and to begin consideration of the post-2015 development framework.

A key priority for Ireland’s Presidency will be to ensure that the EU adopts a strong, coherent position for this Millennium Development Goals event.  In working with our partners to guide discussions on the post-2015 development framework we will build on our commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world.  We will also work to highlight the important linkages between hunger, nutrition and climate change and to have these linkages recognised for future policy and programming internationally.

We will also work to forge stronger links between humanitarian relief and development aid, based on experience in emergencies in recent years.  Drawing on lessons from the Horn of Africa emergency in 2011 and with input from our partners in developing countries, we will explore the practical application of these principles and showcase examples of best practice. We will place particular emphasis on the EU’s approach to disaster risk reduction, helping communities to prepare and take action to avert the effects of disasters and emergencies.  We plan to hold an informal meeting of EU Development Ministers in Dublin in February 2013, which will be the first opportunity for substantive discussion by Ministers of all these key issues.

I and my officials have been consulting closely with Ireland’s development NGOs in preparation for the EU Presidency.  The policy document just published by Trócaire is an important contribution to the discussion.  I look forward to continuing our dialogue with Trócaire and the other members of Dóchas, the umbrella body for the development NGOs, in the lead-up to and during the EU Presidency.

The Minister’s opinion on the Mexican Presidential elections – 18th September 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the outcome of the recent Mexican presidential elections, following reports of vote-rigging, vote-buying and unfair media coverage during the campaign.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The Presidential election in Mexico took place on 1st July 2012.  Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the PRI – the Institutional Revolutionary Party – has been confirmed by the Mexican electoral authorities as the winner of the election and will take office on 1 December.

Mexico’s legislative framework for elections is highly detailed and provides for independent and non-partisan electoral bodies and dispute mechanisms. Reforms in this area in recent years have strengthened further the framework and the transparency of the electoral process.  Some 30,000 Mexican and 500 foreign observers were registered as observers for Election Day, including the officers of the Embassy of Ireland in Mexico City. The European Union and the Organisation of American States, amongst others, conducted specialist oversight of the election.

Availing of the legislative provisions open to him, the candidate who came second requested the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute to conduct a recount, claiming widespread voting irregularities. He lodged also a detailed law-suit with the Federal Electoral Tribunal alleging vote buying, media bias and other abuses in favour of the PRI candidate.

The Federal Electoral Institute recounted close to 55% of the presidential ballot. It confirmed the result in favour of Mr Peña Nieto by a significant margin. The Federal Electoral Tribunal endorsed this result, confirming that the election was carried out in line with legislation and rejecting the various claims made as grounds to nullify the election. This outcome is consistent with the views of respected international observers.

I warmly congratulate Mr Peña Nieto and wish him every success in fulfilling his mandate. I look forward to the enhancement of our bilateral relations with Mexico in the period ahead.

Plans for the EU Presidency and Turkey’s accession to the EU – 17th July 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans for the EU Presidency next year in so far as Turkey’s accession to the EU is concerned, if he anticipates any significant developments, in particular in relation to the opening or closing of remaining chapters.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The enlargement agenda is an important aspect of EU foreign policy still within the purview of the rotating EU Presidency. We have already begun planning to take the process forward in relation to all five candidate countries – Iceland, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia.With regard to Turkey, Minister of State Creighton visited Turkey last week in part to discuss areas for possible progress during our Presidency.As the Deputy may be aware, progress on Turkey’s EU accession has been very slow of late with the last Chapter in the negotiations opened in 2010. 12 of the 33 negotiating Chapters have been officially opened and one provisionally closed.

Of the remaining 21 Chapters, negotiations on eight of them have been suspended by the Council since December 2006 due to Turkey’s failure to meet its obligations under the Ankara Protocol i.e. normalisation of relations with Cyprus. The Council also agreed that it will not decide on provisionally closing Chapters until the Commission verifies that Turkey has fulfilled its commitments related to the Protocol. A further four Chapters remain frozen since 2007 and Cyprus is blocking another six. This leaves three Chapters with a possibility of being opened.

In the absence of movement in the enlargement negotiations, Turkey is still proceeding, nonetheless, with reforms including plans for a new Constitution, in part to bring it more in line with EU standards. The December 2011 General Affairs Council also took “positive note” of the Commission’s proposal for a renewed “positive agenda” to support the negotiation process which would involve enhanced cooperation with Turkey in parallel with the accession process in an effort to keep momentum behind the negotiations.

We will be working closely with Turkey, with the European Commission, and with our EU partners and will make every effort to move the agenda forward during our Presidency.

Open Government Partnership - 17th July 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if this country will be signing up to the Open Government Partnership.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an ad hoc international initiative which was launched in 2011 and which is overseen by a multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee involving Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as civil society representatives.  The aim of the organisation is to promote progress by participating states in relation to enhanced transparency and anti-corruption measures.

To my knowledge, the Government has not been in receipt of any approach by the OGP to join the organisation and the question of possible participation by Ireland has not yet been examined.  It would be necessary as part of any such examination to consider, in conjunction with the other relevant Government Departments, the potential added value of membership as well as the resources implications.

Ireland participates at EU level and within the OSCE, OECD, Council of Europe and United Nations frameworks in efforts to promote cooperation on, and improvement in, transparency and anti-corruption measures.  We ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2011 and are also a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.  During the Nineteenth Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on “The role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights”, which was adopted by the Council.  This encouraged States to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption and emphasised the role of good governance in the full realisation of human rights, sustained economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger.

The number of staff in the department’s redeployment pool – 26th June 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

My Department’s current staffing levels are within the ceilings authorised under its Employment Control Framework and the available staff are required to assist the Department in delivering the diverse range of foreign policy, economic promotion, programme management and citizen services it provides at home and abroad.
There are no State agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Public sector staffing numbers – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

My Department’s salaries budget is not allocated on the basis outlined in the question and the type of information sought is therefore not currently available.

However, in order to be helpful to the Deputy, I am providing below a table containing a full breakdown of the core staffing of the Department at home and abroad on 30th April 2012.

Just less than 590, or approximately 42% of posts are based abroad and a majority of those would be regarded as frontline staff.  At Headquarters, some 40% of the 810 posts are filled by staff involved in the provision of passport and consular services and would also fall into that category, as would smaller numbers of staff in some other areas of the Department.

Overall, about 36% of the Department’s staff are graded at Higher Executive Officer or equivalent level, or above, and would be regarded as management staff.

Two members of the Dáil are office holders in the Department; myself as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Mr Joe Costello TD, Minister of State for Trade and Development.  The ministerial salary of the Minister for European Affairs, Ms Lucinda Creighton TD, is paid by the Department of the Taoiseach.

GradeNos. serving at headquarters Nos. serving abroad

Assistant Secretary and above1127

Counsellor/Principal Officer2744

Principal Development Specialist32

Senior Development Specialist106

Assistant Legal Advisers4.6

First Secretary/Assistant Principal77.990

Professional Accountants4

Development Specialists13.811

Architects2

Third Secretary /Administrative Officers /HEO10965

EO and equivalent78.413

Staff Officers36.32

Clerical Officers378.435

Service Officers / Cleaners422

Civilian Drivers2

Political Appointees11

Local Staff289.1

Total:810.4586.1

Overall total1396.5

A Middle East free from nuclear weapons  - 29th March 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the Government endorses the international joint Parliamentary Statement for a Middle East free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, which, inter alia, supports the goal of a Middle East zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, affirms the role of the United Nations in assisting in the development of such a zone, emphasises the importance of comprehensive peace negotiations in the Middle East; commends the leadership of the United Nations Secretary General in advancing a five point proposal for nuclear disarmament, and calls on all Governments, especially those in the Middle East and the nuclear weapons states, to collaborate in good faith with the UN facilitator tasked to conduct consultations with the States of the region and undertake preparations for the convening of a conference to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

Nuclear weapons pose an existential challenge to humanity and achieving their elimination is a fundamental global challenge. Nuclear non-proliferation and implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been priorities of Irish Governments for over 50 years. We have a proud record of engagement and achievement in this critically important field and I am committed to maintaining this tradition.

The NPT, the primary international mechanism for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, is reviewed every five years. The 2010 review conference adopted forward-looking action plans across all three pillars of the Treaty, disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Full implementation of these plans would considerably reinforce the non-proliferation regime and I intend to promote this, bilaterally and multilaterally, in the period ahead.

Ireland regards the establishment of a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems as a particularly important objective. I am very pleased that at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Ireland brokered agreement on a text which emphasised the importance of establishing such a zone and which set out a number of practical steps towards achieving this, including the convening of a conference in 2012. We are hopeful that all countries in the region will participate in the Conference and in the process going forward.

The position of the Government has been clear and consistent. The Middle East is an area of high tension which contains many regional conflicts and has seen many wars. The escalation of military capabilities to new heights in such a volatile region can only make the situation more dangerous. We support the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, to include all states in the region.

Ireland’s vote at the cluster munitions talk in Geneva - 22nd February 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will clarify Ireland’s position and subsequent vote at the cluster munitions talks in Geneva November 2011; and the way he sees the process developing from here.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The Fourth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) took place in Geneva from 14-25 November 2011. The main item for discussion was the draft of a possible Protocol VI to the Convention relating to cluster munitions.

Ireland’s position on a possible Protocol VI was clearly expressed at the Review Conference and at the meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts in advance of the Conference. We saw value in an instrument that would impose strong and binding legal commitments on states not currently in a position to become party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions that currently possess and/or produce such munitions. We were prepared to negotiate in good faith on an instrument that would be compatible with and complementary to the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreed in Dublin under our chairmanship in 2008 which would add value and make a difference in reducing civilian casualties in future armed conflicts. We would only have acceded to such an instrument if these conditions were met.

My officials worked hard with a group of like-minded states to improve the text of the draft under discussion in Geneva. However, it did not prove possible to reach consensus on the draft and no vote was taken.

It is not likely that negotiations on a Protocol on Cluster Munitions will resume in the CCW framework in the immediate future. Ireland will continue to promote the full implementation and universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and looks forward to the fulfilment of our role, in conjunction with the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, as the Convention’s Co-ordinator on Clearance.

Procedure for the renewal of Irish passports for Irish citizens in the UK – 17th January 2012,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current policy in relation to renewal of Irish passports by Irish born citizens who are currently resident in the UK.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The Passports Act, 2008 requires that before issuing a passport to a person, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade shall be satisfied as to the identity of each applicant and that the person is an Irish citizen.  Documentary proof in respect of identity and entitlement to citizenship are required for all passport applications.  These requirements are outlined in the passport application form notes that accompany each application form.  Details are also available on the Department’s website www.passport.ie .

In the context of mitigating the risk of passport fraud the Department requires that those witnessing passport applications certify that that they are satisfied as to the identity of the applicant.  For those Irish citizens who are resident overseas this would ordinarily mean that the witness would also live overseas and that the application is submitted through the nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate.  A separate application for APS2 E (English version) and APS 2G (Irish version) are used for this purpose.  For citizens resident overseas the range of those who may witness applications is very extensive and significantly beyond the requirement for citizens resident in the State, who may only have their application witnessed by a An Garda Síochána.  The list of acceptable witnesses include police officers, a member of the clergy, medical doctor, lawyer, bank manager, elected public representative, notary public/commissioner for oaths, peace commissioner, school principals/vice principal or accountant.

The last passport recorded as having been issued to a person of the name and details supplied was a passport of one year’s validity, expiring in October 2004.  Given that the previous passport for this citizen had been reported as lost; the length of time which has passed since the expiry of its passport; the fact that the application was submitted in Ireland for someone resident overseas who would have had to travel to Ireland without a passport, the Passport Service sought to exercise additional care in relation to this application.  The request to have the application witnessed by a person in the applicant’s country of residence – in this case Britain – who could identify the applicant and that it be submitted through the Passport Office in London, which is best placed to confirm the bona fides of the witness, was prudent and appropriate, consistent with policy, and served to minimise the risk of identity theft and fraud.

A ministerial trip to China – 6th December 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he intends to make an official visit to China; and if there are plans for senior ministers to make official visits in 2012.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The Government attaches great importance to widening and deepening bilateral relations with China.  China is a key high-growth and high-potential market for Ireland under the Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015.  The local market team, set up under the Strategy, includes all of the State Agencies present in China in addition to the Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate-General in Shanghai. The team is chaired by our Ambassador in Beijing and has been actively working to build on our growing economic and trade relationships with China.

Ireland had a modest trade surplus with China in 2010.  Total merchandise trade between Ireland and China was worth almost €5.3 billion in 2010. Trade in services during the same period was worth €2.1 billion. Over 130 Irish companies now have a permanent business presence in China – an increase of 300% over the last five years.

I very much hope to visit China next year in order to build on the excellent bilateral relations that exist between our two countries; to have discussions with my opposite number in China on matters of mutual concern; to promote Irish interests; and to further enhance our political, trade, investment, education and tourism links with China.  As the Deputy will appreciate, a visit must take place at a time mutually convenient for my Chinese counterpart.  This will be arranged between the Irish and Chinese sides through diplomatic channels.

As the Deputy will be aware, Government Ministers generally commit to official visits abroad based on the demands of their portfolio.  I am not aware of any confirmed travel plans by other Ministers in relation to China, although the Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach also intends to visit China in 2012.

Gendercide – 16th November 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he recognises the term gendercide; and if so, the reason the term infanticide was included in the amendment to Senator Ronan Mullen’s motion on the problem of gendercide.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

While I understand the term “gendercide” is beginning to gain currency, it is not a term which has been fully defined at international level, and is not currently in use in international law, human rights or development discourse.   For his reason, the term “female infanticide” was used in the amendment proposed to Senator Ronan Mullen’s motion.   Infanticide is a long-standing recognised specific crime in national law and in many other jurisdictions.

The amendment envisaged that Seanad Éireann, condemning in the strongest terms female infanticide and all other violations of the rights of women and girls, would commend the Government’s firm opposition to such practices and its efforts to combat all forms of gender-based violence. It would also endorse the Government’s strong support for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through its Official Development Assistance Programme.

Is trade under the remit of the Minister - 25th October 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the trade function has moved under his remit, if not when will this occur, if it has happened – to what extent; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

Following a Government decision on 24 May last, the transfer of trade promotion functions from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade took place on 1 June.  The transfer gives my Department an enhanced role in trade promotion.

On a practical level, my Department now has responsibility for the management of the Export Trade Council and of our Joint Economic Commissions which Ireland maintains with a number of countries.

I chaired the first meeting of the Export Trade Council, on Thursday 29 September 2011.  In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government the new Council will strengthen cooperation and coordination across all Government Departments and State Agencies involved in the promotion and development of trade and exports and will oversee the progressive implementation of the recommendations set out inTrading and Investing in a Smart Economy published last autumn.

I will lead the Irish delegation at the forthcoming meeting of our Joint Economic Commission with the Russian Federation scheduled to take place on 7 November next in Moscow.

The transfer of trade functions has resulted in a closer working relationship with Enterprise Ireland, particularly in relation overseas trade missions which they organise and which are led by myself or my colleague the Minister for State for Trade and Development.  Minister O’Sullivan has recently led trade missions to London, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and will shortly lead one to South Africa. I attended the annual meeting of Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum (APIBF) in Seoul, on 14 October 2011 and while in the region, took the opportunity to travel to Tokyo to have a number of meetings there focussed on trade and economic issues.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation retains lead responsibility for trade policy, which includes representing Ireland’s trade interests in the context of the EU Common Commercial Policy and at the World Trade Organisation.

The amount the department will spend on consultancy fees – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

My Department manages expenditure under two Votes – Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Co-Operation).

In 2011, an allocation of €108,000 has been made for consultancy services and value for money and policy reviews in Vote 28. Most of this budget has been allocated towards the provision of specialised ICT consultancy services which are essential in order to maintain the security and integrity of the Department’s ICT networks. In line with Government policy, the Department has significantly reduced its spending on consultancy services in recent years. Since 2008, this budget line has been reduced by 81%.

The Vote 29 consultancy budget for 2011 is €1.4 million. My Department, through Irish Aid (Ireland’s official development assistance programme), commissions consultancy services where specialised knowledge and/or skills are not available within the Department and where independent appraisal, audit, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects is required. Given the overall scale, range and diversity of the Irish Aid programme, it is necessary, from time to time, to complement our in-house capacity with specialised skills and advice. These commissions sometimes involve examination of value for money issues as part of a wider set of objectives for the project. In these situations it is not possible to separately identify the VFM element of the total costs.

The consultancy expenditure is constantly monitored to ensure that it does not exceed the level required for the proper management of the aid programme.

Ireland’s commitment to arms control - 20th September 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of Ireland’s commitment to international arms control, in particular nuclear non- proliferation and disarmament and in view of Ireland’s chairmanship of the OSCE, which we will take up in 2012, if he will inform Dáil Éireann of when he intends to implement Ireland’s accession to the Antarctic treaty.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The question of Ireland’s possible accession to the Antarctic Treaty System is under consideration in those Government Departments which have responsibility for the areas covered by the Antarctic Treaties.

A Government Decision of 9 June 2010 authorised the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and the other relevant Ministers to conduct preparatory work on this issue. A process of inter-departmental consultation, chaired by my Department, is continuing. This includes an assessment of the legislative implications of accession; it is apparent that these could be significant.

The Vatican Embassy - 20th September 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a decision has been reached in relation to retaining an Irish embassy in the Vatican.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

I am currently reviewing our network of diplomatic and consular missions in the context of the Government’s comprehensive review of expenditure.  It would be inappropriate and discourteous for me to speculate on the outcome of that review as regards individual missions.

Heads of State outside the EU who have been called on to stand down by the EC – 14th April 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide details of all those Heads of State outside of the European Union that the European Council has formally called on to step down.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

The European Union maintains diplomatic relations with almost every country in the world. Through engagement with these countries, the EU aims to promote the common values and interests of the Union, to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law and to promote respect for human rights. The European Council, which defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU, has, on occasion, called on a foreign Head of State or Government to step down. Such a call, however, represents just one, limited way of promoting EU values and influencing the process of change within a country.

In relation to Libya, the Deputy will be aware of the Government’s view that Colonel Gaddafi and his family should surrender power and leave the political stage in order to allow the Libyan people to peacefully determine their future. This is also the considered view of our EU partners, as clearly expressed by the European Councils on 11 and 25 March, and again by the Foreign Affairs Council on 12 April.

Calling for Colonel Gaddafi to relinquish power does not amount to actively seeking regime change. He has clearly lost all legitimacy to rule and there are no circumstances in which one could envisage the vast majority of the Libyan people being prepared to have him continue as their Head of Government, in light of the violence and repression he has visited upon them. Ultimately, however, it remains for Colonel Gaddafi to draw his own conclusions and recognise that he and his regime have no political future in Libya. Extensive diplomatic and economic restrictive measures have also been imposed by the EU against Libya.

Following the Presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire last year, Alassane Ouattara was declared the victor but the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to accept the result. While the Foreign Affairs Council did not call on Gbagbo to step down, its conclusions on 31 January stated that it would only consider legitimate those institutions and bodies who placed themselves under the authority of President-elect Ouattara. The EU also imposed restrictive measures on Gbagbo and his allies. Gbagbo was arrested on Monday, 11 April, and is in the custody of the forces of President Ouattara.

Overseas development aid – 14th April 2011,

To ask the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the mechanisms in place to ensure that overseas development aid funding is spent as intended once drawn down by the recipient, that is, in accordance with the stated objectives of the programme receiving funding.

Reply

The Minister of State (Jan O’Sullivan):

Irish Aid has rigorous planning, monitoring, evaluation and audit mechanisms in place. This ensures that all funds are spent effectively and are used for the stated objectives of the programmes receiving funding.

Irish Aid planning processes have a strong results focus which identifies specific objectives and results against which Irish Aid programmes are measured and evaluated.  All development aid funding is disbursed based on clear and detailed proposals in line with these specific objectives.  Proposals are appraised by Irish Aid staff as well as by an independent external Programme Appraisal and Evaluation Group using a number of different criteria, including quality of intended impact, sustainability, cost effectiveness and efficiency in the use of resources.

Programmes in receipt of funding from Irish Aid are continually monitored and assessed, by both staff in the field and at headquarters, to ensure that they are achieving results and that the intended objectives and goals are being accomplished.  This takes place through regular supervision and reporting, and external reviews are also conducted as necessary.

Irish Aid programmes are regularly audited and evaluated by independent evaluation and audit firms as well as by Irish Aid’s Evaluation and Audit Unit, including internal auditors based in our Programme Countries. The Unit’s work is also reviewed by the Department’s independent Audit Committee.  These evaluations and audits provide assurance that funds are used for the purposes intended and have a particular focus on poverty outcomes and value for money.

While we are working in some of the most difficult environments in the world, I am satisfied that the monitoring, evaluation and audit systems which we have in place provide the best assurance that development aid funding is used for the intended objectives.

An value for money audit used for overseas aid – 14th April 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the last time a value for money audit was conducted in relation to moneys allocated under overseas development aid programme.

Reply

The Minister of State (Jan O’Sullivan):

The last value for money work relating to the overseas development aid programme was completed in November 2009. This was a review of Irish Aid’s expenditure of €340 million devoted to HIV/AIDS programmes for the period 2000 to 2007. This report was published and is available in the Dáil Library and on the Irish Aid website.

Further value for money work is planned to be undertaken in 2011. This value for money exercise will be a review of Irish Aid’s support to Concern Worldwide under the Multi-Annual Programme Scheme for NGOs over the period 2007-2010.

The Minister’s understanding of the concept of neutrality – 3rd May 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his understanding of the concept of military neutrality; the way this differs from neutrality and the extent to which both these concepts must evolve in relation to our membership of the European Union post entry in to force of the Lisbon Treaty.

Reply

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore):

In the strict sense of international law and practice, the question of neutrality does not arise during peacetime but only during a state of war, when the neutrality of a state would be embodied in an attitude of impartiality towards the belligerents.

Ireland is one of a number of States which proclaims to pursue a policy of neutrality or non-alignment in peacetime.  It is a matter for each of these States to determine the nature and characteristics of its policies.  Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality, which has been pursued by successive Governments, is characterised by non-participation in military alliances.

This is not a policy of isolationism and is fully consistent with Ireland’s foreign policy of active international engagement.  The values on which our traditional policy of military neutrality rests inform Ireland’s broader foreign policy, including through our participation in international peacekeeping, our contributions to conflict resolution and peacebuilding, our work for human rights and development, and our efforts to promote disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, it is these very same values which have underpinned and motivated Ireland’s long and distinguished record of support for and participation in military operations sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council in the cause of international peace and security.

The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), as set out in the Lisbon Treaty, is an integral part and operational arm of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The CSDP is entirely consistent with Ireland’s values and interests, including the primacy of the United Nations in the maintenance of global peace and security. While the CSDP is an evolving process directed towards the achievement of ever-greater effectiveness, successive Treaties since the Maastricht Treaty have stipulated that Union policy in this area shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member States.

Ireland’s participation in a European common defence is prohibited by Article 29.4.9 of the Constitution.  Any change in that position could take place only with the approval of the people in a referendum to amend the Constitution.

Breakdown of overseas development aid - 14th April 2011,

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide a detailed breakdown of overseas development aid spending in 2009 and 2010; the amount that was allocated, by country and region, as well as programme of support and if money allocated in the years in question was drawn down.

Reply

The Minister of State (Jan O’Sullivan):

For 2010, Ireland spent €675 million on Official Development Assistance (ODA). Of this total, €521 million was administered by my Department through Irish Aid. A further €154 million was accounted for by ODA eligible expenditure made through other Government Departments, and Ireland’s share of the EU Development Cooperation budget.

This level of expenditure resulted in Ireland spending approximately 0.53% of its GNP on ODA – and ensured Ireland met, and indeed exceeded, the wider EU target of 0.51%.

Comparative figures for 2009 show that Ireland spent a total of €722 million on ODA, which represented 0.54% of GNP.

Ireland’s aid programme is internationally recognised as being of the highest quality and having a sharp focus on poverty reduction, with hunger eradication at its core. The latest OECD review of Ireland’s aid programme has described the programme as “cutting edge”. Most of Ireland’s bilateral ODA is directed to the least developed countries, with a particular focus on a limited number of very poor partner countries, called Programme Countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ireland’s aid programme is based on the promotion of sustainable development results and has a particular focus on the social sectors of health, education, governance and addressing food security and hunger. Funding is delivered through a wide range of partner organisations including Programme Country national systems, NGOs and Missionary Organisations and UN and other international specialist agencies.

My Department is currently in the process of finalising the detailed analysis of Ireland’s ODA expenditure for 2010, which will be published shortly in the Irish Aid annual report.   The detailed analysis of Ireland’s 2009 ODA expenditure is available in the 2009 annual report which can be accessed through the Irish Aid website at www.irishaid.gov.ie

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 8 October, if he will be publishing a new roster in 2014; if the current roster will be amended in any way before a new roster is brought in; if any additions can be made to the existing roster; and if not what those persons interested in participating in observation missions should do in the interim.