Written answers

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Election Monitoring Missions

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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100. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the accommodations and-or special dispensations afforded to applicants with disabilities with respect to the rapid response corps and electoral observation mission rosters; if the relevant equality monitoring has been carried out in respect of these rosters; the number of such accommodations and-or special dispensations granted with respect to both rosters in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9418/19]

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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105. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is a facility for persons with a disability to act as election observers; if the competition run by his Department to select observers encompasses persons with a disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9615/19]

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 105 together.

I refer the Deputies to the responses to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 153 of 5 February 2019, 58 of 7 February 2019, 124 of 12 February 2019 and 129 of 19 February 2019.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade facilitates participation in a range of volunteering opportunities overseas. Typically these opportunities involve placement with, or by, third party organisations and are facilitated by the Department through a range of rosters, registers, initiatives and programmes. Depending on the role and local context, volunteers may need to be able to operate in challenging circumstances. It should be noted that volunteer roster members are neither members of the Department’s staff, nor persons to whom the Department provides a service.

Where prospective volunteers with a disability request a reasonable accommodation arrangement, including to facilitate their mustering as a volunteer, my Department will liaise with the individual and the third party organisation concerned with a view to determining whether a reasonable accommodation can be made having regard to the specific circumstance of the individual and the nature of the volunteering role envisaged.

In the event that a member of the election observation roster with a disability asks that arrangements be made to faciltate participation in a particular mission, the Department would contact the EU or OSCE, as appropriate, to discuss the request. The decision to make that facilitation would be for the body concerned. My Department would request that the relevant body take consideration of the individual's skills and specific needs, and also the whether the arrangements sought could reasonably be provided, taking into account the security, infrastructure and logistical environment. This would need to be done on a mission-by-mission basis. While Ireland nominates observers, the final selection decision rests with the relevant third party organisation.

More broadly, Ireland's policy on overseas volunteering is set out in the Volunteering Initiative, which promotes skills-based, sustainable volunteering overseas, working in partnership with third parties. The forthcoming launch of a new White Paper on International Development provides an opportunity to review our approach to overseas volunteering to ensure that it keeps pace with the evolving discourse on volunteering for development, and also with the development of best practice on promoting equality and diversity at home and abroad. The Department will consult with relevant stakeholders to take this work forward.

The Department is not aware that any member of the Rapid Response Corps roster or any member of the previous election observation roster, who was nominated to participate in an overseas mission in 2017 or 2018, requested an accommodation or dispensation regarding a disability. To date in 2019 no such requests have been received from those shortlisted to either roster. In the event that a request is received the Department will consult with the EU, OSCE or UN as appropriate, to determine the reasonable accommodations which can be made in the mission concerned, having due regard to the individual's needs and also the security, logistical and other conditions of the mission.

Regarding the recent election roster selection process, as has been outlined in the responses to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 59 of 23 January and 61 and 65 of 6 February 2019, no applicant in that process raised the issue of disability at the time of applying. Had any applicant done so, the issue would have been given our full consideration. In such an event, and notwithstanding that this is a volunteer roster, the Department's approach would have been informed by the reasonable accommodation procedures followed by the Public Appointments Service.


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