Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Departmental Meetings

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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71. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding his meeting with the French Secretary of State for European Affairs in October 2021. [56379/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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As part of my work on deepening the extensive and important partnership between Ireland and France, I have met my French counterpart, Minister for European and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, on many occasions including at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council. I also met him during the visit of President Macron to Ireland in August of this year.

I last had a formal meeting with the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, when he accompanied Minister Le Drian on a visit to Ireland last May. I also met him during the visit of President Macron in August. I did not meet Secretary of State Beaune in October. However, Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne T.D. met with Secretary of State Beaune in Paris on October 5th, ahead of the 2021 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting.

At the meeting, they discussed major current issues on the EU agenda, including EU-UK relations. The two Ministers also focused on the upcoming French presidency of the Council of the EU and the Conference on the Future of Europe. As European Affairs Minister of the incoming EU presidency, Minister Beaune will play a vital role as Co-Chair of the Executive Board overseeing the Conference on the Future of Europe next spring.

Ireland enjoys very warm relations with France. The visit of President Macron to Ireland, in August, was a strong signal of the ever stronger bilateral relations being forged between our countries. As part of that visit, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and I signed a Joint Plan of Action between our two countries. This is an ambitious plan which will deepen practical cooperation across a number of sectors. It will bring tangible benefits for our businesses, schools, higher education institutions and research institute, cultural institutions, as well as ordinary citizens.

In the period ahead, my Department will be working to deliver on the priorities outlined in this Joint Plan. We also look forward to working with our French counterparts during their Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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72. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his attendance at the recent General Affairs Council of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56298/21]

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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I attended the most recent meeting of the General Affairs Council which took place on 19 October 2021 in Luxembourg.

The principal item for discussion at the Council was the preparation of the agenda for the European Council meeting, which took place on the 21stand 22ndof October. At that meeting, Leaders discussed energy prices and migration. There were also discussions on the Covid-19 pandemic, digital issues including the 2030 Digital Compass and trade. In addition, the European Council prepared for the ASEM summit on 25/26 November and the Eastern Partnership summit on 15 December, as well as taking stock of preparations for the upcoming meetings of COP26 on climate change and of COP15 on biological diversity.

There was also an exchange of views at the Council on the annual rule of law dialogue. In my remarks on this important agenda item, I reiterated that the rule of law is a fundamental principle for all EU Member States and that it is of vital importance that the rule of law is preserved, protected, and promoted across the Union.

The General Affairs Council also discussed the Conference on the Future of Europe, in advance of the second Conference Plenary session which took place in Strasbourg on 23 October. At the Council, I briefed my Ministerial colleagues on our own national programme of events to date and discussed how we can promote greater public engagement with the Conference in the coming months.

Under Any Other Business, Ministers received an update from the Slovenian Presidency on the outcome of the international conference “Illusive Reconciliation: Transitional Processes in Central and Eastern Europe in a Comparative Perspective”, which was held on 23 August in Ljubljana.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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80. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on his attendance at the 2021 annual delegate conference of an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56485/21]

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)
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86. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide details on his recent attendance at the annual delegate conference of an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56577/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 86 together.

I was delighted to have had the opportunity to attend and speak at PDFORRA's Annual Delegate Conference in early October of this year. I used the occasion to address a number of key issues which are important for PDFORRA members.

I raised the important issue of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. I provided the delegates with an update on the most recent actions that I have undertaken and reiterated the point that inappropriate behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated in the Defence Forces. I briefed the Conference on the roll out of the Confidential Contact Person (CCP) who has been appointed to provide professional, safe and confidential support for any past or present member of the Defence Forces, who may wish to report alleged bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination.

I provided an update on the current status of the work of the Commission on Defence Forces. I advised the delegates to the Conference that I expect the recommendations arising out of the report of the Commission will be far reaching and challenging and their implementation will require positive and constructive engagement from PDFORRA and members.

I informed delegates that I was delighted to note the Association's favourable ballot on the public service agreement 2021-2022 - "Building Momentum". This has provided for further increases in pay and allowances for members of PDFORRA in accordance with the terms of the agreement

I acknowledged the contribution of PDFORRA to the negotiations on the review of Technician Pay Grades 2-6.

I spoke about the review of contracts of service for personnel enlisted to the Permanent Defence Force post 1994, which is a key issue for not only PDFORRA members, but also for me as Minister for Defence. The review has been completed and officials in the Department of Defence are consulting with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform in respect of cost and pension implications arising from the recommendations in the Review.

Regarding the Working Time Directive, I informed PDFORRA delegates that the Government is committed to bringing the Defence Forces within the scope of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

I thanked delegates and all Defence Force members, on behalf of Government and the people of Ireland, for the support that they have provided to the Health Service, in particular, in response to the national effort to combat COVID-19.

All of the above issues are being progressed through my Department and where appropriate through the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. I look forward to further continued constructive engagement with the Defence Forces Representative Associations.

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