Troubles amnesty proposal by British totally unacceptable – Brendan Smith TD

Prior to the recent British government announcement about a Troubles amnesty I had raised with the Minister for Foreign Affairs the decision by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland not to proceed with the prosecution of a solider in relation to charges of murder in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

The recent proposal by the British government to introduce a statue of limitations and end civil cases and inquests linked to the Troubles is totally unacceptable.  This proposal, if enacted, would deny families the possibility of justice for the deaths of loved ones.

Below is a reply by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the decision by the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland –

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 14/07/2021
Question Number(s): 168 Question Reference(s): 38618/21
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there have been discussions with the British authorities since the recent decision of the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service to discontinue the prosecution of a solider in relation to murders in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972 in view of the widespread concerns on these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY




I am aware of the decision taken by the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland not to proceed with the prosecution of ‘Soldier F’ in relation to charges of murder and attempted murder in Derry on Bloody Sunday, as well as the decision not to prosecute ‘Soldier B’ in connection with the fatal shooting of Daniel Hegarty also in Derry in 1972. 

I know that this is deeply upsetting for all the families involved who have spent so many years in pursuit of justice for their loved ones and our thoughts are with all of them. I am aware there is ongoing due legal process, and as such it would not be appropriate to make any additional comment other than to underline the principle that all victims’ families must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice in accordance with the law and regardless of the perpetrator.

Officials from my Department are keeping in contact with the families at this time on behalf of the Government.

It is essential that we make progress in addressing the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. Our position is that the Stormont House Agreement, which was agreed by the two Governments and political parties, provides the framework to address the legacy of the Troubles. Where the British Government are proposing significant changes to that framework, these must be discussed and agreed by both Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive. Only through a collective approach can we hope to deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly.

At the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 24 June last, we agreed to begin a process of intensive engagement on legacy with the UK Government and the Northern Ireland political parties. The first meetings at working group level have taken place, and meetings should continue throughout the period ahead. 

In this current process, the UK Government will have an opportunity to explain their proposals and concerns, as will the parties. The position of the Government has consistently been and remains that the Stormont House Agreement is the way forward, and that where there are concerns around its implementation, we remain open to collective discussion. The objective of this is to find a way forward that can be agreed and that can see progress for families who have been waiting for truth and justice for their loved ones. 

Peat supplies for horticulture sector must be resolved – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has again called on the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister of State for Heritage to address, as a matter of urgency, issues affecting the harvesting and supply of peat for the horticulture sector.

“Action is needed to ensure that the horticulture and mushroom sectors have adequate stocks of peat.  At present there is no viable alternative to peat for the commercial horticulture sector.  A major part of the Irish horticulture industry depends on peat and peat availability is now a major challenge. 

A Report was presented to the Heritage Minister from an Independent Working Group at the end of May and it is beyond time for the relevant Departments to act on the recommendations contained in that Report.  Producers face serious challenges for their businesses and if there has to be a reliance on importing peat then those extra costs will cause difficulties for many businesses”, stated Brendan Smith T.D.

Below are replies by the Minister for Agriculture to Parliamentary Questions I tabled in Dáil Éireann in relation to the harvesting and supply of horticultural peat.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 15/07/2021
Question Number(s): 464 Question Reference(s): 38911/21
Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the measures he will introduce as a matter of urgency to ensure that there is an adequate supply of domestic peat for the mushroom and horticulture sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY



In relation to peat extraction, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has no involvement in its regulation. This is a planning process under the remit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license process, under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Following the publication of the review of the use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry report, I am aware that Minister of State Malcolm Noonan proposed the establishment of a working group to include representatives from relevant Government Departments and State Agencies, Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and industry stakeholders under an independent chairperson to examine the issues identified during the review. In this respect, the working group are addressing the key issues raised in the report itself, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector. The independent working group sent an interim report to Minister Noonan at the end of May for his consideration. Minister Noonan and his officials are currently examining the report.

In addition to these developments, DAFM is actively looking at alternatives to peat and has funded two research projects to date. It has also recently sought further research be conducted here to explore alternatives to peat based growing media for horticultural production in this area in its latest Research Call for 2021. These must be available, affordable and sustainable and meet quality as well as environmental requirements.

DAFM also provides a support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production. A 50% budget increase to €9 million has been secured for 2021 reflecting the importance of the sector.  This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government.

In addition, the Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables which allows growers jointly market their production in order to strengthen the position of producers in the marketplace

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 15/07/2021
Question Number(s): 465 Question Reference(s): 38912/21
Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine if he will ensure that the concerns of the mushroom and horticulture sector in relation to the harvesting of horticultural peat are addressed in view of the importance of peat for that sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


In relation to peat extraction, the Department has no involvement in its regulation. This is a planning process under the remit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license process, under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Following the publication of the review of the use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry report, Minister Noonan proposed the establishment of a working group to include representatives from relevant Government Departments and State Agencies, Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and industry stakeholders under an independent chairperson to examine the issues identified during the review. In this respect, the working group are addressing the key issues raised in the report itself, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector. The independent working group the working group sent an interim report to Minister Noonan at the end of May for his consideration. Minister Noonan and his officials are currently examining the report.

In addition to these developments, the Department is actively looking at alternatives to peat and has funded two research projects to date. It has also recently sought further research be conducted here to explore alternatives to peat based growing media for horticultural production in this area in its latest Research Call for 2021. These must be available, affordable and sustainable and meet quality as well as environmental requirements.

The Department also provides a support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production. A 50% budget increase to €9 million has been secured for 2021 reflecting the importance of the sector.  This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government.

In addition, the Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables which allows growers jointly market their production in order to strengthen the position of producers in the marketplace.

Extracts from Dáil Question to An Taoiseach regarding Justice and Policing Matters – Brendan Smith TD

DEATH OF SHANE O’FARRELL

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Oral answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Brendan Smith

With reference to the ministerial and Government decision-making on policing and justice, I wish to refer to the need to establish a public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell at Carrickmacross. The person responsible for the death of Shane had a litany of convictions, in courts North and South, for serious offences. It was an appalling failure of the justice system that this convicted person was free and driving a car, causing Shane’s death in a hit-and-run accident. It is appalling that such a convicted person was not in prison. I listened on a number of occasions to Lucia O’Farrell outline in detail and with great clarity the dysfunctionality of so many elements of the criminal justice system that led to her son’s tragic death. The O’Farrell family has campaigned with great dignity and fortitude in seeking justice. Justice needs to be done. The scoping exercise was established by a previous Minister for Justice and Equality a considerable length of time ago. We need this public inquiry process to be advanced without further delay. The O’Farrell family has been failed by this State for far too long.

The Taoiseach

Deputies Brendan Smith and O’Reilly raised the issue of the death of Shane O’Farrell and the desire of Lucia O’Farrell and her family to get justice in respect of the tragic loss of their son. Deputy Brendan Smith has been a long-term advocate for the family. As the Deputies know, a highly respected retired judge, Judge Gerard Haughton, was appointed to conduct a scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding Shane’s death. The purpose of that exercise was to advise on whether a further investigation or inquiry should be carried out and the manner and form of such an investigation or inquiry and its terms of reference if he was of the view that there should be one, although I acknowledge the Dáil has committed to one. Judge Haughton furnished an interim report in November 2019. He stated at that stage that he would not restrict or limit Shane’s family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish through any scoping exercise. The judge is independent in conducting this scoping exercise. I cannot comment on it or on any aspect of the judge’s work but I fully understand the desire of Members, including Deputies Brendan Smith, O’Reilly, McGuinness and others who have consistently raised this, to bring the scoping inquiry to a conclusion and move forward.

I genuinely regret that the process has taken significantly longer than any of us would have liked. I am also aware that a judge is doing all he can to ensure the concerns the family have raised with him during the process are followed through on to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O’Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise. Judge Haughton has recently written to the Department of Justice on the week beginning 5 July indicating that there are some minor matters to be addressed on one aspect of the inquiry. Once those matters have been addressed, he intends to seek comments and corrections on that aspect of the draft report from interested parties, including the O’Farrell family. Following receipt of responses from these parties, Judge Haughton will be in a position to finalise his report.

The Department of Justice will continue to provide all necessary assistance to Judge Haughton. The Minister for Justice looks forward to receiving his final report and updating the House on the matter.

Non Mainstream Music Education Bursary scheme

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith welcomes the announcement by the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, that she has approved small grants through her Department’s Non Mainstream Music Education Bursary scheme to support music education and music initiatives to cultivate the talent of young musicians. 

“It is important to provide opportunities for children and young people to express themselves and show their creativity through music and I compliment the many groups and organisations various providing music tuition and classes throughout Cavan and Monaghan”, stated Deputy Brendan Smith.

Successful applicants in Cavan/Monaghan are –

€2,000        St. Mary’s Brass and Reed Band              Kingscourt

€2,000        NYAH Comhaltas                                      Cavan Town

€2,000        Cavan Town Branch CCE                         Cavan Town

€2,000        Stedfast Shoes Brass Band                      Monaghan

Smith welcomes the passing of the Affordable Housing Bill 2021

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has welcomed the passing of the Affordable Housing Bill 2021 in Dáil Éireann.

The Bill, which is the most comprehensive affordable housing Bill in the history of the State, passed with overwhelming support and will revert back to the Seanad for enactment.

Deputy Smith commented, “Over the past year Government have put affordability and the chance to own a home at the very heart of our housing policy.

“My party colleague and Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, has worked especially hard to ensure that those hard pressed renters, the first-time buyers and the individuals living with their parents while trying to save every spare cent, will have a chance to own their own home or rent securely.

“Cost rental will now for the first time ever, be put on a legislative footing in Ireland. It’s a model where the tenant pays the cost of delivering, managing, and maintaining the homes only. It will be long term secure tenure.

“Under this Bill, Local Authorities will now be empowered to build, acquire and make available, homes at prices which are below open market levels meaning that middle income earners will be supported to own their own home. The new shared equity scheme also provided for under this Bill will help to bridge the gap between the market value of a home in the private market and what an individual or couple can afford.

“This Bill also provides for an important increase in Part V provision which reverses the decision made in 2015 to remove the affordability requirement from the Part V provision. Any future development will now have a Part V requirement set at 20%, with a 10% minimum requirement for social homes and up to a further 10% requirement for affordable homes where required, or where not so required, the additional percentage may be used towards social housing.

“I very much welcome the passing of this Bill and I look forward to its enactment as quickly as possible” concluded Deputy Smith.

-ENDS-

Brendan Smith welcomes €40m for North-South Research Programme

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan and Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Brendan Smith has welcomed the announcement of €40 million for a North-South Research programme.  

This significant investment, provided through the Shared Island Fund, will support the deepening of links between higher education institutions, researchers and research communities on the island of Ireland.   

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “This further investment in north-south research will strengthen important collaborations on this island. This is an investment in knowledge and skills, but also a major investment in the future of this island.”  

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “As someone who represents an area along the border, I know the lasting importance of maintaining and deepening relationships across this island or ours. While we have a shared history which is complicated, we need to work together to build a shared future which offers real hope and prosperity for all.”  

Speaking at the announcement, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin said: “All island research cooperation is one of my Government’s top priorities and the allocation of €40m from the Shared Island Fund to the new North-South Research Programme sends a clear signal of our commitment to foster new North-South research collaborations.  

“I have always been a strong supporter of comprehensive and well-funded research programmes – it’s an investment in knowledge and skills, but more importantly, it’s an investment in the future of this island.  

“This is a very exciting opportunity – the programme will bring individual researchers, research teams and third level institutions North and South together, collaborating across a range of areas and work programmes.”  

An Taoiseach concluded: “This work will build on the cooperation which already exists and will broaden and deepen relationships between the partner institutions.”  

In the Year 1 call, Strand I projects may receive a maximum of €100,000 per annum for up to two years, while Strands II and III projects may receive up to €1 million per annum for up to four years. A maximum of 50% of any award may be allocated to NI partners.   At the end of Year 2, a review will be undertaken of the projects funded thus far in order to inform the format of the second call.

ENDS

Notes:

Investment in research is a key priority in the Programme for Government, which contains commitments to “develop and deepen all aspects of north-south cooperation” and to “support a north-south programme of research and innovation”.

This announcement is the single largest allocation to date from the €500m Shared Island Fund, further highlighting the importance that the Government is placing on high quality, comprehensive research, while complementing other Shared Island investments, which have focussed on long standing infrastructure projects like the Ulster Canal and Narrow Water Bridge.

Programme Format

The programme will be run by the Higher Education Authority and will encompass a portfolio of investment instruments to take account of the different types of nascent cross-border research opportunities.  The Programme will be structured along the following three strands:

  

I.             Bilateral researcher-researcher projects  

This will support individual researchers based in an Irish higher education institution (HEI) to collaborate with a researcher in a HEI in Northern Ireland on an identified research project.   

II.            Emerging hubs of excellence  

This strand will support research teams to collaborate on an agreed work programme.  Interdisciplinary collaborations will be encouraged.  

III.           Institutional strategic research engagement   

Higher education institutions will be supported to collaborate with each other on the basis of their respective institutional strategic research priorities.   

Eligibility and Funding  

The funding will be awarded through two Programme calls (across the three strands above), the first Call issuing before the end of this year and the second in Year 3. In the Year 1 call, Strand I projects may receive a maximum of €100,000 per annum for up to two years, while Strands II and III projects may receive up to €1m per annum for up to four years. A maximum of 50% of any award may be allocated to NI partners.

All publicly funded higher education institutions on the island will be eligible to apply to the programme and at least one proposal participant must be based in Ireland and one in Northern Ireland.

In terms of assessment of funding applications, the HEA will put in place a peer-review assessment process typical of research funding awards involving an independent panel of international experts.   

At the end of Year 2, a review will be undertaken of the projects funded thus far in order to inform the format of the second call.  For example, this will consider breakdown of applications and approvals across Strands, as well as thematic spread such as climate and health-related awards.  

6/07/2021

Brendan Smith welcomes Taoiseach’s commitment on farming and agrifood supports

The farming community wants a clear message that the national co-financing commitments that were made will be honoured over the next number of years and that the €1.5 billion from the carbon tax fund will be allocated to the farming sector – Brendan Smith TD stated during Parliamentary Questions to An Taoiseach

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed strong commitments on support for the farming and agrifood sector from An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin.  

During Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “The farming community wants a clear message that the national co-financing commitments that were made will be honoured over the next number of years and that the €1.5 billion from the carbon tax fund will be allocated to the farming sector.   

“There is often a lazy and ill-informed narrative with regard to farming and climate change. Farmers have adapted and modernised their systems. Our food production systems are sustainable and in the climate debate, while we all know there must be improvements from every sector in that regard, we must ensure that sustainable food production systems in Europe are not displaced by food being imported from areas in South America and elsewhere where forests are being felled to make land arable.”  

The Cavan Monaghan TD continued: “The Common Agricultural Policy was established to ensure a secure supply of safe food for the citizens of Europe. It provides income support to farmers but it also ensures that there is continuity of sustainable production of food, which is very important, and plays a key role in the environment and in ensuring we have people living in rural Ireland. Our commitment must be absolute to ensuring that additional financial support is provided through national co-financing, alongside CAP-supported schemes. We all know that if we are to have a vibrant rural Ireland, our farming and agrifood sectors must be the lead economic drivers in that regard.”  

In response, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin stated: “Fianna Fáil’s role in the Common Agricultural Policy and its evolution, going back to the days of Commissioner Ray MacSharry, has been exemplary in terms of fairness, farm families and ensuring the sustainability of the Common Agricultural Policy within the European Union framework throughout this decade.   

“Deputy Brendan Smith, when he was Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, did an enormous amount of work, particularly in terms of sustainable food production. It has been an honourable tradition which the current Minister, Deputy McConalogue, is continuing in respect of the current negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy. There has always been a need for flexibilities on the operation of CAP but they have been reducing over the years.”   

An Taoiseach added that commitments about national co-financing will be followed through on, stating: “Deputy Brendan Smith’s point about national co-financing will pertain and the commitments made will be followed through on. Many parties in this House objected to and opposed the €1.5 billion carbon fund but it gives us the resources to help and support farmers in respect of a range of environmental schemes, separate to the environmental schemes that are being provided under the aegis of the Common Agricultural Policy.   

“I accept Deputy Smith’s point that Irish farming has been one of the more progressive food production systems in reducing emissions, when compared to many other food production systems across Europe and the world. Our dairy and beef industries are among the top performers in terms of their capacity to reduce emissions.   

“That said, the challenges of climate change mean we have to do more. We want to work with and support the industry to enable that to happen. The carbon fund gives us room to allocate additional funding in that regard, as do the national co-financing mechanisms. We will continue to engage with the farming pillar through the social dialogue mechanism which we have re-established, and that is welcome.”  

An Taoiseach concluded: “I intend that to be a consistent part of our engagement with the industry and sector to ensure we can progress employment and maintain this vital industry across Ireland and rural Ireland, in particular. It is vital to many towns and communities because of the employment it provides. We want to sustain that employment and support farming in making the advances it continues to make in terms of carbon and production efficiency and in providing employment.”  

ENDS  

2/07/2021

Brendan Smith welcomes preliminary report of Steering Group on Review of School Transport Scheme but calls for further improvements

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed the news that transport arrangements will be provided for a number of local post-primary students who are attending their second nearest school, who have applied and paid on time and who live more than 4.8km from their nearest school. 

However, the Cavan and Monaghan TD has called for further and ongoing improvements to the School Transport Scheme, including increasing school bus capacity due to the additional seating requirements arising from Covid-19 and increased accessibility for more students. 

Deputy Smith’s party colleague and Minister for Education Norma Foley TD announced today that the Steering Group has reported to her with its initial preliminary report on the Review of the School Transport Scheme. 

Responding to the announcement, Deputy Smith commented, “This is good news and will result in transport being provided for post-primary pupils in the 2021/2022 school year, who otherwise would not be accommodated under the scheme.” 

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “This arrangement will be in place for the coming school year pending completion of the full review of the School Transport Scheme, which will involve a thorough review of the School Transport Scheme and from which further recommendations for any changes of a permanent nature will ensue.” 

Following commencement of the review in February 2021 and a detailed analysis and report conducted by the Technical Working Group in the interim period, the Steering Group has presented its initial interim report,  a report on eligibility with an examination of issues for mainstream pupils relating to the nearest and next nearest school, for consideration by the Minister.  In its report, the Steering Group notes that the Technical Working Group recommends maintaining the scheme as it currently operates pending the outcome of the full review but with temporary alleviation measures to continue on the post-primary transport scheme services.  These temporary alleviation measures allow for  funds to be  allocated to those areas where there is a significant number of post-primary pupils  who apply and pay on time who fulfil the eligibility distance criteria from their nearest school but who were attending their second nearest school.   

Accordingly, concessionary tickets will be allocated subject to capacity and available resources.  School Transport Scheme services for the upcoming school year will continue to operate in line with prevailing public health guidelines. 

Wider considerations relating to the objectives of the scheme and the criteria for eligibility will take place in the next phase of the review which is now underway.  The Steering Group will continue to report to the Minister on an interim basis as the review progresses, with a view to presenting a final report with recommendations on the future operation of the Department’s School Transport Scheme. 

 ENDS 

Brendan Smith welcomes US Ambassador nomination but calls for NI Special Envoy

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed the nomination of a new US Ambassador to Ireland but has also renewed calls for the appointment of a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.  

US President Joe Biden announced the nomination of Claire Cronin to the role of US Ambassador to Ireland on Wednesday.  

Deputy Brendan Smith welcomed the nomination, commenting, “The role of US Ambassador to Ireland is one which highlights the historic importance of Irish/US relations and the close nature of that relationship. I wish Ms Cronin the very best in the role and look forward to having the opportunity to meet with her in the future.”  

The Cavan and Monaghan TD also raised the issue of the prospect of the appointment of a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland by the US Administration.  

“I have again asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise this pressing issue with the US Administration. The appointment of a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland is a vital role which, I feel, is needed as a matter of urgency at present and would be a positive move towards increased and ongoing stability in Northern Ireland. The role has always been greatly valued over the years by the Irish Government and other political parties.”  

Deputy Smith added: “Recently, senior members of the US Congress have written to President Biden in relation to the merit of making such an appointment again, which shows there is growing support across the Atlantic for the renewal of this role.”  

ENDS  

Note to editors  

See PQ attached  

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 20/05/2021
Question Number(s)259 Question Reference(s): 27435/21
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised the need to appoint an ambassador to Ireland as soon as possible with  the US Administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY




The appointment of Ambassadors by the United States is solely a matter for the US authorities. However, during their meeting on St. Patrick’s Day, President Biden assured the Taoiseach that   the matter is under active consideration by the White House.

 

Pending the nomination of a new US Ambassador to Ireland by President Biden and the subsequent confirmation of the appointment by the US Senate, we continue to engage closely with the US Embassy in Dublin on the whole range of issues pertaining to the Ireland-US relationship.

 

We have a very strong and positive working relationship with the US Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Alex McKnight, and her team.  I know that this will continue to be the case until, and indeed after, a new Ambassador is appointed. I am particularly grateful for the ongoing cooperation during the COVID 19 pandemic and for the work of the previous US Ambassador, Edward Crawford, during his time in Ireland. 

 

We do of course look forward to the arrival of a new US Ambassador in due course. Ireland has always maintained close relations with the US and will continue to do so, including through our Embassy in Washington D.C., our other diplomatic Missions across the United States, and through the US Embassy in Dublin.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 20/05/2021
Question Number(s)260 Question Reference(s): 27436/21
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised with the US Administration the appointment of a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recently senior members of the US Congress have written to President Biden in relation to the merit of such an appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY




The Government is working closely with President Biden and the US Administration on our bilateral agenda, including in relation to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

A longstanding commitment to peace on the island of Ireland continues to be felt strongly in the US. The Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process in Northern Ireland are not simply an achievement of the Irish and British Governments and the political representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, but one to which successive US Administrations and Members of Congress have also contributed. 

The role of the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland has been greatly valued by the Irish Government over many years. The appointment of a Special Envoy would be warmly welcomed by the Government. In any circumstances, the US will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in supporting peace, stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland.

I am grateful that President Biden continues to make an important contribution to this ongoing effort, as he has done consistently throughout his career to date, and that the US continues to stand in support of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Government greatly values the continued support, friendship and engagement of the US on the Peace Process, and for the stability and prosperity of Northern Ireland. I know these messages were reiterated by the Taoiseach during his St. Patrick’s Day engagements in the US in March.

I also met virtually with the Friends of Ireland Caucus in the US Congress in March. This meeting, as well as the recent statements from President Biden’s Administration, underline once again the bipartisan support from America’s most senior political figures for stability in Northern Ireland and safeguarding the gains of the Good Friday Agreement.

 

COMMENTS BY BRENDAN SMITH T.D.

ON VISIT BY EDUCATION MINISTER TO HOLY FAMILY SCHOOL

Zenon Clancy greets Minister for Education Norma Foley as she arrives at the Holy Family School in Cootehill on Thursday to tour the new state of the art facility.

The accommodation in the new school complex is extremely impressive and finished to a high standard.  Great credit is due to the Design Team and all who contributed to that essential preparatory work and also all the tradespeople who delivered this building to these high standards.

Over the years I have been glad to strongly support the work of the Principal and her staff colleagues, successive Boards of Management, Parents’ Associations and the wider school community in their efforts to get this much needed new school building. Well done to all who worked to bring us to this day to ensure that the students and staff will have the most modern educational facilities.  I had highlighted to successive Education Ministers the need to provide modern and adequate permanent accommodation for the Holy Family School and to ensure that the school would have the facilities to cater for a consistent increase in enrolment, which has been experienced over the years.

The Holy Family School has provided great educational services for children from all over Cavan and Monaghan and every good wish to all for the future.  Delighted that my former good Dáil colleague and friend Dr. Rory O’Hanlon was present today as he was a founding member of the Holy Family School and has been such a good friend to the school for well over 40 years. 

17/06/2021