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Minister Flanagan addresses the Dáil on Budget 2017

Minister Charles Flanagan, Press Releases, Ireland, 2016

Minister Flanagan addresses the Dáil on Budget 2017 

• €10m increase in Official Development Assistance Budget for 2017

• Minister to bring a Memo to Government to implement Programme for Government commitments to introduce cross-sectoral whole-of-government Strategies for Asia-Pacific and The Americas

• €4m additional funds for Passport Modernisation Process – Facial Recognition Technology to be introduced along with more streamlined renewal services

• New Division in Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade to address Brexit

• Minister Flanagan to undertake Trade Missions to the UAE, Saudi Arabia & France

Minister Flanagan today addressed the Dáil on his Department’s priorities under Budget 2017. 

He referred to the increase in the Official Development Assistance Budget, stating:

“For the second year running, the total allocation to Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been increased.  For 2017, the Government is allocating a total of €651 million for ODA, an increase of €10 million on the 2016 allocation.”

Referring to the recent airlift of humanitarian supplies to the besieged city of Mosul, Iraq and the commitment to provide €62 million in humanitarian support to the Syrian people by the end of the year, Minister Flanagan stated:

“In recent days, we announced further funding of €7.5 million for the Syrian people, which will bring our total humanitarian funding for Syrians since this horrific conflict began, to €62 million by the end of this year. This is our biggest humanitarian aid commitment for many years and we stand ready to do more where we can.  Our hearts go out to the Syrian people and we strongly support the UN’s efforts to bring the grotesque violence to an end. We want those responsible for the carnage dealt with by the International Criminal Court.” 

On his Trade role, Minister Flanagan stated:

“From a trade perspective, we are all acutely conscious of the importance of the UK market to Irish exporters. However, I have been working to intensify our focus on other markets. I believe we have the capacity for much greater market penetration in other EU member states and I am focussed on that. But we are also looking beyond Europe’s borders.

“The next meeting of the Export Trade Council, which I chair, will take place on Tuesday and it will focus on the Asia-Pacific region. I will shortly bring a memorandum to Government to advance the Programme for Government commitments to introduce cross-sectoral whole-of-government strategies for Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

“Just one month after the Referendum result, I joined Minister Mitchell O’Connor to announce an expanded international trade mission programme of 68 events to the end of this year including 26 ministerial-led trade missions.  Last month I undertook an engagement with EI in New York and in the weeks ahead I will be leading trade missions to France and to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

“In the last few weeks our mission network has supported three ministerial visits to the Asia-Pacific region where political level visits are crucial to deepening and strengthening our trade and investment relations. Our missions will continue to support and facilitate the ambitious programme of trade missions planned for the rest of this year in cooperation with Enterprise Ireland whose work I also greatly value.

“Earlier this year, I launched an Economic Diplomacy Strategy that seeks to build on the consolidation of the Department’s trade role in recent years by establishing a network of Commercial Attachés to extend the range and impact of our Embassies’ activities in support of trade.  This is being put in place in Mexico City, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Bucharest, and Jakarta – locations where economic opportunities exist to be explored.”

Referring to the further investment in Passport Services, Minister Flanagan stated:

“This Budget allows my Department to continue with the innovation agenda for our Passport Services.  Our modernisation process is underpinned by two drivers: a better service for Irish citizens and the need for ongoing adaptation to protect passports from exploitation by criminals.

“This year saw a huge rise in demand for passports, driven by a number of factors. There was a significant rise in the number of people travelling abroad, undoubtedly encouraged by the steady and sustained growth in our own economy and increasing confidence.  In the period January to August this year, in excess of 600,000 additional trips were taken overseas by Irish residents, compared to the same period last year. The CSO reported that over five million such trips were taken in the first eight months of this year compared to just over 4.4 million trips in 2013. This big increase in travel contributed to a big increase in the demands on the Passport Services.

“Added to this, the outcome of the UK referendum on EU membership led to a strong growth in passport applications from Northern Ireland and Great Britain.  The overall increase in demand from Northern Ireland in the first nine months this year compared to last year is 25%, with a notable increase from July onwards – for example passport demand from Northern Ireland in August 2016 is almost 80% higher than during the same month last year. 

“Passport applications from Great Britain for the period January to September this year are up 40% compared to the previous year, surging from July onwards; with demand in August 2016 being almost 120% higher than the same month last year.  Based on current trends, we estimate an overall increase in passport applications this year of between 12 and 14% - or 100,000 additional applications. Next year, we project a further significant increase.  And this will place demands on our Passport Services.

“Meanwhile, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the Irish Passport by ensuring that it cannot be exploited by criminals who target travel documents as a means of facilitating illegal activity, including money laundering.  That requires ongoing investment in technology and next year we will introduce a more streamlined passport renewal system, including enhanced facial recognition technology.

“We have been using technology to improve our offering to Irish citizens.  This time last year I launched the Passport Card, a credit card sized travel document that can be used to travel to 31 countries within Europe. The cutting edge technology of the Passport Card was recognised when it received the prestigious Best Regional ID Document at the High Security Printing Europe Conference in March.  Since its launch, almost 34,000 Passport Cards have been issued and I’d encourage more citizens to embrace this convenient option.

“I am pleased that an additional €4 million has been allocated to the Passport Reform Project in this Budget.  I want to thank the teams at our passport offices in Mount Street, Balbriggan and Cork for their hard work, their commitment to modernisation, and their citizen-centred approach.  Indeed, the Passport Office was recently named as the Irish public sector’s top ranked customer experience.  We will keep up the good work.”

Referencing Brexit, Minister Flanagan stated:

“It is Brexit which formed the immediate backdrop to this Budget.  In recent months there have been considerable discussions in Government about the potential impacts of Brexit and how we could best ‘Brexit proof’ the Budget in an environment where much remains to be clarified - in particular by the United Kingdom – and where a complex and multi-layered set of negotiations lie ahead. 

“Our goals as a Government in these negotiations – and my goals in particular as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade – are to protect and advance the enormous gains made through our own Peace Process; to prevent a hard border reappearing on this island and ensure the circumstances necessary for this island economy to flourish; to encourage an outcome which retains the closest links between Ireland and Britain on the one hand and the UK and EU on the other; and to ensure a prosperous and well-functioning EU with a strong and prosperous Ireland at its heart. 

“In respect of Northern Ireland, as I’ve made clear: the protection of the Peace Process is a central focus for the government in terms of the negotiations ahead. I have spoken repeatedly of my commitment to protecting the invisible border on our island. 

“We have been getting down to work with the Northern Ireland Executive. At the NSMC plenary meeting following the referendum, ministers from north and south agreed to a Brexit-specific work programme between the Northern Irish Executive and the Irish Government including a full audit of key North-South work programmes.  Our next plenary meeting will take place on 18 November in Armagh.

“Last week, the Government approved a proposal that the Taoiseach and I convene an all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit to give an opportunity to those affected by the vote to make their voices heard, both directly and through their representative groups.  It will also provide an opportunity to map the challenges presented by Brexit and how they might impact on different elements of society and the economy on an all-island basis. The main output will be a report and recommendations which will be used to help inform the Government's position on issues related to the UK’s exit negotiations.”

Minister Flanagan referred to the restructuring underway in his Department:

“In preparation for the complex negotiations that lie ahead, a new EU Division has been formed in my Department headed by a highly-experienced Second Secretary General and staffed by experienced officials reassigned from the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs.  Given the complexity of these negotiations, measures are being taken also to reinforce the Ireland-UK, Legal and Trade Divisions of my Department.  This will be augmented by additional resources in our key missions in Europe in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London.”  


ENDS
Press Office
13 October 2016

 

Note to Editors:

Trade Missions in Asia-Pacific in September 2016: Minister Michael Creed led an agriculture-focussed trade mission to China and Singapore; MoS Andrew Doyle led a trade mission to Vietnam and Korea.  MoS Eoghan Murphy visited the global financial centres of Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo to launch the ‘IFS Ireland’ brand, a key action of the Government’s IFS 2020 Financial Services Strategy.

Minister Flanagan will lead trade missions to the UAE & Saudi Arabia and to Lyon, France in November.

Overseas trips taken by Irish residents: http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/ot/overseastraveljune-august2016/