Budget 2019 – Dáil Remarks for Tánaiste
Speech11 October 2018
Ceann Comhairle, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Budget 2019 and its implications for the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under Votes 27 and 28.
As Tánaiste and the Cabinet Minister with responsibility for coordinating the Government’s response to Brexit however, I want to start by outlining what Budget 2019 means in terms of Ireland’s readiness for Brexit and whatever it may bring. We are obviously at a critical juncture in the Brexit process. EU and UK teams are now negotiating intensively with the aim of achieving verifiable progress before the October European Council. And I remain confident that a full Withdrawal Agreement can be agreed, including a backstop to guarantee no return of any hard border on this island.
While these talks continue in Brussels, it is vital that Ireland and Irish businesses prepare for Brexit. This was the focus of the “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” campaign which we launched in Cork last Friday and which will include further events in Galway, Monaghan and Dublin in the coming weeks.
And as we saw yesterday, Brexit preparedness is foremost among the Government’s priorities. The decisions to eliminate our deficit, to increase our Rainy Day Fund to €2 billion, and to invest in key domestic infrastructure were about building our resilience and helping ensure Ireland is ready for whatever change Brexit brings. And this has been backed by strong sectoral responses across the full range of relevant Departments and agencies. This includes a new €300 million long-term Future Growth Loan Scheme – designed to complement the short-term SME loan scheme already in place – and an overall agricultural package of an additional €80 million in funding and farm sector supports.
In my Department, an additional €18 million has been allocated, primarily for Brexit-related expenditure, in 2019 under Vote 28. Having already posted additional senior personnel to Berlin, Paris, London and Brussels, this will enable us to continue to strengthen our teams in other key EU capitals like The Hague, Warsaw, Madrid and Rome.
Further funding is being earmarked for the Passport Service, which has seen a notable increase in demand for Irish passports from Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and Great Britain since the UK voted to leave the EU. Over 20% of total passport applications for 2017 came from these jurisdictionswithmore than 82,000 applications being received from Northern Ireland and almost 81,000 from Great Britain. This represented increases of 20% and 28% respectively on 2016 applications.
Additional funding is also being made available to support essential reconciliation work being carried out by civil society in Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland – work that is more urgent because of Brexit and the continuing absence of a Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.
Our Vote 28 allocation will also help us to begin delivering on our ‘Global Ireland’ vision of an expanded international footprint for the post-Brexit world. This expanded presence will extend our support to Irish businesses in search of new markets.
That’s why we will be opening offices in Mumbai, Frankfurt and LA, and new embassies in Chile and Colombia in 2019. It will also help us sustain close relations across the UK after Brexit, with a new Consulate in Cardiff next year.
In 2019 we will also take forward work on an exciting new Embassy and Ireland House in Tokyo that will project the very best Ireland has to offer in one location. This is a major development, one of the most complex that we have ever undertaken overseas and a signal of the potential and opportunities that we can tap into in the Irish-Japanese relationship.
This strengthened support for trade diversification is a crucial component to our Brexit response. In 2019, this will also include stepped-up preparations for Expo 2020 in Dubai - a major platform for Ireland internationally in a region with huge trade and investment potential for Ireland.
Ceann Comhairle, I am pleased to confirm that the Government will be able to significantly increase the funding available to overseas development assistance in 2019 in comparison to the figures announced in Budget 2018. This represents the highest year-on-year budgetary increase in ODA since 2006.
This is a credible first step towards meeting the Government commitment to dedicate 0.7% of GNI to ODA by 2030 – an objective that, I believe, is shared by all parties in this Oireachtas. And yesterday’s announcement included a €44.8 million increase in 2019 under Vote 27 for Irish Aid, the international development programme managed by my Department.
This significant budgetary commitment by the Government to international development is a reflection of Ireland’s values but also Ireland’s interests. We all have a stake in making a better world.
We will now use these additional resources to fight against poverty and hunger, to continue to bring real and sustainable improvements some of the world’s poorest communities, and to increase our response to the unprecedented level of humanitarian needs worldwide.
Europe is struggling to respond to movements of people resulting from conflict and lack of economic opportunity. At the same time, countries objectively much worse off than EU Member States are hosts to millions of refugees. And the effects of climate change are looming for all of us.
Ireland, as a global island, has a responsibility to help with the collective response – and it is fundamentally in our interests to do so.
The UN’s 2030 agenda and the EU plan for Africa announced by President Juncker last month set out a path for how this response can be shaped. We must chart a path towards a healthier, safer world in which millions more people can work in dignity close to home.
Ireland has a well found reputation for aid quality – we are one of the more effective donors in reaching those in extreme poverty. Just last month, a well-respected think tank, ODI, issued a study which found that Ireland was the highest ranked donor at reaching those in extreme poverty. What we are doing works and has real impact.
I want us to build on that reputation for quality development and to do even better. A public consultation on a new International Development Policy closed last week and drafting has begun. I expect that new Policy, which I will launch before the end of the year, will orientate Irish Aid to continue to reduce poverty well into the next decade.