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European Council Meetings (Continued)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] The ECB, as the common supervisor will take over the responsibility for the banks from national central banks from late 2014. Those national central banks will continue to play an important role, but the ECB will have the ultimate responsibility for the system. This provides for a differentiated approach to supervision, depending on the size and significance of the banks. It provides for equal treatment for the euro area and the non-euro area and member states so as to allow banking union to be attractive to all member states, thereby protecting the Single Market.

While there will be varied views about the adequacy of the fund -----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Nobody thinks it is adequate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The first thing is to get the structure in place and make it work. Then, these issues can be reflected on as time goes on.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett In his discussions on the economic situation in Europe at the European Council, did the Taoiseach raise the issue of the property sector, housing and homelessness? The reason I ask this is that if we were to sum up in a few words the cause of the European and global economic crisis, it could probably be summed up as "property speculation in the area of housing". In the Taoiseach's consideration or in that of his colleagues in Europe, is there any awareness of issues about which I have been trying to ring an alarm bell for a year and a half, that with real estate investment trusts, rising rents, growing homelessness and so on, we are starting to do it all again. We are starting to repeat the mistakes we made in the area of property and housing that led to the bubble and the crash that beggared the people of this country and brought the European economy close to the brink.

I find it extraordinary that in the reports and discussions on the situation we talk about banking union, stress tests for the banks and the viability of the banking system etc. It is all about the banks. We all know the banks want property values to rise. It is in their interests that rents rise, because this increases the value of property and their balance sheets look good. The human consequence of inflating the property market again to benefit the banks is that people are being made homeless. This is not just an Irish problem, but the problem is particularly acute here because property was so central to what crashed our economy. This is happening in Greece, Spain and is starting to happen elsewhere.

As cynical as I am about the neoliberal dogma that dominates European political and economic thought, even I cannot believe that only six or seven years after the crash caused by this issue, it is being stoked up again. I must point out that the Taoiseach's comments, while in New York, encouraging American investors in the idea of making a killing on the Dublin property market were alarming and dangerous, because he was talking yet again about a crisis -----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I remind the Deputy this is Question Time.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett -----as an opportunity for investors to make money. However, this is a human crisis that lies at the heart of our economic problems. In his discussion with our European counterparts, is there any awareness on the Taoiseach's part that treating property as a matter for speculation, particularly the area of housing, is dangerous? Is he aware there are dangerous signs a property bubble could be beginning to emerge again in this State, fuelled by the policy of wanting to restore the banks' balance sheets and by the narrow concept of what banking is about? Even in America, the Federal Reserve Bank has a wider mandate than the ECB to ensure that areas such as employment and keeping a roof over people's heads are considerations for banking policy. US banking policy is not a model one would want to follow, but even the US has some awareness that there must be a wider mandate.

On Ukraine, I agree the Russian invasion is unacceptable. The Russian empire has long been the prison house of small nations, particularly in the areas between Russia and Europe. I agree that carrying out referendums under the barrels of tanks and guns is not a legitimate manifestation of self-determination and should be condemned. However, I find it worrying in the extreme that the Taoiseach seems to be the most gung-ho on the European side in portraying this conflict as the bad guy Russians and the good guy Ukrainian Government with Europe backing it. The other of this equation is equally nasty. There is no doubt the former Ukrainian regime was rotten, corrupt, repressive, dictatorial and backed by a nasty regime in Russia under President Putin was pretty vicious to its population. However, we have also had sight of supporters of one of the elements of the Ukrainian Government as out and out fascists - attacking TV presenters in Ukraine.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy please put his question?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We seem to be lining up with dangerous people who have a history of corruption and dangerous far right wing political ideas and saying these are the good guys. We should not be doing this. We should be responsible and recognise this is a complex situation where big powers are manoeuvring for self interest and stirring up ethnic and national divisions which could be very dangerous and are reminiscent of what happened at the beginning of the 20th century leading to the First World War. I believe the Taoiseach is being irresponsible in presenting this as a simple black and white, good guy bad guy and is doing so in a way that could be quite dangerous.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Maybe the Deputy should apply to participate in the OSCE monitoring group. Some 500 civilians with expertise are required to monitor violence, human rights issues and aggression against Ukrainian people, whether minorities of different countries or not. There are Romanians, Poles, ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, a complete mix of people, in that country and the Deputy's stirring words might fit in very well. I am quite sure High Representative Ashton may be willing to consider an expert like the Deputy for this.

I agree that the attack on the television station and the television broadcaster was completely unacceptable. It was unacceptable to the government in the Ukraine also. Some people in this democracy certainly stray across the line at times. The Deputy may know some of them, but I do not know whether he does as I believe he is a pacifist at heart, despite his tendency to take part in marches. Ireland is not gung-ho -----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Please do not equate marching with what those thugs were doing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I make the point that Prime Minister Yatsenyuk came to the European Council meeting twice in Brussels and made the point that when Mr. Yanukovych left Kiev, having privatised the presidential household, it was not burned or looted by the people of Ukraine, that there is no evidence of people being beaten up, raped, robbed or tortured across the country. The Ukrainian population was very civilised, despite the difficulties they faced.

It is not right for the Deputy to come in here and say that Ireland is the most gung-ho of all the European countries and that it sees this as a black and white issue. What we contributed to was a debate, where we were prepared as a member of the European Union to sign the political elements of the agreement with Ukraine so that the people operating in Ukraine could export at lower tariffs to the European Union and thereby create some semblance of economic activity and give some hope to the people.

The Deputy mentioned the United States and Europe in terms of banking and all the rest.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I mentioned housing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Things have changed. We are no longer giving out 100% mortgages. We are acutely aware of the pressure in the housing area, particularly in the greater Dublin area and some of the cities and larger towns around the country.

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