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Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] We know that if the UK economy is hit, we will suffer badly. As I always say, if England catches a cold, we get the flu. The UK is our nearest trading partner. Many Irish people live there and many of our businesses are intertwined. If Italy enters a severe debt crisis, the entire European economy will suffer major damage. That these two scenarios look more likely than ever is deeply concerning to my constituents throughout Tipperary, from Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Cashel to Thurles, Roscrea, Templemore and Nenagh, including the farming community. There is already an astonishing crisis in the beef industry and many other farming sectors. It is shocking.

I could not finish without saying something about the uncaring attitude at EU level towards the persecution of Christians, as well as Muslim and other minorities, in the Middle East. Yemen was mentioned, where there is an atrocious war. I recently visited the Middle East and the situation there is shocking. Countries such as France and England export massive amounts of weapons to countries in the region, thereby helping to heap destruction on men, women and children. The war in Yemen is savage war. I have tried on several occasions - since I first went there in 2011 - to have a meaningful debate in the House about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen. I have received no support and there is no appetite across all the parties. They are able to unify for everything else. They unified for months to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution and to rush legislation through the House, but there has been no debate on this issue. They have turned a blind eye to it because we might offend someone in Europe. It is outrageous but I thank the Ceann Comhairle who allowed four of us, Deputies O'Keeffe, Grealish, me and one other, to engage in a Topical Issue debate on Holy Thursday evening a couple of years ago. That is all we got. Were it not for the Ceann Comhairle, we would have got nothing.

The parties have turned a blind eye to this issue in order to be the good boys and girls of Europe and to salute the EU. When it says "Jump", the parties ask "How high?" The Minister of State has done all the jumping, the box-ticking and the tours of European capitals, and she has received support for the country, which must be recognised, but at what price was it? Cén costas a bhí leis sin? That is my worry. What is going on behind closed doors and to what are we signed up? We signed up to the UN declaration on migrants this week. What else have we signed up to or exposed ourselves to without any debate in Parliament?

The media also have a role to play, and I extol them to be more investigative and energetic in talking about these issues and the lack of debate on them in Parliament. Last week, the decks were able to be cleared of any business to ensure a horrific abortion Bill could be rushed over the line. There was co-operation from all the parties. Even expressions of sympathy for Fine Gael's former Taoiseach, the late Liam Cosgrave, were pulled from the agenda to accommodate the unified parties in ensuring the Bill's passage. The Fianna Fáil Party propped up Fine Gael on that issue more than anything else, against the wishes of its members as voted for at its Ard-Fheis, and now it seems there will be another year of the confidence and supply agreement.

Most people want rid of Theresa May because of the appalling way that housing, agriculture, children etc. have been neglected.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach The Deputy should speak on the European Council meeting.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am doing so but others digressed and gave us a state-of-the-nation address on the confidence and supply agreement. I hope, therefore, that I am allowed some latitude.

People want rid of the Government, more than it knows, because it is anti-democratic and, above all, uncaring. It has turned a blind eye to Yemen and the rest of the Middle East. We have a proud reputation for neutral peacekeeping but it is fast disappearing and I am worried about that to which the Government has signed up.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey I thank Deputy Mattie McGrath for sharing time.

It is hard to believe what is going on in British politics. After 45 years of membership of the EU, the UK is leaving on 29 March next, after which it will have third-country status. That is the current position although things may change. The UK electorate was not told the truth during the referendum campaign. The debate was ugly and nasty, at times, and centred around immigration, which is now one of the major global issues. A false scenario was presented to the electorate, and the UK public and Members of Parliament have only recently become aware of the reality that exists. The British Prime Minister recently explained the hard facts of the situation, which has led to her difficulties in getting approval in Parliament for the withdrawal agreement. If nothing else, Theresa May is resilient and tenacious, and we await developments in that regard in London this evening.

I note the comments made by the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, earlier. Providing political stability to the country at this dangerous time is welcome. Irish businesses are doubtless becoming exercised about Brexit, as are the wider public. It was a difficult decision for Deputy Micheál Martin to embark on the road he outlined for us earlier, and it will cause difficulties within our party, but it is in the national interest. When one compares what is happening in UK politics with what is happening here, there is a significant contrast. In general, people will welcome the political stability he has offered.

I listened to a great speech by a former British Prime Minister, John Major, in Dublin yesterday. He is such a sensible, pragmatic man and politician. One of the main concerns in his address was the future of Anglo-Irish relations. If the UK is no longer in the European Union, it is clear there will be less opportunity for interaction with Ministers from both jurisdictions to discuss the major issues of the day. He outlined many other concerns but that was one of which we must be conscious.

The major issue is to prepare for a hard Brexit. We need to be prepared for Britain crashing out of the European Union, that is, a disorderly Brexit. I note that the Cabinet mandated all Departments yesterday to give full priority to activating their plans for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit. We need to prepare for the no-deal scenario. There was some discussion in the House earlier on the legislation which the Oireachtas will have to pass in preparation. It needs to be addressed quickly and considered over the Christmas recess with a view to dealing with the situation in the new year. It will be necessary to hire customs officers, vets and food and safety inspectors for our ports and airports, a matter which I assume the Government is dealing with as we speak. Businesses need to be fully aware of the situation. Many other issues will be discussed at the European Council meeting, including the multi-annual financial framework. I hope that cap can be protected, as I have previously told the Minister of State. Migration is also an important issue, and it is probably one of the reasons that Brexit is happening. I hope that practical measures can be taken to deal with the major issue of migration, which affects Europe and the rest of the world.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan With the Acting Chairman's indulgence, I will refer to the general political situation here. It indirectly relates to the European Council because it seems the Council will concern nothing but the nature of politics in France, Italy and, most of all, Britain. How we engage in politics, however, is part of the discussion.

Before I entered the Chamber, I was working in the bowels of the Joint Committee on Climate Action and, therefore, I did not hear Deputy Micheál Martin's speech, but he had the good courtesy to approach me to inform me of his decision. It is only good courtesy of me to contribute with honesty because I had also spoken to him in private about the issue last week.

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