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Diplomatic Representation Expenditure (Continued)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] I spoke to President Obama and sympathised with him in the same way as Deputy Adams has about people from Ireland and other countries who lost their lives. I made the point to him that Breezy Point, Staten Island and New Jersey have significant Irish communities. I said to the President that we had significant numbers of very skilled people here in the country, many of whom were unemployed following the collapse of the construction sector. Be it small numbers of Army personnel dealing with logistics or people who are skilled at driving machinery, demolition experts, roofers or whatever, I said to him that perhaps we should look at the question of what kind of assistance Ireland could give in that context. The President was, I think, very taken with the suggestion. What we agreed was that both the ambassador in Washington, Ambassador Collins, and his counterpart in the Administration would look at how best Ireland might actually be able to contribute in that fashion to restoring and rebuilding the areas that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

I have seen some of the documentaries. Significant areas are entirely Irish, or are certainly Irish connected. In that sense when one looks at a home that was completely flattened as if the place had been by a series of bombs, clearly people are very upset and want to get back to being able to live their lives where they have been for so many years. That issue is being followed through on behalf of this country by our ambassador with the US Administration and we will be happy to assist Deputy Adams in any way that we can in that regard. I think that, with the numbers of skilled people that we have here, we could make a significant contribution.

To be honest with Deputy Adams, the reason that I did not have an opportunity to discuss with the Administration the question of the E-3 visas and immigration was that I left here on Thursday night to fly out, was busy all of the following day and came back on Saturday night after the last function. I got here on Sunday morning. On this occasion, there just was not the time to fit it in. Next time, hopefully, and with a new Administration in office in the US, we will be able to devote more time and follow through on the new connections that need to be made very diligently.

I might point out that, from Deputy Adams's party, Deputy Martin's party, our own, the Labour Party and everybody else's party, there have been delegations to Washington over the last 15 to 18 months. We will keep that up because it requires constant contact. As Deputy Adams is well aware, now is the time to do this - at the start of President Obama's second term in office. Hopefully, we can bring about a resolution to it.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating I thank the Taoiseach, particularly for dealing with the part of my parliamentary question that asked the Government to invite President Obama for a formal state visit next June. While I was framing the question, I recalled that I was eight years of age when President Kennedy visited Dáil Éireann. If my sums are correct, the Taoiseach was 12 years of age. What I recalled in particular was that, in the decades since, Irish people still hold that wonderful occasion close to their hearts. This is a mark of the respect, friendship and closeness between the Irish and American peoples.

As the Taoiseach alluded, Prime Minister Cameron's recent announcement that the G8 Summit will be held on the island of Ireland will provide us with an opportunity next year. Given The Gathering and the fact that we will hold the Presidency of the European Union, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to promote Ireland and its people as a nation with further potential in terms of tourism, and to enhance the Irish economy. The eyes of the world will be on us. For this reason, it is important that we avail of the opportunity and extend President Obama an invitation to visit Ireland. Recently, I visited a school-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett A question, please.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating -----that the Taoiseach had the opportunity to visit previously, namely, Lucan community college. He greeted all of its students-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Could we have a question, Deputy? This is not the time for statements.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating -----some of whom have already invited President Obama. Will the Taoiseach give my suggestion the serious consideration that it deserves? The Irish people yearn for and would welcome it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I thank Deputy Keating. I spoke to President Obama to congratulate him on his re-election and the start of a second term in office. I expressed the wish that, during the course of his term, he would have the opportunity to visit Ireland again formally with Michelle, his wife, and his delegation. It was not the time to say that I was formally inviting him, but I did say that I hoped he could come back to Ireland.

The President has said on a number of occasions that his visit last year had an extraordinary impact on him and was one of the most exciting days of his presidency. In its own small way following that, the Irish community across the United States seemed to have borne this in mind in terms of their support as well.

I recall how, while I was a young lad, President Kennedy came here in 1963 and spoke from this spot. At that time, he quoted poetry: "to come back and see old Shannon's face again." That opportunity did not present itself for him. I wrote to his daughter just last week about the celebrations that will take place in Wexford, to which I have committed my involvement. A number of the Kennedy family are travelling for that.

When I had the opportunity to speak at the Kennedy centre in Boston, I said that perhaps we should look at doing something next year, but in a forward thinking and forward looking way, on the 50th anniversary of the President's anniversary to Ireland, which was the last before the great tragedy of his assassination.

Deputy Keating is quite right. It is an opportunity for us to promote the country fairly strongly in terms of The Gathering. There is a big effort going in there at the moment. I hope that it will pay the dividend that I have heard about.

When the protocol of the visit becomes a little clearer and the President's schedule becomes known, we can reflect on that suggestion. I hope that, during his Administration, he will have the opportunity to come back to Ireland, spend a little longer here this time and, if he could arrange the opportunity, address both Houses. Let me confirm to Deputy Keating that we are working with the American Administration and the Kennedy centre in Boston to do something in June or July of next year in the Kennedy centre with the theme of looking forward for the future as to the significance of that visit and how one might build on the platforms that are there to create a better world for everybody.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett If it is the Taoiseach's intention to invite President Obama, I ask him to raise two matters with the President. Given the Taoiseach's comments on corporate tax, I am disappointed that he is still continuing to hold the line and treating the issue as a sacred cow. In the context of the American Government's examination of this matter, would it not be useful to have substantial co-operation between Europe and the US on increasing the corporate tax take and breaking from the policies of tax piracy and tax competition between Europe and America and within Europe that are destabilising the global economy and robbing states, be it this one, European states or the US, of revenues that they could use for stimulus programmes and employment? This type of co-operation between Ireland and the US would be more beneficial to the citizens of both countries.

I seek a specific answer on my next question. If President Obama is to be invited to the South during the G8 Summit, will the Government also invite some of the representatives of the victims of US foreign policy so that we might at least have some balance in the debate on America's role in the world? Several times, I have mentioned that the deputy speaker of the Gaza Legislative Council, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, has asked me to ask the Taoiseach whether he can visit this country to meet the Taoiseach and Irish parliamentarians.

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