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Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] Sinn Féin should not need to tell the Government that this money cannot and should not be paid. The citizens of this State cannot afford it. The Government needs to be as tough on this issue as it is when it is cutting the respite care grant, child benefit and the back to school clothing and footwear allowance and when it is taxing maternity benefit. The Taoiseach should be as tough in this case as he was earlier when he said the Government is not for turning when it comes to deal with the carer's respite allowance.

When the Taoiseach told citizens during last year's general election campaign that he would stand up for Ireland's interests, he meant this part of Ireland. As I have said previously, geography is not the Taoiseach's strongest point. The Tánaiste told us last year that it would be Labour's way or Frankfurt's way, but instead the Government has gone Fianna Fáil's way. The policy of giving blank cheques to the banks has been continued. The Taoiseach told the Dáil in June of this year that a deal had been done and that the legacy debt issue was sorted. Six months later, we are no further forward. The Taoiseach did not even raise the bank debt issue when he met Chancellor Merkel in November. He did not raise it at the last EU summit. As far as I can see from the statement the Taoiseach has made today, the bank debt issue is not on the clár for this summit. When will the issue be raised? Will the Taoiseach give a commitment to raise it this week?

It seems that the ability of the State to exit the troika programme in 2013 and return to the markets in 2014 will depend in large part on whether a creditable deal on banking debt can be secured. The debt as it currently stands is not sustainable. The Government should not be asking citizens to pay it because it is not their debt. Approximately a quarter of all money raised in taxes next year will be used to pay interest on this debt. The Taoiseach knows this. The debt accrued by private bankers is being paid by carers. Payments such as child benefit and the back to school uniform grant are being reduced so that it can be paid. A tax is being placed on the family home in order to pay it. The Taoiseach needs to give citizens some certainty about his strategy and the timetable he is working towards.

The Taoiseach mentioned the road map that the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Central Bank and the President of the Eurogroup were asked to draft at last June's summit of EU leaders. At that time, we were told that a specific and timebound roadmap would be in place by December. It is supposed to pave the way for the reduction of national fiscal and economic sovereignty in the interests of deeper economic and monetary union. I remind the Taoiseach that Sinn Féin is opposed to this. The Government needs to give citizens its detailed view in support of it.

Last month, the EU leaders failed to agree a new seven-year budget. The Government will have to take up this challenge in the new year when it assumes the Presidency of the EU. The German Chancellor indicated earlier this week that she is sceptical about the potential for progress. She appears to want to reduce expectations. The Tánaiste indicated yesterday that he expects new powers allowing the ECB to supervise banks to be agreed by EU leaders at the forthcoming summit. Does the Taoiseach share that expectation, in light of the attitude of the German Chancellor and her finance minister, who has warned against the EU moving too quickly and voiced objections to the ECB taking supervisory responsibility for all 6,000 eurozone banks? Does the Government believe the legacy bank debt and promissory note issues, in respect of which it has made many false promises, will be settled before March? What is its strategy? Does it expect agreement to be reached on the use of the European Stability Mechanism to deal with legacy debt? Will we eventually get the long-heralded technical paper on the promissory note?

As I said in my opening remarks, Sinn Féin has been saying from the outset that this debt should not be paid. One of the first things the Government did when it came into office was pay a €3.1 billion promissory note instalment. I reiterate that this is not the people's debt - it is the private debt of bankers and speculators which has been lumbered on the backs of citizens. Last week's budget underlined the price that citizens, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society, are having to pay so that the private debt of bankers and speculators can be repaid.

The issue of Palestine needs to be raised at the forthcoming summit. The conflict in Gaza was intensifying at the time of the last EU summit. Like all Members of the House, I welcomed the recent ceasefire in the region. The UN General Assembly recently voted in favour of granting non-member observer status to the Palestinian state. The Government supported that and I supported and welcomed the Government's position. I congratulate the Palestinian Authority on its securing of such a resounding diplomatic victory. However, the inflammatory response of the Israeli Government, in embarking on further settlement expansion, will undermine the prospects for peace. While I welcome the criticism by EU foreign ministers of Israel's actions, we need to go beyond rhetoric on this issue. The increase in settlement construction, like the construction of the separation wall and the siege of the Gaza Strip, is in violation of international law. In spite of this, the EU is continuing to give Israel preferential treatment in European markets and is refusing to ban the importation of products from the illegal Israeli settlements. I ask the Taoiseach to raise this issue at the forthcoming EU Council meeting. The EU and Ireland should take a leadership role in this regard. We should use what influence we can to bring about a proper settlement and a proper peace process in that region.

I would like to conclude by asking the Taoiseach to raise the de Silva report on the Pat Finucane case, which was published today, formally and informally at the forthcoming summit. I have asked the Taoiseach on a number of occasions to ensure the State's diplomatic and consular services and its influence with other states at every international forum, including the EU, are used to ensure the Finucane family gets the justice it is demanding.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe Once again we meet in this Chamber before a European Council summit. I wish the Taoiseach and his officials every success in the difficult negotiations that lie ahead. I think that sentiment will be shared by all parties, groups and individuals in this House. I ask the Taoiseach to stand up for Ireland and its people, many of whom are being crippled by austerity and are hanging off a financial cliff by their fingernails. Irish citizens want him to fight more aggressively for a deal that will separate sovereign debt from the private debt that is being loaded on the shoulders of hard-pressed taxpayers. The actions of the Greek Government, in securing a new partial deal on its debt, have shown there is real scope for countries to secure a write-down on debt. It is clear from the Greek case that a Government that negotiates strongly can receive a deal on its debt. Like the previous speakers, I would like to know the Government's negotiating strategy. What outcome does it expect from these negotiations? What is the specific timeframe under which it is operating? Does the Taoiseach agree that it would be much better to secure a deal before Ireland assumes the EU Presidency? I accept that is unlikely to happen.

This Government was elected on the back of promises that were made to an electorate that expected and demanded a new approach. We have seen very little that is new in this Government's approach or its policies. Its negotiating strategy seems to be going nowhere. This Government has not brought about any significant change in the well-being of the Irish economy. It has consistently failed to deliver a deal to remove the burden of private banking debt from the shoulders of taxpayers. That burden is not what the people of Ireland want. That is not the mandate for which the Government was elected. Ireland's private and public debt is unsustainable - it is that simple. Irish taxpayers are rightly incensed and outraged at being asked to fund payouts for unsecured bondholders.

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