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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 Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly] Our so-called rescue package, as the ambassador put it, was, in fact, a rescue package for the European financial institutions. I accept that the Tánaiste's position is difficult, but I ask him to take a much more robust position on these issues. I do not say this lightly and wish him good luck in his endeavours.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly As the Tánaiste prepares for his next European outing, it would be remiss not to mention his participation in the utterly ludicrous and outrageous presentation of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union. This participation represented a shocking failure on the part of the Government, a missed opportunity to boycott the event and take a stance against the galling hypocrisy that saw a militarised European Union, which has participants in Iraq and Afghanistan and which numbers among its ranks some of the largest arms manufacturers in the world, granted such recognition. It is a sick joke.

The Taoiseach's presentation included only a few lines on the important foreign policy issues that will be addressed at the Council meeting. It is very important that the Government departs from its complicity in the lack of action we are seeing in some of these areas. In particular, the Israeli offensive against Gaza and the continuing extension of settlements on the West Bank are an outrage. Simply stating one's opposition to such activity is not good enough, particularly when the European Union does the opposite of what it says by maintaining its position as Israel's largest trading partner. It is a case of conflicting signals, with the Union giving Israel a little tap on the shoulder, while at the same time embracing it with open arms. The Israelis responded to the United Nations decision to afford Palestine enhanced observer status with a two finger gesture in the form of its extension of the settlement programme. In the face of such determination one can talk about it or one can do something about it. As Ireland prepares for the Presidency of the European Union, the time is right to take action. Words are no longer enough. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and others have called for a ban on goods from the settlements. At the very least, the implementation of EU regulations on consumer branding and so on should proceed without delay. Unfortunately, I do not have enormous confidence that the Government will steer action in this regard, particularly in the light of the Tánaiste's antics in the European Parliament yesterday.

Deputy Seán Crowe referred to the conclusion of the free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru. This, more than anything, is an indictment of the Government and its actions in Europe. There has been a great deal of comment in the media recently on the betrayal of its voters by the Labour Party in respect of the domestic policies it has pursued in government. The party should have no less cause for shame when it considers that every single trade union federation, non-governmental organisation and human rights body lobbied against ratification of an agreement with Colombia in the light of that country's systematic abuse of human and workers' rights. On the other hand, the lobbying by business interests seems to have been much more successful, those interests having been supported and vindicated by the agreement. It is an absolute disgrace and the Tánaiste, in particular, given his record in opposition, should be ashamed.

We should not be surprised that such agreements are countenanced because that is the mark of the European Union in both its foreign and domestic policies. Other Deputies referred to the worsening economic crisis and growing instability across member states. That is a consequence of the continuation of austerity which has had a calamitous impact on people throughout Europe. Unless those policies are addressed and until there is an end to the foisting of private debt onto the shoulders of the public, we will not have a better Europe but rather a recipe for ongoing instability and crisis.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace It is my expectation that some form of debt relief will be put in place. When matters go to the brink, the European Union tends to do what needs to be done. An agreed scheme of debt mutualisation is essential for all economically troubled countries in Europe. For now, however, the Government must make clear to its counterparts in Europe that the social fabric of this country is under threat and that we are on the edge of an abyss as more and more people are driven into poverty. When the relief is eventually provided, some of the long-term damage may be irreparable. This country needs help now - waiting until after elections in other countries will inflict further wounds on those least able to deal with the pain. Austerity and the associated cutbacks in State expenditure are having a counterproductive effect. Moreover, the full calamitous impact of the cutbacks is still to be seen. The long-term outlook is very worrying in many ways.

  Yesterday we learned that the troika was pushing for reform of repossession law in this country which, it claimed, was crucial to Ireland's economic recovery. A more general policy of repossession by financial institutions will not do much for social recovery. A report in the Financial Times today includes a comment by Noeline Blackwell of the Free Legal Advice Centres:

This is a social problem for the state because there is no social housing coming on stream and the mortgage to rent scheme is simply not happening. Lenders will also face problems trying to sell properties in a market that is scraping along the floor.

The notion that we should give the banks greater capacity to throw people out of their homes is a very frightening one and I hope the Government will not go down that track.

  Following the decision to award the Nobel peace prize to the European Union, I ask the Tánaiste to remind his European colleagues of Alfred Nobel's stipulation in his will that the award should go to those who do most to achieve military disarmament. The reality is that Europe exports one third of the world's arms. The intra-Community transfer, ICT, directive, which amounts to a deregulation of the rules governing the export of arms, is cause for serious concern. I accept completely that the notion of France and Germany ever again going to war against each other is no longer credible. The idea of a united Europe was and is an excellent one. However, it is sad to see these countries so dependent on the arms industry for profits. They have been promoting it to such an extent that Greece which spent €7 billion importing arms last year was not allowed to cancel its arms purchase contracts, even though its citizens were hungry.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this discussion. I bear no ill will towards the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste or the Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, and wish them well in their engagements in the European Union. However, the public has grown weary of the process of Ministers wasting jet fuel travelling elsewhere in Europe. The Government should have put a double carbon tax on that fuel expenditure because it is a waste of time and money. I remember the Tánaiste's righteous indignation when he stood on the other side of the House and used phrases such as "economic treason", yet he has the audacity to accept Ireland's share of the glory when the European Union is awarded the Nobel peace prize.

I am not concerned with discussing any country other than our own. In the fullness of time, when the history of this period is written, I expect that we might well deserve a Nobel prize. It will not, however, be for making peace but for picking up the shattered pieces of the Irish race. If the Government persists in the policies it is pursuing - the same policies pursued by its predecessors, among whom I was numbered before I stood up and railed against them - that is how the Tánaiste will be remembered. It would be a sad legacy for a man who began his career in student union politics before coming through various left-wing parties. How can he allow his party to become the mudguard for a capitalist party such as Fine Gael and be dictated to on issues which should be matters of strong principle for it, particularly in the budget?

The Taoiseach refuses to engage with Mrs. Merkel and company and tell them the real story of Ireland in 2011 and 2012. That must be done now and the troika should be told the same. It was incredible to wake up this morning and hear that, at the behest of the troika, or some greater power within it, the Government would change Irish law, perhaps as soon as next March, to allow the banks to carry out much greater numbers of savage repossessions. I urge the Tánaiste to recall Michael Davitt of the Land League and those who worked with him. He should also remember James Connolly whose life was commemorated in Clonmel last week. I was glad to welcome the Tánaiste to the town on that occasion. He must look into his conscience and consider whether he was elected to behave in this way, whether these are the policies he would seek to expound. He will surely agree that a mockery is being made of our democracy. I am very concerned because I do not understand how he has gone so wrong.

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