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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] The anger over those issues runs right across Europe and into this country and elsewhere. In respect of the revolt that is taking place, there are now protestors in Iraq wearing the yellow vests. In Egypt, where I note this conference referred to in the Council is taking place and where the al-Sisi dictatorship is digging the grave of the Arab Spring, they have banned the sale of yellow vests out of fear that on the anniversary of the Arab Spring, the Arab masses might take to the streets wearing them. There is an internationalism - the internationalism of the poor, the downtrodden, the vulnerable taking to the streets and demanding economic and social justice. That is something we should consider strongly for this country, the world and Europe, as the counterblast to the rotten Tories and the far right.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Taoiseach and the representatives of the Government must take note of what is happening in France. This is one of the largest countries in Europe and a massive tide of protest is taking place. The yellow vest movement is an inspirational revolt by working people and the poor against the President of the rich, Emmanuel Macron, and his policies. The protests show that these policies can be challenged. Austerity has wreaked havoc in French society. The struggle to make ends meet is now an epidemic. The Socialist Party and our sister organisation, Gauche Révolutionnaire, support these movements against anti-working class policies.

  I refer to some quotes from people taking part in the protests. A young restaurant worker on the minimum wage said, "I did not eat yesterday or at last night's dinner." Another said, "We yellow vests represent the poor of France, those with modest or low incomes who are being crushed." Another said, "I am here for all those people left crying by the 15th of each month because they have gone into the red." That is what has happened because of austerity policies in France and across the EU. The movements have seen blockades, militant occupations and weekly protests in every major town and city. There has been important industrial action as well. Protests involving young people, school students, university students have been met with vicious and brutal state repression, exemplified by the shocking images on social media of more than 140 young people forced to kneel in front of the police with their arms behind their backs, their only crime protesting outside their school. That is children and that is what is being done by Macron and his police force. This protest movement has also linked with environmental protests and movements against violence against women, which we witnessed the weekend before last. The policies of Macron's terror regime are being imposed across Europe and the globe. As has been mentioned, the sale of yellow vests has been banned in Egypt in case there is contagion. The mood that exists in France exists in many other countries in Europe, including Ireland.

  When elected in May 2017, Macron was the shiny new face of neoliberalism. The Taoiseach went out of his way to emulate him and fell head over heels to bask in his radiance - Trudeau, Macron, Varadkar, etc. There is a warning here for the Taoiseach. Support for Macron has plummeted and he is now one of the most hated presidents in French history. This is a millionaire former banker who represents a system built on maintaining inequality and undermining living standards of working class people in the interests of profit. One yellow vest protestor correctly characterised the concessions Macron was forced to make, when he came out of hiding after a week, as putting plasters on a third-degree burn. They know much more can be won. The idea of tous ensemble, everyone together, has become the sentiment in French society and there is great willingness to fight and to get organised. We need action committees to be brought together from workplaces, schools and the yellow vest protests to discuss and to organise this struggle and campaign. As we saw in May 50 years ago, due to its economic power and its traditions, the organised working class and trade union movement in France has a crucial role to play. The day of action on 14 December called by the General Confederation of Labour, CGT, is a step forward. A 24-hour general strike is needed to put a stop to the Macron government and to force him to go much further. A system run for private profit means the further squeezing of living standards. It is essential that this movement unites all working class people of all colours, regardless of background. Any racist or anti-immigrant sentiment needs to be stood against. To make these demands a reality, a government of the working class that ends the rule of the CAC 40, major banks and industries that dominate the French economy, the parasites whom Macron represents, is needed. They should be taken out of the private ownership of profiteers and placed in public ownership under democratic control of working people in an economy planned for the needs of the majority, not run for economic elites. A struggle for a socialist France can open a struggle for a socialist Europe, uniting working class people in opposition to the rule of the bosses and the EU that represents them.

  I want to take up the situation with regard to Brexit. We should remind ourselves that the 2016 referendum for withdrawal from Europe was another manifestation of the widespread alienation from political parties that have pushed neoliberal policies for three decades. The majority of those who voted for Brexit were angry at years of austerity that resulted in falling living standards and cuts in public services. They were fed up of being told that the pain must be shared when their pockets were being picked to bail out the banks. Now Theresa May has pulled back on a vote for the draft Brexit agreement at the eleventh hour and faces the sack herself. Solidarity-PBP and the Socialist Party understand and share the anger of ordinary people across Europe. France is in turmoil. The Brexit deal is stuck for related reasons. The system simply cannot deliver for working people and it cannot deliver democratic rights either. Anger and alienation are widespread and unexpected referendum results and burning barricades in Paris are simply a manifestation of this.

  During the referendum campaign, the RMT rail workers union in Britain and the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, NIPSA, the public sector union in the North, both took principled positions of opposition to the EU in favour of a left alternative. These unions have shown the way and if the trade unions were now to bring their combined weight behind a movement for a new Europe organised in the interests of the 99%, millions of people could be mobilised across these islands and across Europe. It is not just a question of the trade unions organising to protect jobs and terms and conditions of working people. The union movement in Ireland has a proud record of uniting working class people, Catholic and Protestant, and has a historic responsibility to act now with resolution in the interests of working people across the island. The unions must mobilise to counter any measures that result in an increase in sectarian division in the North and there must be no hardening of borders North, South, east or west.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Deputies Daly, Wallace and Maureen O'Sullivan are sharing time. I call Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Ladies first. One of the few ladies in the whole place.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach I take it Deputy Wallace is last.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I hope he is not using my time now. Migration is to be discussed at the Council under the heading of implementation of the comprehensive approach to migration. Does that comprehensive approach include the increasing securitisation agenda when it comes to migration? It is undermining and certainly threatening the EU aid budget. There is a fear of considerable funding going to the securitisation agenda. The "fortress Europe" image is damaging to the founding principles of the EU. There is undeniable hypocrisy in President Tusk's recent statement following the Salzburg summit, when he said that we may not agree on everything but we agree that the main goal is stemming illegal migration to Europe. EU policies and the actions of certain countries created the reasons people are migrating. I refer to issues such as arms sales, tax measures and unfair trade treaties. They are the factors keeping those countries impoverished, which leads to migration. Europe will talk about tackling the root causes of migration but it is much easier to put up barriers. That also loses sight of the fact that there is far more internal migration within Africa than there is outward migration from Africa. President Tusk also spoke about co-operation with third countries. If we look at some of them, however, Libya is a failed state, while Turkey has a questionable human rights agenda.

Preparation for the upcoming summit with the League of Arab States is also on the Council agenda. Yemen has to be the main item of that summit. The conflict going on since 2011 is a seven-year conflict in a country that had so many challenges even without a war. This war is not about Yemen. It is a power struggle between Saudi Arabia, backed by the US, and what they see as Iranian influence and support for the Houthi rebels.

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