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05/31/2017 12:00:00 AM


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McGrath, Mattie

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Bills

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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017

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Second Stage

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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017\Second Stage
Bills\Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017\Second Stage

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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017

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Second Stage (Resumed)

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Not applicable

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Senator


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Deputy Mattie McGrath

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Mattie McGrath

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05/08/2019 02:57:44 PM

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Snippet Contents:

Who said one time that we would choke England with butter and drown it with milk? I think it was a Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture years ago. He was one of the Blueshirts. I think it was Risteárd from Tipperary, but I cannot think of his full name now. The Ceann Comhairle might be able to give his second name. It was before my time, but it will come back to me. Everyone knows who I am talking about anyway. We did neither of the things he said we would do.
What are the issues? Ireland will be liable for a total membership subscription of €125 million, 20% of which will have to be paid in capital. There are no free dinners or lunches. It is a fairly healthy investment. As we all know, five instalments of €25 million will have to be paid. The first instalment will be due when the ratification procedure has been completed. When this Bill is passed this year or next year, we will have to cough up €25 million. I could think of many more things we could do with that money rather than spending it in this way. Bypasses and other infrastructural developments are needed. People on waiting lists and people with disabilities need to be given services. Do we have the money in the economy to do this now? That is my question.
At face value, it seems sensible to expand the market for Irish exporters. It is obvious that we need to do that, but we also need to be wary about the small print. Like Deputy Broughan, I am concerned that we might be reneging on other commitments to engage in some kind of financial magic. I would not have anything to do with using some of the money we provide as overseas development aid as collateral. Since the time of the missionaries, when many nuns and priests went abroad, this country has had a proud record in overseas development. I refer, for example, to the work of our non-governmental organisations. Now we have a developed situation and we are sending funding. We cannot be tinkering and playing games like hide-and-seek with this money. It should be protected. It has been cut enough in recent years. Obviously, there has to be accountability for it. We cannot tamper with it.
Ireland has been offered 1,313 shares or votes in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This would theoretically place Ireland 43rd of 58 members. However, it is possible that other countries will join the bank. It is like doing the lotto. If it is a small local GAA club lotto, one has a good chance. If it is the big lotto, one has a very slim chance. This is quicksand. Ireland will have a vote through the EU. One person from the EU will have a vote on the board of the bank. Ireland is included as part of the EU, which has not always been a good friend to us when things have been voted through. It has not always protected our interests. There are substantial questions to be asked in that regard.
A number of concerns regarding the motivation for the establishment of the bank have been raised by the US, in particular. Japan and the US are the only G7 members that are not members of the bank. Given that the US has the largest economy in the world, surely we should examine its concerns about membership of the bank before we join it. This is another example of globalisation. We need to be very careful not to bite off something we cannot chew. We definitely cannot swallow it. It could choke us before we are able to swallow it. Given that our economy has been recovering slowly since the crash of the Celtic tiger, is investing in this bank this best thing for us to do now? I do not know whether it is. Serious questions must be asked. Do we lose a bit of our sovereignty every time we join an institution like this? Such questions are serious. When I got my first loan with Bowmaker as a young man, I knew I was taking a risk but I had some control because I was dealing with a bank that was based in Ireland. Its headquarters might not have been here, but it had a base here. We have a bad history of being mistreated, bullied, intimidated and literally raped - I hate using the word - by banks.
According to the Minister, Deputy Noonan, "Ireland’s application for AIIB membership is based on a desire to further strengthen our growing trade and economic links to Asia and China in particular". That is all fine and dandy. The Minister has also said "the AIIB will seek to address the significant demand for infrastructure in Asia, with the aim of fostering economic development and regional integration". I suggest the Minister would be better off minding our own little patch here rather than running away with himself. I know he is retiring and I wish him well. As I have said, 25% of AIB is being sold without the permission of this House - indeed, against its wishes - and the proceeds will be used to make repayments to our masters in Europe. We should have renegotiated that deal anyway. We never owed all of that money. They were reckless to shovel it in here when our banks went bust. We paid back the bondholders and the banks. All the bondholders had insurance, so they are laughing doubly all the way to the bank. I have described this previously as being like rubbing butter to a fat sow's behind. The Ceann Comhairle knows what that is about. He has often heard that expression in-----