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Snippet Contents:

Beidh mise agus an Teachta David Cullinane ag caint ar an ábhar sin.
During statements in advance of the European Council, I raised a number of very important matters with the Taoiseach, including Brexit, the plight of Ibrahim Halawa and the ongoing political crisis in Catalonia. Thankfully, there has been good news on one of those fronts. Ibrahim has returned safely to Dublin and I am sure we are all delighted with this development. It is important now that he has the proper supports available to him in order to begin the process of rebuilding his life. Tá go leor oibre déanta ag a lán daoine ar son Ibrahim. Tá sár-obair déanta go háirithe ag an Cheann Comhairle. Tá muid fíor-bhuíoch as sin. Tá mé fíor-chinnte go bhfuil Ibrahim agus a chlann an-sásta agus buíoch as sin fosta. On my own behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin, I extend céad míle fáilte abhaile to Ibrahim and wish him well as he returns to his family and friends.
I raised the matter of Catalonia with the Taoiseach previously and am going to raise it again today. On Friday, the Spanish Senate will sit to debate and approve the use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to suspend the administration in Catalonia, as proposed by the Spanish Government. This is a retrograde step, not least because it is a rejection of the call for dialogue and mediation from the Catalan leadership. So far, the Spanish Government has refused to engage in dialogue with the Catalans. It is saying that they have to acquiesce to preconditions, including an acceptance that talk of independence is illegal. This is the wrong approach and I make no apologies for saying so, as I did yesterday evening. We know this from our own processes on this island.
When I raised this matter with the Taoiseach last week and before that, he advocated dialogue. He said that dialogue was the way forward and he also volunteered to raise the imperative of dialogue directly with the Spanish Prime Minister, alongside his stated concerns about the behaviour of the Spanish police. In his statement today, unless I missed it, the Taoiseach made no mention of this. I would like to know whether, in keeping with these commitments, the Taoiseach raised these issues at the European Council or directly with the Spanish Prime Minister. The Spanish Government justifies its refusal to embrace dialogue on the premise that these issues are an internal matter for Spain. That is exactly the attitude adopted by the British state for decades in order to prevent scrutiny of British rule on our island.
I also note the comments of the Fianna Fáil leader in respect of Brexit. It is indeed the biggest issue facing the island over the coming years, although it took the Fianna Fáil leader a wee bit of time to come around to that perspective. It has been acknowledged by the Oireachtas that a special designated status for the North within the European Union is the way forward. Fianna Fáil voted for that, but is it really the party's position? At Fianna Fáil's recent Ard-Fheis, members voted for an electronic border. That is really ingenious. We would have a toll system operating in the same way as that which operates on the M50. That is great news for the people in the Border counties. I also note the comments of a Fianna Fáil councillor, Emma Coffey, who comes from my constituency. She called for a hard border to be implemented. Her statement goes on a bit about the economy and then she argues that a hard border is needed "to protect the influx migration entering Europe" through "my country, Europe's back door." What is the Fianna Fáil position on this very important and critical issue?