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Snippet Contents:

I am sharing time with Deputy Paul Murphy.
The Taoiseach is once again walking out of the Chamber as a Deputy of the left begins speaking. That has become a consistent pattern. Apart from the high-flown rhetoric, the videos and the photo ops, the Taoiseach is not on the moral high ground in the context of looking for European allies and talking about the need to shape a new future for Europe because the priority of the Government seems to be to defend, at all costs - even against the opprobrium of the European Union - the tax evasion strategies of big multinational corporations. It is doing so to the extent that Ireland is now being threatened with legal action by the European Union over its failure to put the €13 billion owed to us by Apple into an escrow account pending the outcome of an appeal. That appeal might not even take place in view of the fact that the Government is backing up Apple and spending millions of taxpayers' money trying to ensure that the latter gets away with what was clearly tax avoidance. I have no doubt that the State was complicit in that tax avoidance, although that could be debated. However, there is no doubt that Apple and other big multinationals were and are engaged in aggressive tax avoidance and the Government is backing them against the European Union in order to ensure that they continue to get away with it and get their money back. That does not put the State on the moral high ground.
One could contrast that with the vision of a social Europe often mobilised by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in an effort to get people to vote for various European treaties. The European Social Charter is a big element of that vision. On foot of the charter, people should not worry about the European Union just being a corporate military entity. However, this week, as well as being threatened with fines relating to Apple, there was a finding against the State by the European Committee of Social Rights, which stated that we are in breach of Article 16 of the charter because we have failed to provide adequate housing for local authority tenants. Twenty local authority estates took a collective action to the European Committee of Social Rights because of chronic damp, poor plumbing, raw sewage leaking into baths and sinks, a lack of central heating and other absolutely deplorable conditions in local authority housing. A huge number of people cannot get local authority housing but many who have are living in chronically substandard conditions. The Government has not set out a timeline for rectifying the appalling conditions that are doing very serious damage to the health of families and children and exacerbating medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disorder, asthma and so on that have reached chronic levels among young people, particularly those living in older local authority housing stock. We would have faced worse sanction from the committee but for the fact that a Fianna Fáil-led Government opted out of Article 31 of the charter, which deals with the right to housing. How much difference might signing up to that article have made in the context of the current crisis? What is the Government going to do? Did it or will it discuss with our European colleagues the failure of the State to provide proper living conditions in vast amounts of local authority housing stock and the fact that Ireland is in breach of the European Social Charter? The Government is prepared to go to war with Europe to ensure that multinationals do not pay tax. As a result of the fact that they do not pay any tax, we have substandard housing - or none at all - for poor, vulnerable, less well-off people for whom the State is supposed to provide. The latter must be seen in the context of the fact that the European Social Charter is supposed to guarantee the right to decent housing for local authority tenants.