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Deputy Mattie McGrath

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Snippet Contents:

I am pleased to speak about this interesting meeting. I note from the report by President Donald Tusk to the European Parliament following the meeting that he is “obsessed by unity". This is interesting. He must be having a very anxious time of it when we recall the recent outcome of the Austrian election. Austria now has a very young president who swept to power on a mandate of less Europe, not more. We see the recent events in Catalonia and the votes in the Lombardy region and Venice in the north of Italy, and we see the growing sense that, despite their best efforts, the people of Europe are rejecting outright the extreme federalism that is at the heart of the EU project. This is obvious and anyone who wants to see it can see it. This is happening for certain reasons, in particular because the EU is not listening in the first place - cluasa dúnta, closed ears. They do not want to hear what is going on. We have not been very good at communicating our fears from this side of the House. That is the situation as I see it. We are in the middle of Brexit and that is why.
What else can Mr. Tusk expect when people see an increasingly centralised power emerging and their own local and cultural identities being submerged? It is interesting that the next meeting will be about culture and identity. We need to respect that, especially in our case, but in all other cases too. We had a debate last night at which the Spanish ambassador was present. I welcomed him and felt he should be entitled to be here without being lectured and verbally attacked. We have diplomatic people all over the world and we expect them to be received, listened to and respected in parliaments. Does Mr. Tusk think we are all obsessed with his narrow vision of unity? He must think that. We want co-operation and friendship between the states but the idea of ever-closer union has become a noose around the neck of national territories. They are getting a dose of that and they have not learned. After the banking collapse, they came in here, lectured us and told us what we had to do - they put us into straitjackets and kept us in those straitjackets. Why? It is because the then Taoiseach, Mr. Kenny, and the then Minister, Mr. Noonan, were ready to get into the straitjackets as if they were life-jackets, when they were anything but. They were straitjackets and we are still in them. With their fiscal rules and fiscal policy, we could only have a skift of snow to give out to everyone, and it went with the first ray of sunshine. We need some autonomy here, as do other countries, and we must be respected for that.
As I said, we want co-operation and friendship between the states but the very idea of ever-closer union has become a noose around our neck and the necks of other countries. Can they not wake up and smell the coffee? This is what is happening. I note also that President Tusk gave a very mean-spirited and self-pitying account of all the amazing efforts he had put in to keep the UK within the European Union. If he had listened to the reasons and had less regulation, less intrusion and fewer penalties and threats, it would have been different. A carrot and stick is one thing but threats and bullying is another thing.
Unfortunately, President Tusk said, “this was not enough for the Brits.” That is his wooing and his courtship. He must not have had much experience of courtship, like some of my colleagues might have had in the hills and glens and valleys. It is this kind of posturing that makes people extremely frustrated with our dear leaders in Europe. I say that tongue in cheek. They are not my dear leaders anyway, given the penury they forced us into. It is as if the ability of a sovereign people to determine its own fate is something that must be gifted to them. We are entitled to it and it is no gift of Mr. Tusk or any of his predecessors. We are entitled to our sovereignty. We fought hard for it, in particular the people of 1916, 1921, 1922 and 1923, my late father included. If they choose to seek another model of engagement with Europe, they are considered reckless, frivolous and not interested in courtship, like being refused a dance for the third time. The Minister of State might understand what I am talking about, although I do not mean that in any disrespectful way. We would all want to dance with the Minister of State, although she might not want to dance with us. The tunes might not be right or our moves might not be the best.
This is patronising stuff of the highest order. I fear that if Mr. Tusk continues down this line, he will make it more difficult to achieve the beloved unity that he never tires of telling us he is obsessed with.