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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 926 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Let us remember something very simple. Russia is responsible for a brutal dictator refusing to hand over power to democratic forces. It is Russia which is using bunker-busting bombs to hit civilian hospitals and residential areas repeatedly. To compare this to the bombing by America and others of the inhumane and ghastly ISIS group is perverse.

It is a disgrace the Council failed to take a stand against Russia. The craven behaviour of certain governments, operating in the hope of some small commercial benefit, undermines them and the Union. The question for them is what Russia would have to do before they would be willing to take a stand against the Putin Government. It has already invaded and partitioned neighbouring countries, stood by while opposition politicians and journalists have been murdered, intimidated member states of the EU and funded right-wing parties in European states. It appears to believe the best way of promoting Russia is to undermine democracy.

Sanctions have been an effective non-violent weapon for democracies faced with regimes which flout basic standards. Sanctions were instrumental in bringing down apartheid in Rhodesia and South Africa. In recent years, they secured the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and a return to democracy in Myanmar. Sanctions targeting senior Russian personnel and the extension of Russian state power in Europe are the very least we can do. Existing sanctions have hurt and they should be extended.

Fianna Fáil strongly opposes the tone and content of yesterday's European Commission announcement on CCCTB, the common consolidated corporate tax base. It is manifestly an attempt to shift tax revenue to certain member states at the expense of others. The idea that taxing businesses more will increase employment and growth is absurd. The failure to produce a single piece of evidence backing these claims shows that it is purely about politics. Fianna Fáil will oppose any move by our Government to go along with these proposals. We will be demanding the Commission publishes the background documents which detail the impact on member states of these proposals.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Gerry Adams who is sharing time with Deputy Seán Crowe.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Last week's European Council meeting, being the first one attended by the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was a significant one. There was obviously a significant focus on Brexit. While it is now over four months since the Brexit referendum, the British Government still seems devoid of a clear plan for the negotiations which are to begin early next year. This is concerning. However, as I said before, we should not get too mesmerised by this. We need to get our own house in order.

On Monday's meeting in Downing Street, the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, told Theresa May that she cannot ignore the reality that the people of the North voted to remain in the EU or the enormous consequences of Brexit for Ireland. He also told her that continued attempts to drag the North out of the European Union undermine the Good Friday Agreement. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has refused to allow the Executive to have a formal role in the negotiations with the EU. The British Government clearly cannot, should not be allowed to or will not negotiate in Ireland's interests. London does not have the interests of the citizens in any part of this island at heart.

I hope the Taoiseach used the Council meeting to tell other EU member states that we do not want a border on this island. I have yet to hear him say that anywhere. During the Council meeting, did he inform other European leaders that any attempt to drag the North out of the EU is a fundamental change in its constitutional position, against the will of the majority of people, and that such action undermines the Good Friday Agreement? Are other European leaders aware of this? I asked the Taoiseach to raise this specific question during pre-Council statements in the House. Did he do so?

The next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council takes place on 18 November and the all-island civic dialogue meets next week. Our aim should be to get a unified approach to ensure the best possible deal is won for the people of the island, North and South. Citizens in the North - the Taoiseach may be surprised at how many - are looking for leadership from the Government to ensure an all-Ireland view is taken. Many of those citizens have an entirely different position on the constitutional issue but wish to remain in the European Union. The role and responsibility of the Government, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, must be to defend the integrity of the Agreement, as well as ensuring the "Remain" vote in the North is respected and upheld.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, the EU-Canada free trade agreement, was recently rejected by the French-speaking Parliament of Wallonia in Belgium, despite serious pressure from the European Commission. This has meant that Belgium cannot give its consent to CETA which has, at its heart, the controversial and undemocratic investment court system. Sinn Féin has real concerns about this deal as we had with TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. We have been highlighting the lack of transparency over the negotiations and drafting of this agreement. The deal remains shrouded in secrecy and displays no transparency whatsoever.

This rejection of CETA in the Parliament of Wallonia is a victory not only for regions such as Wallonia, which have been severely impacted by job losses over the past ten years, but also for citizens all over the European Union who have campaigned hard to defeat this deal. CETA, a precursor for TTIP, was presented to the people under the same old pretences we heard rehearsed earlier today, namely what is good for trade is good for jobs. However, CETA is opposed by European civil society organisations, trade unions, consumer organisations, anti-poverty networks, non-governmental organisations and farming organisations. While the Government expresses concern about price volatility in the agrifood sector, it is cheerleading for this deal which will flood the market with an extra 50,000 tonnes of beef. CETA should not be enforced on the Irish State. There has been no debate on it in the Dáil. The Government ignored a recent motion in the Seanad earlier this month on the agreement. Will the Government commit to allowing a debate to take place on this issue in the Dáil in light of recent developments?

There are heart-breaking conflicts occurring, with significant humanitarian emergencies as a result. Some argue there is little we can do about them, but I disagree. One case in point where the Government has failed absolutely is to honour our commitment, one in the programme for Government, to recognise the state of Palestine. Almost two years ago, the Dáil and Seanad voted in accordance with that commitment. Since then matters have got worse for the Palestinian people. I will not repeat all of the details of the aggression by Israeli authorities and so forth. The Taoiseach has not yet raised this issue at European Commission meetings, despite having been asked by me and others many times to do so. On 26 September, in the course of Taoiseach's Questions, I raised the issue of recognition of the state of Palestine. He said he would come back to me on that but he did not. Previously on Wednesday, 8 June, I raised the issue of the Government acting on the Oireachtas decision on the state of Palestine. In his response, the Taoiseach said he would ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to brief me. He also stated it "might be no harm if we had a debate on the Palestinian situation in due course."

Neither he nor the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has come back to me on this issue, nor has the Government allocated any time for a debate on the issue of Palestine. It is time to stop the prevarication and formally recognise the state of Palestine. It is also time for the Taoiseach to take leadership on this issue in the European Council. That would send a clear signal to those caught up in war zones and refugee camps that someone is prepared to make a stand for peace.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe During the pre-Council statements, I raised the pressure the Parliament of Wallonia was under to ratify CETA. Many parties in Europe would see this decision by a small region as an irritant or democracy gone mad. I see it, however, as a victory for democracy and citizens all over Europe who have campaigned hard to defeat CETA. Speaking of democracy, it is also regrettable the Government chose to ignore the vote in the Seanad against CETA. So much for new politics.


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