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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 956 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin]  On Brexit, to date the Government has focused on high-level issues. It also needs to begin planning in respect of the mitigation of impacts which we know will come. Three core policy areas in particular require attention: investment in infrastructure, state aid rules, and making the European globalisation adjustment fund fit for purpose. I have said repeatedly that we now need to plan for investment in roads and ports and in ensuring the facilities are ready in the event of Ireland having to strengthen its direct links to the Continent. Ports such Rosslare will become pivotal in this regard.

I have proposed, and I am in interested in Sinn Féin's view, that the proceeds of the AIB sale should be used for infrastructure. It is not actually the fiscal rules which are impacting on that. It is the Stability and Growth Pact rules under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. These rules, which go back to the creation of economic and monetary union the bones of 20 years ago, determine that the proceeds of asset sales should not benefit the general government balance. There is a separate issue about the spending of that but I think that can be addressed and I have begun that discussion.

Has the Taoiseach begun negotiations at EU level to ensure we have the flexibilities in respect of expenditure which will allow us to address the issues of Brexit?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I am quite amazed at the bland, anodyne, passionless statement we received from the Taoiseach about the challenges which face the European Union, some of which are dire and which include issues such as migration, global security and economic and social challenges. That bland, anodyne, passionless account, which says nothing at all about what was discussed at the European Council except in the most summary way, contrasts very sharply with the fairly extraordinary outbursts we have had from the Taoiseach in recent days. He has spoken about the Bolshevik revolution, Venezuela and Cuba and about people who apparently support these things. There is a lot of passion there. He has a lot of passion to attack the populists, or people's apparent populist or radical credentials, but he has no passion or interest whatsoever when it comes to things that matter and that are happening now to real human beings.

Last week, during pre-European Council statements, I raised the issue of 14,000 human beings - men, women and children - who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2014. This continues because the apparently pragmatic, reasonable centre in Europe, which the Taoiseach claims to represent, tolerates people like Viktor Orbán and other hardline anti-immigrant racists who head up European countries and are quite happy to see 14,000 people die in the Mediterranean. This centre compromises with them. It does not engage in tirades against them for their racist filth directed against Muslims and immigrants. No, there is no passion there. The Taoiseach's party is, indeed, affiliated with Mr. Orbán, who describes migrants as poison. Imagine that. Some 14,000 people die in the Mediterranean and Fine Gael is associated with a party which describes them as poison. If one thinks people are poison, one does not mind if they drown in the Mediterranean, does one? Clearly, Mr. Orbán does not mind.

It is the same case with the Slovakian Prime Minister, Mr. Fico, who speaks about the need to monitor every Muslim and how Islam has no place in Slovakia. It is also true of the Bulgarian Prime Minister, who has spoken about the threat represented by Roma people and by immigrants from the Middle East. That is why people are drowning in the Mediterranean. It is because our Taoiseach and the other moderate figures in the political establishment in Europe tolerate this sort of thing and allow Europe to put up fences in order that people drown. These are people who are fleeing war in Syria. They are in the most appalling, unimaginable circumstances. Their lives have been destroyed and their cities and towns have been decimated, but Europe closes the door on them.

Europe then does rotten deals with regimes such as that of Turkey, where currently dozens of opposition parliamentarians, journalists and academics who speak out against the Turkish regime are summarily rounded up and put in prison. That is what is going on in Turkey. Democratically elected people are in prison because they oppose Mr. Erdoğan. Despite this, we do deals with this man, who is brutally suppressing his own population, to send immigrants back to him. The European Union is doing similar deals, with which we are going along, with the Afghan regime and with the Libyan regime, which should not even be called a regime. It is doing these deals with Egypt. All these countries are brutal dictatorships.

When we talk about security threats to Europe in respect of terrorism, we say nothing. We have a polite telephone conversation with Donald Trump, during which I suspect we did not even bring up the fact he has just signed the biggest arms deal in human history with the Saudi regime, which sponsors ISIS and which is a savage, brutal and undemocratic dictatorship, but that is okay. We will send them billions of euro worth of arms. Why not? Someone is making money out of it. What do we discuss at the European Council? Let us beef up the European military development programme. Let us get in on the act. Let us make money from selling arms to these people ourselves in the name of so-called security. It is absolutely shocking. Donald Trump is literally putting a gun to the head of the world with arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is then escalating tensions with Iran and Qatar. Let us pour the arms in there, as it were. When it destroys countries such as Syria and Yemen and, prior to that, Iraq, and millions of people are displaced and try to flee to Europe for safety, we will let them drown in the Mediterranean, and we will say nothing while European leaders whip up poison against them. Is there any wonder there is disillusionment, which the Taoiseach calls populism, with the European Union when these are its standards and priorities as human beings, lives and countries are destroyed because of the cynical profiteering and rotten political priorities of Mr. Trump, Europe and the European arms industry?

The other issue in which the Taoiseach seemed to display some sort of interest in his summary was the debate about outside, third countries getting hold of our strategic infrastructure and assets. This totally anodyne statement does not really say anything, but in so far as it says something it says that some countries in Europe are worried about outside investors, presumably big multinationals from the United States and so on, coming in and buying up assets and infrastructure. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like the vulture funds buying up all the land and property, sitting on it, evicting people and profiteering from the housing and homelessness crisis? What does the Taoiseach say about this? At least someone is expressing concern about this in Europe, but the Taoiseach reminds us that while, "While we understand the views of some member states about controlling sensitive or strategic assets, companies can also benefit from foreign cash and expertise, and we should not put unnecessary barriers in the way of inward investment."


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