Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to

European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 8

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] We welcome this agenda but it is important to realise that there are certain problems with what has been proposed. At the most basic level, far too little work has been done on the specifics of proposals and on defining the realm of what is and is not achievable through legislation that falls short of a treaty. Conducting discussions in the absence of a model of what is proposed and a study of what its impact might be is foolish. In the past, the approach to major reforms was to empower a group to study specific problems and propose options. Each of the major reforms of the Union has proceeded in this manner. The objective was to try to stop a process that did not encompass both analysis and negotiation. Such an approach needs to be adopted now.

The issue of the digital economy, which was discussed last week, is a very good case in point. It is entirely legitimate to be discussing how to ensure fair taxation of online commerce. What is not legitimate is to push for decisions in the absence of the most rudimentary work on the impact of measures on individual states, businesses and the Union as a whole. The final wording of the communiqué was well signalled in advance of the meeting. Given the lack of preparatory work on legal, political or economic matters, it is arguable that the discussion should have been postponed. The proposal that action be taken only in the context of cross-OECD work is exactly the proposal adopted on wider issues six years ago. Ireland should join others in insisting that before the Commission returns with any proposal early next year, it should circulate a full economic impact study. Let us have a fact-based debate and not one driven by one-sided advocacy.

Fianna Fáil welcomes the Council’s decision to reaffirm its support for the internationally agreed Iran nuclear deal. Fundamentally, there was no innocent purpose behind Iran’s nuclear effort. However, the deal reached after years of negotiations is a fair one that promotes security and offers the hope of Iran being more open to constructive international relations. The decision of the US President to refuse to certify the deal is dangerous, particularly in light of the fact that we need some process for de-escalating the current proliferation. We should join our European colleagues in calling for the US Congress to maintain the deal and avoid an escalation at such a dangerous moment.

We should also note events yesterday whereby Russia vetoed a renewal of the UN’s independent investigation into chemical attacks by the Syrian Government against the Syrian people. Not only did Russia veto the renewal, it also attacked the clear findings of the most recent report about how a Syrian air force plane dropped chemical weapons on one village, resulting in 80 people being killed and many more being maimed. It is a deeply disturbing moment in world affairs when the covering up of war crimes receives so little attention.

In the context of migration, the summit marked no major move forward. We continue to support the principle of solidarity between members and we call for a significant expansion in support for humanitarian and development efforts. The reason so many have risked so much to reach Europe is a lack of hope. The only way this can be provided is to be far more ambitious and generous in terms of aid. Far too many things are compared to Marshall aid, which rescued democracy in Europe after the Second World War. However, we need something of this magnitude to help countries throughout the Mediterranean. Millions of people remain stuck in camps and are denied the basic opportunities to provide for themselves. Before the crisis surges yet again, we need to be looking at far more radical action.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams 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?

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy Shame.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is not Fianna Fáil policy. We do not bully our councillors. We have a bit more tolerance than that.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is tolerance of racism.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane It tolerates bigotry.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is racism.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Am I getting injury time, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Ar aghaidh leat, Deputy.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams It must be noted that there are hundreds of Border roads, that there are tens of thousands of people who would be affected and that the Border has been in existence for nearly as long as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. What have they done about it? We all know that a European frontier would disrupt the social, economic, political and cultural fabric of our island. The only workable solution is to follow the lead that has been given by people in the North, which was to say, "No, we want to stay within the European Union."

According to his video, the Taoiseach enjoyed his visit to Paris yesterday. Some time ago, I raised with him the recent call by the French President for increased and accelerated EU integration, tax harmonisation and further military co-operation across the Union. There was a very worrying statement yesterday from the European Commission to the effect that it wants to turn its proposals on some of these issues into law and into practice, including a plan to create a permanent European Minister with responsibility for the economy and finance. These reflect the federalist dream but that is not what people on this island want. We look to the Taoiseach to reject these proposals and to push for proper democratic reform in pursuit of a European Union that delivers for citizens, that is social and that respects the primacy of its member states.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I will confine my remarks to Brexit and the lack of progress by the European and British negotiators recently in respect of the critical issue of Ireland. My understanding is that some progress has been made on the common travel area, which I welcome. It is the only area in respect of which there is an agreed principles paper.

Last Updated: 12/02/2020 10:46:59 First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page