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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall] Michel Barnier was not overly optimistic about the potential to avoid a hard border when he spoke to us in the Chamber earlier this year. Whether one accepts that there is potential to address the movement of people, he was bordering on the pessimistic in respect of the movement of goods. Of course, we share the hope that these issues can be resolved as part of a trade deal that may come after the Brexit negotiations have concluded but the pace of negotiations thus far and the ongoing wrangling over the divorce bill do not inspire confidence that a full agreement will be in place before 2019.

I welcome the progress on work to secure the common travel area. The flow of our people across the two islands must be allowed to continue uninhibited. The Government and the EU seem to have secured that, which is welcome. The question then returns to the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland and between Ireland and the EU. This stumbling block is one to which we seem to return again and again. Will Ireland be forced to act as a clearing house for fellow EU nationals entering the country to ensure that they do not attempt to travel to Northern Ireland or onwards to the mainland UK? What are the full implications of that? Will Ireland be centrally involved in the design of any such arrangements or will they be handed down to us by the EU? Will there be compensation for the considerable expenditure involved for Ireland where we have to man a border to monitor the movement of people within the EU or on entry to Northern Ireland and the UK? There are many unanswered questions on Brexit and there is a great deal of concern at a level of complacency on the part of Government. That needs to stop and we need to start to get real about this. The potential is undoubtedly extremely serious for this country, which is why it is important to develop confidence among people and the business community that, in the event of things not working out to Ireland's satisfaction, there are clear contingency plans in place which can be mobilised. There is a strong sense that we are not very well prepared at this stage and that we are engaging in wishful thinking.

In its conclusions on the meeting of 19 October, the Council welcomed the significant progress being made by member states to establish closer security and defence co-operation through permanent structured co-operation, or PESCO. It noted that this programme could be launched by the end of 2017. The Taoiseach has stated that he is open to Ireland participating in this new security arrangement. I ask the Taoiseach and the Minister of State to clarify which aspects of PESCO they are open to participating in. It is important that we hear it. Our current remit within the common security and defence policy, CSDP, is limited to humanitarian missions, crisis response and peacekeeping. As it stands, PESCO alludes to closer co-operation with NATO and makes overtures on a defence industry Single Market. I urge the Taoiseach to stress Irish non-alignment in the context of the development of PESCO, thereby ensuring that our participation is limited to our current involvement with the CSDP.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher That concludes contributions. As per the Order of Business, there are now 20 minutes for questions and answers. We will start with Deputy Haughey. I ask Members to bear in mind that the Minister of State will have five minutes at the end.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey The Taoiseach met President Macron of France yesterday and it is reported that he agreed with the latter's proposal for democratic conventions on the future of Europe. I am not quite sure what that means, but the Taoiseach informed the House this afternoon that as Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy McEntee would be making an announcement on how we can engage with citizens, civic society and businesses in this country to plan for the future of Europe. What is the Minister of State's thinking in that regard? As she knows, the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, of which I am a member, is engaging with stakeholders and will produce its own report. It is very important to engage with the citizens of this country and such engagement should be much more than a box-ticking exercise to say we have done it. We must engage them. I ask what the Minister of State's proposals are in that regard.

The French President also outlined that he wants a change in the way multinational tech companies are taxed. He wants their tax liability to be based on the place sales happen and not where they are registered. He also wants corporate tax harmonisation and a common tax base. Are we taking these proposals seriously? They challenge Ireland's long-standing corporate tax model and our industrial policy generally. Was there much discussion about this at the Council meeting, which the Minister of State also attended, and are we building alliances on this key issue for Ireland? As we plan the future for Europe, we must be conscious of the moves in that direction as regards corporate tax policy.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Last week, I asked the Minister of State and the Taoiseach about the human rights situation in Turkey. Both indicated that they would look at the matter, specifically the first hearing in the case of ten human rights defenders from Amnesty International, the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and other entirely peaceful NGOs and civil society actors. These people have been arrested and charged on absurd grounds by the Turkish Government. The hearing is taking place today and there were hopes that there would be observers from the Irish consulate. The request was made by some of the human rights organisations and I passed it on in the House last week. Has the Government acceded to that request and what is it doing to ensure that human rights organisations are not the victims of the Erdogan Government's horrendous purge of all opposition, dissent and criticism from anybody it does not like?

Beyond that particular case, what are the Government and the European Council saying about what is going on in Turkey, which is beyond belief? There are 50,000 people in prison and 150,000 under investigation, including teachers, journalists, civil servants, trade unionists and MPs. People have been interned without trial. It is the kind of thing one would expect to see in a horror movie. The Turkish Government seems to be able to act with impunity and one has to ask whether the EU-Turkey deal, which allowed the European government to outsource the issue of Syrian migrants fleeing the disaster in their country, is causing us to be quiet about what Turkey is doing internally by trampling on human rights.

Have the Minister of State or the Taoiseach had discussions with our European counterparts on the damning ruling of the European Committee of Social Rights on the inadequate standard of local authority housing for thousands and thousands of local authority tenants who are living in chronic conditions in damp and substandard accommodation and what are we going to do about it?


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