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Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1

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Deputy Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry She does not need one.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I do not need one. On 29 April, the Taoiseach will go to the European Council meeting and the guidelines for the negotiations with Britain on Brexit will be agreed. We have raised with the Taoiseach our deep concern about the guidelines, particularly Article 11 which is weak, vague and certainly insufficient. It does not provide the negotiating platform necessary to protect the interests of Ireland North and South.

I am disappointed that time has not been made available for a debate in advance of the Taoiseach's attendance at that meeting. I asked him before about his willingness to accept an amendment to Article 11 and to argue for that. That is what I believe he should be doing. Sinn Féin has formulated a motion in the wording that we believe is necessary to provide us with the kind of protection that the Government, or whoever is Taoiseach, will need to seek in respect of Ireland. Is the Taoiseach willing to accept a proposition for such an amendment to Article 11 to strengthen our position and his position as our negotiator?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call the Taoiseach.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on the same issue and the same matter, the European Council meeting-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I have to give you permission, Deputy Doherty. You cannot take the liberty because you are well down the list, but providing you make it a very short supplementary-----

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Leas-Cheann Comhairle can correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that it is accepted practice that if a question is on the same issue-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I was not to know that.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I informed you that it is on the same issue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Okay, proceed.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The European Council meeting on 29 April is one of the most important such meetings that any Taoiseach will have attended. The fact that Members of this House will not have pre-statements before the Council meeting, which has been standard practice, is an affront. The Taoiseach talks about democracy but this is an affront to democracy. Those statements need to take place on Thursday. Yesterday I presented the Taoiseach with a letter from Deputy Gerry Adams which included our motion.

We have now seen the European Council's draft guidelines, so it is clear to us that whatever initiatives were involved from the Irish Government they have failed. The Taoiseach has failed to secure a veto or the position of this Dáil which is to have a special, designated status within the EU for the North of Ireland. It is of the utmost importance that we should have that discussion so that the Taoiseach is better informed before he goes to that Council meeting about the views of this Parliament in terms of the negotiating stance he has to take.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that we will have pre-European Council statements, as we have had for every single European Council meeting heretofore? We all agree that this is the most important such meeting the Taoiseach will have attended during his time as Taoiseach.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Just in case anybody might think that it is constituency favouritism, I am drawing on convention.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I introduced the situation whereby we have always had statements both before European Council meetings and after them. The meeting on 29 April is not a meeting of the European Council. It is a meeting of 27 members of the European Council. One member is missing, that is, Britain.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty That is technical.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Technical or not, it is not a European Council meeting. It is a meeting of 27 countries who happen to be members of the European Council. I am not going to be petty about this. If the House wants to have a discussion on the pre-April 29 situation I am quite happy to do that. I disagree fundamentally with Deputy Doherty, however, because the priorities we have set as a Government for Northern Ireland are all included in the letter from the British Prime Minister. They are specifically referred to in the paper from the European Parliament and are also referred to individually in the paper from the European Council's President, Mr. Tusk.

There are a number of meetings taking place over the next week to ten days. We have submitted some further wording in respect of the Good Friday Agreement, what it means and how important that is to the priorities we have already set out. It is a matter for the House or the Business Committee and I am sure the Chief Whip will oblige. If they want to have statements before the meeting of the 27 member states, I do not mind.

Deputies have been pretty well briefed on this matter and there is absolutely no shortage of material. We are very different from the Gibraltar case, when Deputy Doherty talks about vetoes.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty They have one; we do not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Any change in the status of Gibraltar is a matter between Spain and the United Kingdom. It is nothing to do with the European Union. We have an international and legally binding agreement in respect of Northern Ireland

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It is also a bilateral agreement.


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