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 Header Item Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)
 Header Item Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee] Throughout the dialogues, what was very interesting was that some people felt Europe interfered too much, particularly in the context of legislation in areas such as agriculture, the environment and small and medium enterprises, whereas others felt it did not interfere enough, and still others felt it should be more involved in social issues. The question is how we make it work and how we ensure the Union is strong while, at the same time, ensuring that people feel it is democratic.

A number of proposals have been put forward in the context of ensuring further scrutiny of legislation and building on the REFIT programme, which is ongoing. There are proposals to ensure more transparency with regard to legislation and to make sure it is fit for purpose. There is also the question of ensuring that people are connected from the ground up, particularly by means of proposals whereby local authorities within each member state would have greater connectivity and access to the European Parliament and the Commission. This gets to the heart of some of the issues raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett in that people would feel that their issues and concerns at local level are also being raised at European level.

An overarching theme in the citizens' dialogues was the need to ensure fairness in an increasingly competitive world, that is, fairness between member states, fairness in education and employment opportunities and fairness between generations. Citizens want to tackle social exclusion and they want stronger interventions at European level in combating discrimination, integrating migrants and improving access to services. They also want more investment in young people in the context of education, training and innovation. I welcome the Commission's proposal to double the amount spent on young people. Citizens want the EU to be a global leader in tackling climate change, with incentives for the transition to renewable energies, along with more protection for rural landscapes and a concerted effort to close the rural-urban divide.

On external relations, citizens believe that the EU has a moral imperative to do more for countries to the south and east and to promote education and empowerment in Africa. They also believe globalisation should not be allowed to proceed at the expense of human rights.

It is clear that citizens want the EU to engage better and to explain and communicate its policies and overall objectives. We learned that the Union needs to reaffirm its relevance in the daily lives of its citizens and that this needs to be constant, not just at a time of crisis or change. During the dialogues, I announced €100,000 worth of funding to support individuals, groups and organisations in projects aiming to communicate European issues. Similar funding was given out last year and it will be announced again early next year to allow community groups and organisations to apply.

The citizens' dialogue process in Ireland has been of invaluable assistance in creating the vision of an attractive EU that citizens can trust and support. I am grateful to everyone who responded to our call to get involved. I was pleased to launch the report on the process in October. It is available for anybody to read. Along with other member states, we have provided a report to the Commission, which has compiled a composite report for presentation to the European Council this week. The intention is that this will guide leaders as they work to identify key priorities in advance of the informal summit that will take place in Sibiu next May. At that meeting, leaders will prepare the strategic agenda for the EU from 2019 to 2024, with a view to agreeing it at the European Council in June 2019.

The European Council is expected to take note of the Commission proposal for a long-term climate strategy for the EU and to invite the Council to prepare for discussions early next year. This is, of course, a very important issue and we will participate actively in discussions.

The agenda for the December European Council covers a wide range of issues. As the Taoiseach made clear, Brexit remains very much a priority for the Government and we will use every opportunity at this critical time to ensure that our interests are protected. At the same time, we will continue to play a constructive role on the issues which are of significant concern to our partners and the EU as a whole. I thank Deputies for their attention and for their remarks. I look forward to the discussion we will have during questions next week.

Message from Select Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach The Select Committee on Justice and Equality has concluded its consideration of the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018 and has made amendments thereto.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Joan Collins - to discuss the delay in proceeding with the implementation of the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act 2018; (2) Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice and Mattie McGrath - the implications for Ireland as a signatory to the UN migration pact; (3) Deputy Brendan Smith - the need to provide additional respite services for persons with disabilities in counties Cavan and Monaghan; (4) Deputies Catherine Connolly and Éamon Ó Cuív - to address the imminent closure of Galway Autism Partnership due to a lack of financial support from the HSE; (5) Deputy Pat Deering - to discuss the availability of orphan drugs; (6) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - to discuss the provision of home support in Fingal; (7) Deputy Dessie Ellis - to address the funding deficit for drugs and alcohol task forces and the pay structures of staff; (8) Deputy Clare Daly - to discuss overcrowding and the use of mattresses on floors as sleeping accommodation in the State’s prisons; (9) Deputy Maurice Quinlivan - to ask the Minister for Finance to outline what steps he is taking to address huge car insurance costs that Irish citizens returning home from abroad are facing; (10) Deputy Pat Buckley - to discuss mental health supports for Defence Forces personnel given recent suicides among ranks; (11) Deputy Aindrias Moynihan - the need to make it safer for people getting on and off the N22 between Macroom and Ballincollig; and (12) Deputy John Brady - to discuss the newly released costs associated with the JobPath scheme.

The matters raised by Deputies Joan Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice and Mattie McGrath, Brendan Smith and Pat Deering have been selected for discussion.

  Sitting suspended at 4.35 p.m. and resumed at 5.35 p.m.

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