Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
It is welcome that the visit to the United States was a success on many fronts. It bears out the importance of such visits. When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs, they were subject to attack from time to time, not from all elements in the House but from certain elements in it. I recommend that in the future all major cities in the United States should be visited by Ministers during the week in which St. Patrick's Day falls. That did not occur on this occasion, for a variety of reasons. We should not always pander to simplistic commentary on these issues. No other country has the opportunity we receive to profile itself. That is why I am glad the Taoiseach participated in the Enterprise Ireland trade mission which has become the hallmark of such visits in recent years. We initiated the mission to use the opportunity to promote Irish companies.
Some of the tax policy initiatives of the Obama Administration have become less pronounced, if not weakened, over time. When we were in power, we took the opportunity to locate a tax specialist in the Irish Embassy in the United States to keep an eye on how emerging tax policy in the United States might affect our corporate tax rates and the tax policies of American multinationals based in Ireland and globally. I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach indicated whether he has any updates on American plans for taxation issues pertaining to multinationals and global companies.
Does the Taoiseach accept that the introduction of E3 visas means a new bilateral approach to work permits that lead to residency has been established between Ireland and the United States? Does he think it is the best approach in the short term, given that the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform is receding owing to changes in the electoral and political landscape in the United States? I refer to the recent congressional elections there. Did the Taoiseach seek agreement with Irish-American lobby groups that such an approach should be the sole focus of attention and policy direction in the coming weeks? It has been a long-standing view of mine that a bilateral arrangement with America is essential for the present and the future. It would create a bilateral framework by means of which we could try to improve and enhance the situation for those in the United States. In that context, does the Taoiseach accept it is important for the Government to ring-fence funding under the Irish emigrants support programme - the Irish abroad programme - for welfare organisations in the United States? I refer to organisations which support those who are undocumented, particularly young Irish people who are experiencing legal problems and individual predicaments, by providing valuable social, counselling and legal services.