Tuesday, 22 March 2016
European Council Meeting: Statements
Today at South Tipperary General Hospital, there are 44 patients on chairs, trolleys and corridor beds awaiting admission. I am told this is the highest number on trolleys in the hospital in the whole country. What has this to do with the debate we are having here today? It has, of course, everything to do with it. The hospital is starved of resources. Approximately 25% of its budget, or approximately €15 million, has been cut over recent years. This is because the previous Government, namely the Fianna Fáil–Green Party Government, and the current Government, the Fine Gael–Labour Party Government, have agreed to pay €7 billion in debt repayments every year to EU institutions and banks. I wonder whether the Taoiseach raised the issue of debt and its renegotiation at the recent meetings. He told us approximately two and a half years ago that there would be a game-changer in regard to debt. It never happened. Now our services, including health and housing services, and economy are being absolutely devastated by the fact that huge sums of money are being paid out of the country to financial institutions right across Europe, including very wealthy ones. Some €7 billion per year is being paid.
The fiscal treaty agreed following the Lisbon treaty has created a new colonialism within Europe. That treaty flies in the face of the 1916 Proclamation. It is not a sovereignty-sharing treaty. It effectively sets aside Irish sovereignty and hands it over to big EU powers. It must be renegotiated. This could best be done in the framework of a debt-neutralisation conference. Ireland should demand such a conference and seek support for this demand from Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and others. The fiscal treaty requirement for Ireland is essentially a continuation of austerity over the next 20 years. This is linked to the circumstances we note today in South Tipperary General Hospital and the 1,600 children living in emergency hotel accommodation.
The fiscal compact requires that the current budget deficit be reduced below 3% of GDP, that the structural deficit be eliminated by 2018 and that the public debt–GDP ratio be reduced to 60% over the next 20 years. Despite the physical exit of the troika from Dublin, the Government and this country are still bound by the treaty to keep the current budget deficit below 3%. On the other hand, the current budget deficit in Germany, for instance, has been below 3% for the last number of years. It has no structural deficit and the German national debt–GDP ratio is at 57%, already below 60%. In other words, there are no impositions whatsoever on Germany under the fiscal treaty. The treaty is merely a device to force the programme countries and other indebted countries to make huge repayments to stronger countries, led by Germany, although all EU countries were responsible for the banking busts and European recession.
A new economic colonialism has been established within Europe through the fiscal treaty. Owing to this and the payment of €7 billion in interest, the Irish economy and public services, including health, education, housing and other services, are being devastated. Ireland will continue to pay over €7 billion per year in interest on borrowings. Our public service will remain under-funded. Any attempt to reduce our reliance on foreign direct investment through public investment in modern indigenous industry will fail because of that huge payment out of the country.
The combination of our over-reliance on multinationals and the provisions of the fiscal treaty mean the State has virtually no sovereignty or power to ensure the economic and social well-being of its citizens.
The new Dáil must demand the renegotiation of the fiscal treaty and the convention of a European debt mutualisation conference to ensure moneys are available to provide for citizens and public services in health, education, housing and many other areas.