Tuesday, 16 January 2018
European Council: Statements
Bhí mé ann fosta, leis an fhearthainn. Ahead of the crucial meeting of the European Council last month, Sinn Féin made it clear that it was vital that the Government secure additional guarantees from the British Prime Minister about the legal standing of the joint report issued by the European Commission and the British Government in December. We said that additional guarantees were needed because at the very heart of the report was a set of fundamental contradictions. Contradiction No. 1 is that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland but that the North will be dragged out of the customs union and the Single Market. Contradiction No. 2 is that there is no threat to the Good Friday Agreement, yet there 142 areas of all-Ireland co-operation that could be adversely affected by the Tory Brexit. Contradiction No. 3 is that there will be no erosion of rights for citizens living in the North but Britain is to push ahead with its withdrawal from the European Court of Justice. Contradiction No. 4 is that the people of the North voted to remain in the European Union, but that decision that has been ignored by the British Government, the DUP and others.
Sinn Féin flagged the contradictions with the Government and advised that it needed to be very careful in its dealings with the British Government. I note the Taoiseach's warning today that we need to remain vigilant to deliver on the commitments made in December, to ensure they will be delivered on in full and that there will be no backsliding. I have learned from decades of experience that British Governments are adept at ensuring the text of agreements is written in such a way that they allow for various interpretations on another date. The interpretation they adopt is always the one which advances British interests over all others. They argue that that is their job. In fact, a senior civil servant once said it was their job to allow for whatever interpretation was required.
The job of the Taoiseach and the Government is to protect, defend and advance the national interest. For too long the Government has seen itself purely as acting in the interests of the State. It is welcome that the Taoiseach is looking out for the interests of the people, North and South. It is a source of some bemusement for me that at this time the Fine Gael leader is more sound on issues to do with the national question than the Fianna Fáil leader.