Tuesday, 6 February 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions
I find how the Taoiseach has articulated this to be extraordinary. He said that he spoke on his thoughts about how Europe should evolve and on the future of Europe. He said two or three times today that he did not share his speech to the European Parliament with any of his Cabinet colleagues. I must remind him that the constitutional framework under which he has his position is far different to that of President Macron or indeed President Trump. Those leaders are directly elected by the people. The Taoiseach is not directly elected by the people. Parliament elected him as Taoiseach and when he speaks to the European Parliament on the future of Europe he speaks as Head of the Irish Government, not in a personal capacity. I find it extraordinary that he has presented a case today that, in speaking to the European Parliament, he was essentially speaking in a personal capacity.
The future of Europe is not an issue of conscience. It is an issue of substantive policy and it is extraordinary that in preparing a presentation to the European Parliament on a live debate on the future of Europe, he does not feel any necessity to convene a Cabinet sub-committee, which is specifically in place, on Europe. He did not consult with his Cabinet colleagues or the Parliament here in terms of the future of Europe, including issues such as federalisation and a closer banking union or what will happen if there are further issues with banks concerning guarantees of deposits. There is a whole range of issues out there. Some of the European leaders are pushing for closer harmonisation and closer integration, while others are pursuing different agendas.
From the Taoiseach's perspective, only his personal thoughts were articulated. That is an extraordinary take on the situation and in my view is an incorrect approach that is not in keeping with the constitutional framework governing the position he holds as Taoiseach of the country. We function with collective responsibility in this Parliament. He is a member of Government and he speaks on behalf of that Government. He should not speak in a personal capacity on such a key issue, which involves all of our futures. He committed to prior consultation with this Parliament prior to major European debates, and he did not do so on this occasion. He might indicate the reason why that happened.