Dáil debates

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Post-European Council: Statements


2:15 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Our most consistent anti-European Union party will some day accept the right of others to criticise it and point out how the attempt to link Brexit with the constitutional position of Northern Ireland has undermined the attempts of others here to get unionists to accept Dublin’s good faith.

Last week's summit also addressed, albeit too briefly, a series of other fundamental matters that would have been the primary focus in the absence of Brexit. As Fianna Fáil has stated repeatedly in the past year, we strongly disagree with the Taoiseach’s refusal to support more ambitious reform of the workings of the European Union. Ireland should not be part of a group that is arguing against any increase in the Union’s budget when just such an increase is very much needed to address structural weaknesses in the European Union and the eurozone. We have reservations about some of President Macron's reform proposals, but Ireland should have given genuine support to his efforts to set a new agenda.

We welcome the agreement to set up a new funding stream to help eurozone countries at times of crisis. The fund is nowhere near as ambitious as it should be, but it is welcome and should be implemented as soon as possible. A new effort needs to be undertaken to address critical eurozone weakness in terms of deposit insurance. The early discussions on the Multi-annual Financial Framework are not encouraging. It appears that once again we will be caught in a zero sum debate that will see pressure exerted to cut effective programmes, especially those for rural communities, in order to create space for expanding other essential programmes such as scientific research. The Taoiseach owes it to the House to make a statement early next year on exactly what position he will be taking on the new budget, as well as remaining points in the reform of the eurozone. In addition, he should outline his approach to the discussions on the Single Market that have been scheduled to take place at the spring Council meeting.

The attack of populist parties and governments on the United Nation’s migration pact is a sad and disturbing development. The pact is a reasonable attempt to set core principles. It is a small move forward and we must join those countries that are defending it. Fianna Fáil will support steps that can be taken early next year to demonstrate more effectively Ireland’s commitment to the United Nations' endeavours on migration.

The summit briefly addressed climate change, action on which has been one of the stand out failures of Fine Gael in government. Unless Ireland starts to get serious in 2019, we will continue to be one of the world laggards and have failed to join countries that are working hard to prevent an environmental, social and economic disaster.

The summit discussed disinformation and attempts to interfere in elections in free democracies. The facts indicate a deep and ongoing commitment by one increasingly rogue regime to promoting division and extremism in Europe. Russian linked campaigns have spread racist fears of minorities, supported the far right and far left and attacked parties that speak out for a free democracy. The European People's Party has been lax in tackling Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán and what he has done in that country which is not compatible with basic European norms and values. What is going on there and in other countries poses a potentially existential threat to core democratic values. Europe is being far too complacent about the spread of authoritarianism across it, even within the European Union.

We support the summit’s call for "swift and decisive action" and call on the Government to move on from general reviews and round table discussions and start to make specific proposals for protecting our elections and political debates from manipulation. Implementing the Bill presented by Deputy Lawless would be a commendable start in 2019. It will be a defining year for Europe and Ireland. We need new urgency and ambition from the Government. We need a new commitment to work with others on urgent measures and move from words to action. When we return in January, there will be no time left for political business as usual.


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