Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Post-European Council Meeting: Statements
I thank the Minister of State for being in the House to discuss some of the work he is doing within his own Ministry and in terms of what is going on in the European Union. I do not agree with Deputy Tóibín on many issues but some of the points he made around the economic issues relating to the European Union were points I had stressed with the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne. They should be of the highest priority for the Government.
The pandemic has caused enormous economic strain on the eurozone and on the European Union. Our response to the crisis has cost hundreds of billions of euro across many democracies in Europe. I am extremely worried about the economic ramifications that are coming down the line once herd immunity has been obtained within the European community. As the youngest parliamentarian in the Republic of Ireland and one of the youngest in the world, I want to stress that a return to austerity politics and monetary policy within the eurozone could be the deathknell for the European project. I am extremely concerned about that. Democracy will not be able to take another round of austerity.
In a constructive way I suggest to the Minister of State, his Department and the unit within the Department of the Taoiseach that Ireland, as one of the countries that suffered the most from austerity politics, would lead the call to continue along the lines our partners in the United States took in terms of quantitative easing and direct economic stimulus to individuals and not only to industries. What President Biden did recently in terms of the stimulus cheques provided to individual citizens was wonderful. Doing something similar would be a wonderful way to thank the people of this country, regardless of the sector in which they were working. It has to be stated that we do not control our own monetary policy; it is done by the eurozone. However, Ireland is in a powerful position. A colleague of the Minister of State, whose office is a few corridors from his in Government Buildings, is the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, who is chair of the Eurogroup. We are in a very strong position to lead that particular argument. One of our partners in government, Fine Gael, is a member of the European People's Party. Many of its Prime Ministers are Heads of Government or are in prominent positions within the eurozone. I call on our Fine Gael colleagues to follow a similar argument to the one I am making today.
I have significant concerns around the procurement process the European Union has brought us through. It was a miserable exercise trying to explain that to many angry constituents who were ringing our office asking why we were not procuring more vaccines. It has been a complete and utter failure on behalf of the European Union and the European Commission in terms of their planning and process regarding the manufacturing of vaccines and the procurement process for individual member states.
It has done significant harm to democracy. There has to be some accountability for that. Our former European Commissioner was sacked for playing a game of golf in Ireland, yet the European Commissioner in charge of health and vaccination procurement seems to be getting off scot-free. How is that fair in any democracy? The European Union is in a position where there does not seem to be any accountability when it comes to its failures with vaccinations. If I asked how many resignations there have been from the European Commission, the answer would be zero. That is not good enough. This is something that has to be said and I, as a Member of Dáil Éireann, am happy to say it.
Those are my simple messages. We cannot return to austerity politics or to austerity monetary policy because it would do substantial harm to democracies throughout Europe and to the European Union. There is also the issue of accountability regarding the failures relating to procurement.