Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

European Council Meeting: Statements


4:50 pm

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I begin by addressing the issue of Brexit. The British continue to behave in the most obtuse and difficult manner possible. Whenever a solution can be found to address outstanding issues, the British have invariably returned to the table with another problem. It has been suggested the Tory Administration is more intent on using Brexit to fight another election rather than to seek solutions to the issues with the protocol.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs held a meeting with Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič last week and I found his commitment that the EU would hold firm on the Irish Border and the protocol very reassuring. I welcome the stance, the solidarity and indeed the common-sense approach of the EU to date, which stands in stark contrast to that of the British and political unionism. The abject failure of leadership by political unionism must be called out and, in particular, the reckless and dangerous behaviour of Jeffrey Donaldson. His continuing threats to take down the assembly are much more a case of naked electioneering than anything we have seen by Boris Johnson.

I want dialogue to continue between the EU and the leaders of political unionism. We need to be clear on the emerging situation, namely that unionist business leaders in the North have recognised the value of the Irish protocol and the advantages it offers. As the North is outperforming Britain economically, the EU must take cognisance of the fact that political unionism is increasingly at odds with the needs, ambition and sentiment of the business community. I would argue that the EU should commence the process of planning for the likelihood of Irish reunification to ensure a transition that is as orderly and as manageable as possible whatever the timeframe may be. We are on a trajectory towards Irish unity which increasing numbers of Irish people wish for and something that business and economic developments will establish as being inevitable.

As the first fatalities from the Omicron Covid-19 variant are revealed, the issue of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, waiver must be addressed by the EU Council. Current EU proposals offer little more than that which is already available. The approach of the EU to date appears to be one of delay and to derail any attempt to consider the TRIPS waiver. Ursula von der Leyen promised the world that the EU would make vaccines a global good which would mandate a change of position at the World Trade Organisation. It must be said that the EU has whitewashed its moral responsibility. It has defied the democratic wish of the EU Parliament and has refused to make a stand against the vaccine apartheid.

While the EU has claimed it has sent 1.4 billion vaccine doses to approximately 150 countries, these vaccines were not donated; they were exported. With close to half of them being sent to high-income countries such as the United States, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Australia, the EU has been deliberately misrepresenting its record on an ongoing basis. How will the Taoiseach respond to Mary Robinson, our former President, who described the European Union as "the biggest roadblock to [an] effective solution to ramp up the supply of lifesaving vaccines"? According to current estimates, there are six times more vaccines administered in high-income countries than in low-income countries. If the EU will not support the TRIPS waiver, will it put in place an alternative proposal? Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, COVAX, is not the answer. Even if the EU meets its goal to vaccinate 20% of the population in 92 target countries, it will be well short of the levels of immunity that are needed and that is what the experts say.


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