Dáil debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

1:20 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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The business for tomorrow is No. 11, Further Revised Estimates, back from committee; No. 12, Supplementary Estimates, back from committee; No. 25, motion re Permanent Structured Cooperation, PESCO; No. 27, Public Service Pay and Pensions Bill 2017 - Committee and Remaining Stages (resumed); and No. 32a, statements on climate change. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10a, a motion re referral to committee of the motion re Permanent Structured Cooperation shall be taken now without debate and any division demanded thereon will be taken immediately. No. 10b, the introduction to committee of the Technological Universities Bill 2015 shall be taken immediately thereafter without debate and any division demanded thereon will be taken immediately. The Dáil shall sit later than 7.48 p.m. tomorrow night and shall adjourn on the conclusion of the Topical Issue Debate. The motion re Permanent Structured Cooperation shall be taken tomorrow following the Supplementary Estimates and shall conclude after three and a half hours.

In the opening round, speeches of a Minister, Minister of State and the spokespersons of the main parties and groups shall not exceed 15 minutes each, with speeches of all other Members not to exceed five minutes each, with a five minute wrap-up by a Minister or a Minister of State. All Members may share time.

The voting block will take place on the conclusion of the motion re Permanent Structured Co-operation and the suspension of the House under Standing Order 25(1) shall take place thereafter for 40 minutes.

Statements re climate change shall be taken not later than 7.40 p.m. and Topical Issues shall be taken not later than 9.40 p.m. or on the conclusion of the statements re climate change, whichever is the earlier.

1:30 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Before we get going, is the motion to instruct the committee with regard to the Technological Universities Bill, which is non-contentious, agreed? Agreed. A number of Members wish to speak. I call Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I am opposed to the provision itself being put before the House but I am proposing an amendment to the motion which is that the proposal on PESCO would be referred to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence sitting at 5.30 p.m. today for full and detailed consideration prior to it reverting to the Dáil for further consideration. This would allow the committee to decide how to proceed with the consideration. Full and detailed consideration is the equivalent of pre-legislative scrutiny. It would require a full hearing rather than a limited two-hour exchange of views on the proposal which would have no bearing on the fact that this is an attempt to ram it through the House tomorrow, with no proper notice or recourse to extending this beyond the three and a half hours which are now being offered for debate. Originally it was two hours.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will hear from everyone who wishes to comment first. I call Deputy Brendan Howlin.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Yesterday I proposed to the House that this matter would be referred to the defence committee, and I understood there was broad agreement on it, so that it would be capable of calling witnesses and the Army would be able to present at it, but now I understand that a joke is being made of that proposal. It is going to the defence committee but it is coming back here tomorrow, so there is no time to call witnesses. If we have learned anything on issues such as the Lisbon treaty, where afterwards we did a lot of analysis, it is that people wanted to know what was going on. I listened to the Taoiseach's argument of support. Let that be made. Let the Chief of Staff of the Army come in and make his point. Let those with reservations ask their questions in an open forum. Let others who have reservations about our participation in PESCO state their case. Let the committee of the House then report back to us. As I said yesterday, there is no urgency to this matter. Should it be the decision of the House, we can join at any time. There is no timeline.

I raised the issue on 28 June last and in October, yet, as of yesterday, it all had to be truncated into a two-hour debate and now it is proposed to allow three and a half hours. However, we have the nonsense of a committee consideration when the committee will not have time to call any witnesses, probe any of the issues or answer any of the legitimate questions which people in the House or outside it might have.

In reasonableness, so that we can build consensus about these matters rather than divide and create conspiracy theories about them, can we not have an open and proper parliamentary debate that would occur in any normal democratic parliament in the world? Will the Taoiseach consider that and allow the committee to meet, call witnesses and make a recommendation to us? Let us then have a vote in the new year, one way or the other.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I second Deputy Ó Snodaigh's proposed amendment. It achieves exactly what Deputy Howlin is saying. In voting on this amendment, we are not voting on the actual issue of whether we should join. We are voting on whether we should have proper debate on it. Whatever their view on the issue, it would be a missed opportunity if parties refused the opportunity of debate.

I heard the Taoiseach, who is clear in his view that we should join and that military co-operation is a central part to our new future European development. However, this is not a small issue to be decided in such a rushed way. It is a critical strategic issue in terms of our relationship with the European Union and it deserves time, debate and consideration. It should not be rushed through in two days.

Nothing that I have read in the provisions establishing PESCO states that we have to agree this by Monday, 11 December. I see no reason it could not return to the Foreign Affairs Council in the new year. This would give us time to hear different views and have a public debate. It is not just this House but our public that deserves the debate. If we as a nation are going to take this role in Europe with greater military integration and investment in armaments and so on, our public deserves for it to be debated at some length and not in a rushed manner. I agree with Deputy Ó Snodaigh's proposed amendment. In particular, I ask Fianna Fáil in its republican tradition to ask for that debate as well.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have looked for longer sittings but no one has agreed.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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What has gone on here stinks to high heaven. Something of absolutely enormous significance about advanced co-operation across Europe to progress the militarisation of Europe and ramp up the arms industry was not notified to the Business Committee and is being pushed through at a few day's notice. A vote is to be taken which, when one looks at the 20 different commitments under the PESCO arrangement, would include increasing defence budgets in real terms and increasing defence investment expenditure. It sets out targets in terms of percentage of GDP to be spent on arms which will be a significant increase on current levels of expenditure and a whole range of other commitments, yet the Government wants to ram it through with a few days' notice while the public does not have a clue about its implications.

The Government knows that there is massive opposition in this country to any move away from our military neutrality. The Government may say that it is not a move but I beg to differ and many other people would like to know the facts before they make their own judgment on it. However, given the timescale being proposed none of the stakeholder groups which have an interest or expertise in this matter will have an opportunity to give their opinions. Basically, this is a con. I believe that there is a quid pro quo with EU support for Ireland's position on Brexit. This is the deal.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Come off it.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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That is what I think. Why then has the Government told us there is a deadline? The deadline for the Government is the EU Council meeting.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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It is not.

Photo of Mick BarryMick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
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Why the rush so?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Government wants to get it through, so it had the Chief Whip come into the Business Committee meeting to tell us there was a deadline to be met. There is no deadline for joining PESCO. We can apply at any time in the future following a proper debate and consideration. That was simply misleading the Business Committee and it is misleading the Dáil. There is no deadline. The Government is imposing that deadline because it wants to rush it through without public debate or consultation. We will be absolutely opposing it.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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You have made your point, Deputy.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Frankly, it makes a sham of democracy.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Seamus Healy.

Photo of Séamus HealySéamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group)
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I too wish to oppose the Chief Whip's proposal on this matter. It is an attempt to rush the matter through the House and present the public with a fait accompli. Although obviously an issue for the House, as I said yesterday it is not just an issue for the House. It is also an issue for the public. There needs to be full public debate, discussion and scrutiny on the issue which cannot be done in the parameters set out by the Chief Whip.

It is quite clear to everyone that there is no deadline of any kind and no necessity to rush the matter through the Houses of the Oireachtas. Participation in PESCO undermines Irish neutrality and sends us in the direction of a European army. We all raised issues in this regard during the debate on the Lisbon treaty when we were told nothing like it would happen but here it is before us. It also raises the issue of additional expenditure in this area. The figure of 2% of GDP would be at least double, if not more, of our current spending in this area.

Given the issues that arise regarding housing, health and other public services, those services could well do with the money rather than having it paid to the arms industry.

I oppose this. It is only fair and reasonable that the public have its say, be made knowledgeable and be allowed to scrutinise this issue over time. I expect that this matter will be deferred until the new year to allow for the public discussion and debate.

1:40 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have a point to make before I ask the Taoiseach to clarify the process and procedure. The proposal, or part thereof, before us is to refer the motion to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs Trade and Defence. That is absolutely in accordance with Standing Order 187. It is a matter for the joint committee to determine how it conducts its consideration of the matter referred to it. It is not normal for this House to direct the committee to behave in a particular manner.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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On a point of order, if we adopt this, we are expecting the committee to deal with it before tomorrow. We are already setting a deadline for tomorrow.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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That is impossible.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We are limiting the time of the committee. This is beyond the fact that we were told there would be two hours in committee. Even if the committee sat all through the night until it reported back to the Dáil, it would be a case of the Dáil setting a time for it to engage in its consideration.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The very thing the Ceann Comhairle said cannot be done.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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It would not be allowing the committee to consider properly how to engage in detailed scrutiny.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am outlining to the House what I consider to be a reasonable interpretation of the Standing Orders, as they are written. How the Deputy would like them to be is a different matter. I am interpreting them as they are.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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May we table amendments to the Government's proposal?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy may.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I formally move amendment No. 1:

That the matter be referred to the committee for next week and that no vote take place in the Dáil until the new year.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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This is not a new issue. If somebody arrived in the Visitors Gallery today or were tuning in to these policy matter discussions for the first time, he or she would think PESCO had just been dreamt up in the past couple of months. This is in the Lisbon treaty. The treaty was ratified by the Irish people in 2009. There has been ample opportunity for a debate since then. There has been plenty of debate about this matter since the Lisbon treaty was ratified in 2009. There is a time for debate and there is a time for a decision. I do not believe further debate would change anybody's mind, nor would it allay fears based on any conspiracy theories.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That is wrong.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The time is for a decision is now. Let us make it.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The public knows nothing nothing about this.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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It is the Deputy's responsibility to inform the public. He had eight years.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is a proposal made by Deputy Boyd Barrett to refer the matter to the joint committee for next week and to defer the taking of a vote until the new year. That is a legitimate amendment to the Government's proposal. I will deal with it now.

Amendment put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 49; Níl, 73; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Aengus Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.

Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Kathleen Funchion, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Séamus Healy, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Catherine Martin, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Carol Nolan, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Mick Wallace.

Níl

Bobby Aylward, Maria Bailey, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Seán Canney, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Michael D'Arcy, Jim Daly, Pat Deering, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Peter Fitzpatrick, Pat Gallagher, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Michael Harty, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Billy Kelleher, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eoghan Murphy, Eugene Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Fergus O'Dowd, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Robert Troy.

Amendment declared lost.

1:50 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The question is: "That the business proposal be agreed to." Is it agreed to?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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No.

Question put: "That the business proposal be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 49; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

Bobby Aylward, Maria Bailey, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Seán Canney, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Jim Daly, Michael D'Arcy, Pat Deering, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Michael Harty, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Billy Kelleher, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Michael McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eoghan Murphy, Eugene Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Fergus O'Dowd, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar.

Níl

Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Kathleen Funchion, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Séamus Healy, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Catherine Martin, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Carol Nolan, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Mick Wallace.

Question declared carried.