Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

8:50 pm

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Government follows closely developments in Spain, which is an important EU partner and friend of Ireland. I know some Members of this House have visited Catalonia and their perspectives contribute to our consideration here this evening. Irish people know Spain, and, indeed, Catalonia, well. After Britain, Spain is the country to which we travel most. Furthermore, cities and towns across Spain, including in Catalonia, are home for many Irish people, while, of course, many Spaniards visit and live in Ireland.

The question of Catalan independence remains a deeply divisive and contentious issue in Catalonia, in the rest of Spain and beyond. We are all following developments in Spain closely, in particular in Catalonia where tensions have been particularly high in recent days. On Monday, 14 October, the Spanish Supreme Court announced its verdict on the cases of 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders. We are all very aware of subsequent reactions across the spectrum of opinion in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain. I note the Spanish Government's statement on this matter. We welcome the Spanish Government's commitment to the defence of the rule of law and respect for the judicial process.

The Government's position remains that we respect the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain, and that any related arrangements are matters to be determined by their own citizens through their own institutions, in keeping with the rule of law. With regard to the Spanish Supreme Court's verdict, just as we would expect any other country to respect our courts, we respect the decision taken by the Spanish courts. Differences of opinion must be contested with full respect for the law and the rights of all citizens. The rule of law is a cornerstone of all modern democracies and it underpins the functioning of the European Union just as it underpins our own democracy in Ireland. Citizens and their elected representatives should, of course, be able to disagree with laws and work to change laws but this must be through the appropriate constitutional channels. However, we cannot ignore the law as it stands or act beyond it. In the same vein, decisions of courts should be respected.

Members will have seen that, in response to the Spanish Supreme Court's decision, large-scale protests have taken place across Catalonia over several days. In some cases, violence has been reported, including clashes between protestors and the police. There is no place in politics for violence. In Catalonia, and elsewhere in Spain, as in all of our democracies, public representatives and citizens must work to advance their goals with full respect for the law. The freedom to express contesting views is essential in any democracy, but differences of opinion must be contested with full respect for the rule of law and the rights of all citizens. This is the foundation that underpins and protects modern democratic societies.

We respect, of course, people's right to gather and to express freely their opinions, as happens may times here in Ireland, but we share the calls for calm, for moderation and for respect for others so as to allow people to go about their daily lives without disruption. Those who live in Catalonia and the many who are visiting, including from Ireland, should be able to travel freely to and from airports, train stations or by car.

Our ambassador and officials working in the Irish Embassy in Madrid continue to follow these developments and, of course, are in contact with the Spanish Government. They are also closely monitoring the situation regarding any demonstration taking place and are providing suitable travel advice to Irish citizens who may be in difficulty there. Tensions are clearly very high in Catalonia at present and the question of independence is deeply divisive there and probably here in the Chamber. It is important that the voices of all Catalans are heard and represented, including those who do not support independence. The Government will always support efforts in Spain that are aimed at reconciliation within Catalonia and within all of Spain on this sensitive issue. The Government continues to support a resolution to the current situation that is based on democracy and the rule of law.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin Bay North, Fianna Fail)
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All of us in the House are very concerned at recent developments in Catalonia. The recent decision by Spain's supreme court to sentence nine Catalonian politicians and activists to jail terms of between nine and 13 years and to fine three others has brought violence to the streets of Barcelona. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to protest against these sentences and a general strike took place last Friday. My party is very concerned about these developments in Spain. We recognise this is a very sensitive, legal and constitutional issue for the Spanish Government, its people and the Catalonian region. A new constitution was enacted in Spain in 1978 and 17 autonomous communities were established at that time. The 1978 constitution clearly states there exists a single nation and that it is indivisible.

Fianna Fáil supports the rule of law and the territorial integrity of Spain. We recognise that Spain is a country in which there is a great degree of economic, social and cultural diversity. The independence referendum held in October 2017 and deemed illegal by Spain's constitutional court resulted in the gravest crisis in the country's 42 years of democracy. This is a highly complex and sensitive matter and it is apparent that there are divergent views and divisions about Catalonia and whether it should be an independent nation. These diverging views can be found in the region itself and more widely in Spain.

While acknowledging the complexities of this situation and the diverging opinions on this issue, Fianna Fáil is of the view that the independence referendum held on 1 October 2017 lacked legal validity, as did the decision of the Catalonian Parliament to declare independence from Spain on Friday, 27 October 2017. We believe this is an internal matter for Spain and that any actions taken must be in keeping with country's legal and constitutional framework. At this stage, every effort should be made to encourage dialogue between the Spanish and Catalonian Governments and between the acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Catalonian President Quim Torra, to try to resolve the crisis, bring an end to the violence and stabilise relationships. We need to see a de-escalation of tension in Catalonia and a satisfactory outcome that accords with the Spanish constitution, democratic principles and the rule of law.

The European institutions, where practical and feasible, should use their influence and considerable experience to try to de-escalate the tension in the region. Stability in the EU nation state of Spain is in all of our interests. As the Minister of State has said, Ireland has a very close relationship with Spain. For example, in 2017 there were approximately 2 million visits from Ireland to Spain. In 2018, 423,000 Spanish visitors came to Ireland. A total of 35,000 Spanish students visit Ireland every year, which all of us see, particularly during the summer months.

Many of us have visited the beautiful, historic and cultural city of Barcelona. It was heartbreaking to see the violence on the streets there in the past couple of weeks. Almost 600 people received medical treatment following the violence on the streets last week and 194 people were arrested. I hope common sense will prevail, that peace and stability can be brought to the region as soon as possible and that there will be goodwill on all sides to bring this about.

I welcome the statement from the Minister of State that our ambassador and officials based in the Irish Embassy in Madrid continue to follow developments and that our embassy is in contact with the Spanish Government. The embassy is closely monitoring the situation, according to the Minister of State, with regard to the demonstrations. It is important that we are fully briefed on all of these matters.

This is indeed a very difficult and complex situation and is one which I hope can be resolved. I note that the protestors at the weekend were calling on Spain to talk. This will certainly be resolved by dialogue and all of us should contribute to bringing about that dialogue and bringing about peace and stability in the region.

9:00 pm

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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In October 2017, I had the great privilege of observing the Catalan independence referendum first hand. I was one of a large group of parliamentarians from across Europe who travelled to Barcelona and the surrounding districts to witness the vote. Some of us, myself included, were clearly sympathetic to the cause of Catalan self-determination but others in that delegation were not, yet still believed that the vote was a legitimate democratic exercise. My view, having been there, was that it was an incredible expression of a peaceful civil society movement intent on giving voice to the millions of Catalans who have a desire to determine their own future. It was unofficial but to describe a well-organised, peaceful ballot as illegal, let alone seditious, is simply not credible.

My abiding memory of the day of the referendum was meeting an 83 year old by the name of Antonio in the polling station of Barceloneta on the seafront in Barcelona. When I met him, his arm was in a sling, his head and legs grazed and congealed blood still visible. Antonio had arrived at his local polling station at 7 a.m., determined to be one of the first to cast his ballot. Two hours later, the Spanish Civil Guard arrived and, unprovoked, attacked the assembled voters. Antonio was badly hurt and admitted to hospital. His arm had been fractured but, undeterred, he returned to the polling station and waited in line.

When I arrived, the polling station was packed. People had been waiting for hours while the Spanish authorities repeatedly crashed the online voter registration system. When I asked Antonio to describe his treatment at the hands of the Spanish police, he said it reminded him of the brutality of the Franco regime through which he lived his younger life.

Antonio was dignified and peaceful. Above all, he was democracy personified, refusing to be bullied by the truncheon of the Civil Guard. The treatment of thousands of Catalans that day, much of which I witnessed, cast a dark shadow over Spanish democracy but what was to follow was even worse. The decision by the Spanish Government and judicial system to jail and prosecute elected politicians and civil society leaders was unprecedented and, let us be under no doubt, these were not legal questions but were politically motivated charges intended to criminalise a peaceful social movement and curry favour with an increasingly reactionary Spanish nationalism. While those of us who had have direct experience of the Spanish political and judicial system were not surprised the sentences meted out in October are still shocking.

Oriol Junqueras, former vice president of the Catalan Parliament was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Jordi Turull, former spokesperson for the Catalan Government, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Raül Romeva, former foreign minister, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Dolors Bassa, former minister for labour, was also sentenced to 12 years in prison. The former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, the counterpart of our Ceann Comhairle, was sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison. What was her crime? She was accused of allowing a debate in the Catalan parliament on the holding of the October 1 referendum.

Other Ministers were sentenced to ten and a half years in prison and two leading pro-independence civil society activists, Jordi Sånchez and Jordi Cuixart, were sentenced to nine years. What kind of political system jails government ministers and civil society activists for organising a peaceful ballot? What kind of government sends in armed guards and soldiers to beat peaceful protestors off the streets? The sentencing of Catalan politicians and civil society activists casts more than a dark shadow over Spanish democracy, it calls into question that democracy itself. I have a message for the Spanish Government and the Spanish ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Ildefonso Castro: debería darnos verguenza lo que estáis hacienda en Catalunya y lo que estáis hacienda a la democracia en España. Shame on that Government for what it has done.

What recent events in Catalonia and Spain show is that this is not an internal matter for Spain. This is a fundamental matter of democracy and human rights. The Spanish Government is in clear breach of the values and treaty law of the European Union and the member states that uphold it. The only way to resolve this situation is through independent international mediation. Anyone who claims anything short of that kind of intervention is complicit in the single biggest breach of basic democratic principles in Europe in decades.

I urge the Members who have spoken already not to leave this to the internal politics of the Spanish state and to support the call for dialogue and mediation. We should support the call for what worked in the conflict in our own country which is conflict resolution because anything short of that will see the situation deteriorate and none of us here wants that.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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The situation in Catalonia is complex and divisive. We, in this country, have a certain understanding of that. I welcome the opportunity to put on the record the position of the Labour Party on the situation in Catalonia.

First and foremost, when a large proportion of citizens on both sides have strong views on identity or constitutional preference in the same geographical area, that needs to be addressed respectfully while having respect for the different sides of the argument.

We have learned form our own painful history that violence and conflict only make any constitutional situation worse and all the harder to heal wounds and engage all sides in dialogue to find a way forward.

The Labour Party condemns the violence that has arisen in the Catalonia region and calls on all sides, including the police, to exercise more restraint and increase their efforts to calm the situation through dialogue which is the only way to solve the problem. Politics is about finding solutions to problems but can only work if those involved engage lawfully. We do not believe it is acceptable for any democratic politician to lead citizens into unlawful behaviour.

During the constitutional crisis that erupted in 2017 and 2018, more than 1,000 civilians were injured, alongside up to 111 agents of the security forces. This was a serious crisis that rocked the whole of Spain and it is only a matter of luck that people were not killed in some of the incidents. We simply do not know how many people have life-changing injuries.

Whatever we may think about the case, we must respect the role of the independent Spanish court system. It is just a fact that we must respect the independent role of the courts. We also recognise that the politicians were found guilty of a range of offences by those courts and, in fact, were subject to very severe sentences. We believe that anyone who breaks the law should be held to account but I do not think that lengthy jail sentences are a constructive way to deal with pro-independence politicians. That is a comment on the courts.

The constitutional crisis grew and came to a head under the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy who was Prime Minister until June 2018. He was inflexible and his rigid approach to the separatist movement undoubtedly inflamed the way in which events developed into a major constitutional crisis. I am conscious that the Labour Party's sister party, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, is now in government in Madrid under Pedro Sánchez. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party has always had a different approach to regional autonomy and it is important to allow Sánchez's Government to renew a democratic and measured approach to the crisis that has arisen. The socialist Spanish Government naturally must accept the ruling of the independent courts in their country but they also have expressed determination to heal the fractures caused by recent events.

Society in Catalonia was, and remains, deeply divided on the issue of independence. Successive opinion polls have confirmed that, while full independence is preferred by a large minority, the majority of citizens are opposed to independence but favour regional autonomy within Spain. In fact, support for independence in opinion polls is lower now, at less than 40%, compared to its peak of 48% support in 2013.

Self-government of autonomous communities in Spain enjoy the strongest level of regional devolution in the world and that was delivered by socialist governments.

Resolution of the Spanish crisis is now a matter for politics. Some kind of amnesty process, or a reduction in sentences for pro-independence politicians, can only be negotiated through the political system. Part of this must require all sides to agree to be fully bound by the rule of law and not to lead their communities into unlawful behaviour. From the Labour Party's perspective, I urge Deputies to support the efforts of Pedro Sánchez's Government to take a different approach to the issue of Catalonia, based on engaging all sides in Catalonia in dialogue about a way forward that can command a large majority of the population. Like in Northern Ireland, compromise on constitutional preferences is difficult for those with strongly held views on one side or the other. It is the only way, however, to ensure peace and stability. Our message should be one of solidarity to all the people of Catalonia, along with the genuine hope that respectful dialogue can triumph over division to reach a stable compromise that can command the support of a large majority of the population of Catalonia.

9:10 pm

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Solidarity)
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We need a reality check. Nine people have been sentenced to between nine and 13 years of prison in a European, supposedly democratic country for the crime of sedition, for organising a democratic vote for people to express their will on the question of the independence of Catalonia. For anyone to try to dress that up or to suggest there is some independent rule of courts, that everything is fine and so on misses the point. If that happened in many other parts of the world, everyone would clearly see that it is not a democratic process when political leaders can be tried in court and jailed for lengthy periods for the crime of sedition because of organising a democratic vote.

Contrary to the previous speaker, I believe we should not whitewash the role of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and Sánchez. Their Government is sending thousands of troops to Catalonia, while Sánchez has co-ordinated a media campaign to condemn those who peacefully protest as violent, even though the troops and police officers he has sent are the ones being violent against those peaceful protesters. The Spanish establishment may, in future, be haunted by the ideas contained in James Connolly's words of 1914, when he wrote:

If you strike at, imprison, or kill us, out of our prisons or graves we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you, and perhaps, raise a force that will destroy you! We defy you! Do your worst!

The response to such incredible repression by the Spanish state has been the redoubling of the movement, becoming arguably larger than it was in 2017 or 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets, there was a very successful general strike on 18 October, while there have been demonstrations towards and into the airport, and on the squares and the streets. The response to that has been the campaign of terror I have described and mass violence against protestors, blinding at least four and injuring and arresting hundreds. Anyone who doubts this and believes that everything is peaceful, democratic and fine within the borders of the Spanish state should go online and watch the incredible brutality by the police. One video shows a bunch of police officers snorting cocaine, and then going out to beat protestors in a very brutal way and arresting members of the media for covering their crimes and brutality. It is clear that Francoism is alive and well in the Spanish state, raising its ugly head to put down the boot on the Catalan people, just as it did in 2017. The Spanish legal system and the police are riddled with elements of the old fascist dictatorship of Franco, yet it is the same system the EU leaders claim we must respect. It reflects the contempt for democracy of those at the top of the European Union in their support for a campaign of terror and revenge.

The international arrest warrant for Puigdemont needs to be rescinded immediately, the convictions of the nine political prisoners must be overturned immediately, the repression must be ended and Catalonia's right to self-determination should be respected. The general strike on 18 October shows a way forward for the movement. To paraphrase Connolly, the working class are the incorruptible inheritors of the struggle against national oppression. The working class and the left leadership, not seeking a path of compromise with Francoism or an independent Catalonia to pursue a neoliberal race to the bottom but rather a drive for an independent socialist republic of Catalonia, is the way forward and can appeal to working class people across national and cultural lines, having an impact on the working class throughout the Spanish state. An important part of that is supporting the right to self-determination of other national minorities within the Spanish state opposing repression and oppression, not least the Basque people, and standing for a future socialist federation of the Spanish state and the Iberian peninsula.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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Two years after democratically elected Catalan ministers, politicians and civil activists held a peaceful referendum on the question of self-determination for Catalonia, severe penalties were handed down by the Spanish Supreme Court to former Catalan leaders. Penalties ranged between nine and 13 years for the leaders, under trumped up charges, including sedition, disobedience and the misuse of public funds. Catalonia's question on the self-determination of its 7.5 million people has been quashed by a so-called democratic nation belonging to the European Union. What has happened throughout the course of Catalonia's self-determination process has raised questions as to the true nature of the European Union, primarily as to how it can allow one of its nation states to hold political prisoners while not explicitly recognising Catalonia's right to self-determination and claiming it is an internal political matter.

As many commentators have pointed out, the European project finds itself threatened by terrorism and an upsurge in xenophobic nationalism, and as a result simply cannot adopt a passive stance on the question of Catalonia. Catalan citizens are also EU citizens and deserve equal recognition under the EU. If Europe has any democratic mettle, it must defend and advocate for the rights of Catalan citizens against the Spanish police state. The European Commission must also open a space for mediation between the Spanish and Catalan Governments to find a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict once and for all, but we know that it will not do that. Spain's response to Catalonia's self-determination raises questions over what has been termed the judicialisation of politics, where a nation state excessively outsources its political decision making and public policy to the courts on matters of great political importance, rather than allowing the people through democratically elected representatives to follow the course for themselves. In the case of Spain, the Supreme Court has been given an all-too bloated role in determining the course of events pursued by Catalonia. The overreliance on the supreme judiciary to determine the course of events has doubtless led to an overreliance on the use of force to attack the civilian population through the use of the security forces and the threat of imprisonment.

As part of its efforts to stop the referendum, the Spanish Government has blocked Catalan websites, seized pro-succession material, detained officials involved in the referendum, threatened to arrest 700 mayors, held a crackdown on information, and seized 1.3 million posters, flyers, and pamphlets at the time of the referendum. Meanwhile, the Spanish Prime Minister stated, "The state will always guarantee the rights of those who wish to protest their ideas peacefully." What the Spanish Government is doing would be a joke if it were not so serious. Much attention has been paid to the violence and unrest surrounding the most recent march when, in fact, it had been preceded by an overwhelmingly peaceful march of more than 500,000 people. Approximately 525,000 people had congregated in the city, many of them having marched there from around Catalonia to display their discontent with Spain's Supreme Court ruling on the penalties to be given to the former Catalan leaders for carrying out the referendum on Catalonia's independence.

Europe continues to ignore the developments. Most recently the Commission stated it fully respects the Spanish constitutional order, including decisions of the Spanish judiciary, and that it remains an internal matter for Spain. It probably had a similar stance in respect of the British occupation of the North for years and years. It supports us now in that regard but that is only because it suits it to give the Brits a kicking.

Perhaps if the Commission wants to give the Spanish a kicking, it will support the Catalan people as well. Meanwhile Europe fails to realise that by ignoring the situation in Catalonia, it is eroding democracy in a profound way. This is a dangerous situation if the European Union's self-conception as a supposedly democratic institution is to have any hope of surviving the challenges of the 21st century.

9:20 pm

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Peadar Tóibín will now share time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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Gabhaim buíochas don Teachta Mattie McGrath.

Self-determination is a human right. It is the foundation of democracy. People have a right to self-determination up to the point where they infringe upon the rights of others. We in Ireland know how important self-determination is. We know too well that the lack of self-determination can be a disaster for a country. We know that when a country's peaceful pathway to achieving self-determination is blocked, it is a recipe for political unrest and chaos. Tragically, Ireland has been in that situation for hundreds of years.

In 1919, the First Dáil issued a message to the free nations of the world seeking recognition of our independence. Most of the countries of that time refused this recognition. Catalonia is Ireland 100 years later. Today, this Dáil business is entitled Statements on Developments in Spain. It is the equivalent of holding a debate on the Black and Tans' burning of Balbriggan and Cork and calling it Statements on the United Kingdom. That shows the Government's mindset and its approach to this issue.

In March 2014, Spain's Constitutional Court ruled that a referendum on Catalonia's independence planned for November was unconstitutional. A simple democratic expression of the people's wishes was unconstitutional. More than 80% of the people who took part in that informal vote for separation from Spain voted for independence. As a result of that expression of self-determination, the Supreme Court of Spain sentenced Catalan leaders to long jail terms for sedition. In one fell swoop, the Spanish Government criminalised democracy.

This is a grave injustice not only against individual democratic leaders but also against the people of Catalonia. It is shocking that this would happen anywhere in 2019. That it happened in the EU in 2019, on our watch, makes a silent Ireland culpable and complicit. It is incredible that the Government is not seeking to do the right thing. Most of the world stood idly by while Britain violently denied Irish democratic aspirations. Are we going to do the same for Catalonia?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I wish to discuss the situation in Spain and the civil unrest and protests following the decision of the Supreme Court of Spain in the case of some of the people responsible for the Catalan independence process. As we know, the Spanish court sentenced these people to between nine and 13 years in prison. It has been said that this was not just a conviction of the members of the Catalan Government, but of the 2.3 million Catalans who made the self-determination referendum on 1 October 2017 possible. It reflects our own history and it seems we have a very short memory.

I have been following this matter closely. In April, at the request of then Deputy Clare Daly, I signed a cross-party support measure calling for an end to the detention of Spanish civil leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, and a recognition of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Catalonia. That statement did not express any opinion on Catalan independence. It was simply a defence of the basic human rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. By God, we in Ireland, including the Government, should know how important and sacred that is.

As I understand it, the two civic and cultural leaders have been held on an order for pre-trial detention on charges of sedition since last October. Sánchez and Cuixart are the presidents, respectively, of the Catalan National Assembly, ANC, and Òmnium Cultural. They were charged in connection with pro-independence protests organised to coincide with the Catalan independence referendum in 2017 and faced a prison sentence of 17 years. Along with Deputies Mick Wallace and Maureen O'Sullivan, Deputy Daly had met with the legal team representing the men. These representatives outlined the circumstances of their clients' detention. It was felt that the detention of these two civic leaders was a disproportionate restriction of their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

As for the more immediate situation in Spain, I can only say that as a citizen of a small island nation which struggled for its independence, I am very sympathetic to the Catalan cause. However, it is disturbing to see the violence that has taken place in recent weeks. That I cannot support, as violence gets us nowhere. Hopefully a sense of proportion and respect for the right of people to determine their own destiny will be seen in Spain. It is a wonderful country with a rich heritage and a fantastic people. That is something we all want to see protected.

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I thank all the Deputies for their contributions this evening. As I said in my opening remarks, the question of Catalan independence remains a deeply divisive and contentious issue, not just in Catalonia but in all of Spain. It is very clear from the contributions that what is happening in Spain and Catalonia matters to each and every one of us in this Chamber and beyond, for reasons I have already outlined. Spain is a close ally, partner and friend of ours in the European Union. Many of our people call Spain their home for much of the year and vice versa. As many speakers outlined, as a country we have seen what conflict can do and how important it is to find a resolution to that conflict. However, while tensions are running high, we cannot forget that Spain is an established democracy that is committed to the rule of law. It is only through the democratic process with full respect for the law that differences of opinion should be contested. We should not lose sight of the fact that the case presented to the Supreme Court of Spain was presented on a legal and constitutional issue. We know how complex constitutions can be. Let us not simplify a very complex issue. Furthermore, just as we would expect other countries to respect our legal system, we must respect the independence and integrity of the Spanish courts.

The Government remains of the view that it is for all Catalans and all Spaniards to arrive at a shared view of the steps to be taken within their laws and democratic institutions to support a process of reconciliation. Internal divisions, contesting aspirations and robust debates are all to be expected within a democracy. As I said, however, these must be resolved in keeping with the rule of law. They cannot be resolved through violence. We have all seen the images of protests in recent days, including scenes of confrontations. Most of those who have been demonstrating have been doing so peacefully. Reports of incidents of violence are of huge concern, and I share the dismay felt by my colleagues and many people in Ireland and elsewhere at the scenes of violent disturbances in Catalonia. I am concerned by the impact this has on people's lives and the political uncertainty to which it has given rise. I reiterate, however, that there is no place for violence in politics. We must always find a solution through peaceful means.

In Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, as in our democracy, public representatives and citizens must always work together to advance goals democratically. Establishing the validity and legitimacy of political efforts through the institutions requires the broadest possible consensus within the law. That is why I remain very clearly of the view that it is for all parties in Spain to arrive at a shared view of what steps within Spain's laws and democratic institutions might best support a process of resolution. Radical violent actions cannot be acceptable. Any difference of opinion must be contested peacefully with full respect for the law and the rights of all citizens.

Finally, the balance between the freedom to demonstrate and the need for law and order must be protected so that people can go about their normal lives without fear. Citizens also deserve clarity that the rule of law extends to and protects them. That is why we continue to support a resolution of the current situation in Spain that is based on democracy and the rule of law. We will continue to remain engaged with the ambassador and our colleagues in the Irish embassy in Spain. We will continue to update colleagues on any further developments.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Roscommon-Galway, Fianna Fail)
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Gabhaim buíochas don Aire Stáit agus do na Teachtaí. Sin deireadh leis na ráitis maidir leis na forbairtí sa Spáinn. Leanaimid ar aghaidh anois leis an Tairiscint maidir le Cothabháil Linbh.