Thursday, 28 February 1974
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Cunningham: When I reported progress I was dealing with one of the items mentioned in this document, the proposal for aid to the less favoured farmers. Before returning to that subject I should like to urge the Minister, and the other Ministers involved in negotiations in the EEC, to bring the Members of this House more into their confidence in regard to those negotiations. Many of us here, and the country as a whole, are not familiar with the proposals being put forward in Europe. The attitude of the Members of the House towards these proposals is not known to the Minister.
We should not regard ourselves as going into Europe with the sole aim of obtaining aid. There are many other aspects of our membership which need attention and which should be fostered. We should be making proposals in other respects apart from the economic issues. We should play our full part as well as seeking the best possible benefits for our people. We must play our part in Europe as well as accepting the benefits from the Community.
By and large the various Government Departments are responsible for negotiations at parliamentary level and at the Council of Ministers. They are also responsible for seeking certain grants for the people of this country under the various directives and schemes. Outside of that there are other bodies who are entitled to benefits under these directives. Apart from Government Departments putting forward proposals, or making a case for a share of existing commitments and agreements reached in Europe, these outside bodies are entitled to some benefits especially under the Social Fund.
All this has been going on for over 12 months. Government Ministers are less than frank with the House. We get most of our information through the daily Press, television and radio. We get more from these sources, as a result of statements by Ministers outside the House, than we get inside the House. Ministers should indicate to us as far as possible the proposals being discussed, their contributions to these  proposals and the difficulties they are facing. I freely admit that in all cases it might not be in the interests of the country to publish them.
I am afraid there is no consultation between Government and Opposition on many of these things. I should like to see more consultation. In respect of the outside bodies I have not enough information to say categorically that full information on procedures and benefits and grants was not available to all those who could make application for such assistance. I should like to hear from the Minister what efforts, by Press publicity or otherwise, were made to make the provisions of the scheme available to such organisations.
The other day I mentioned the aids for less favoured farmers which will be available mainly in the West of Ireland. I know there is no directive on this yet. That is why I want to go more deeply into it. The proposals for operating the farm improvement scheme have been announced and there is great dissatisfaction at their content. At the moment farmers are being told by the officers in the field that as from 1st February the usual run of grants will not be available. In other words, applications for land reclamation, for farm-improvement schemes, for farmbuilding schemes, are not being accepted.
On the other hand, there is very little clarity about what will replace those schemes and who will be entitled to receive grants. There are the development farmers and the transitional farmers. There is great uncertainty and there is a lack of knowledge. I would urge that the farmers, as of now, immediately and urgently, should be given all possible information, by publicity and otherwise.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I was given the rough bones of the proposals under the farm modernisation scheme. A footnote said that full details are not available but will be issued shortly. This is not good enough. Farmers are being told they cannot apply for land project grants, farmbuilding grants or the various other grants which many of them apply for at this time of the year in anticipation of better weather when  these schemes can be carried out. Until the new proposals—whatever they are—are available and it is possible for farmers to apply for them, the old dish water should not be thrown out.
The main grants will be allocated to farmers whose income is over £1,800, those known as development farmers. If I am not absolutely right in some of the things I am saying— I hope I am; I have done my utmost to be au fait with the proposals—I should like to be corrected. After all my efforts to seek full information, if I am not fully aware of these proposals or not correctly informed, what is the position of the small farmer in Donegal, or Mayo, or Kerry? We cannot afford to allow that situation to continue. It hinges on what I have already said. This House should be given as much information as possible before something is a fait accompli.
I understand from the Minister, by way of interjection, that 75 per cent of the money for these schemes is put up by the Government. There is a lack of information on what the position will be for transitional farmers. If the Land Commission are assisting farmers to increase their acreage, will they be entitled to receive the dole, or unemployment assistance, as they were heretofore? Will they be entitled to receive from the Land Commission additional land to bring them up to the required acreage? What about the farmer who does not hope to be a transitional or a developing farmer?
This scheme is very much tied up with the scheme announced by the Department of Lands. This scheme envisages pensions for farmers who voluntarily give up their holdings and who sell their holdings to the Land Commission. There is a lack of clarity, although the Minister for Lands has made five or six public pronouncements at various functions up and down the country and, to give him his due, in the early stages he gave the bare bones of the scheme to the House.
These two things seem to be tied together. The scheme of pensions for  retiring farmers is side by side with a leasing arrangement. In other words, if farmers lease their land for a period of 12 years they will be allowed to do this. I have the Minister's most recent statement on this matter, made at Dundrum, County Tipperary. Why not in this House?
So far as leasing of farms for 12 years is concerned, the statement does not spell out what encouragement or enticement there is for a farmer to do this. Is it sufficient that he gets the letting value of the farm? Are there any further enticements to lease or let the land? For many years letting arrangements for one year have been quite common in Ireland but now 12-year lettings are envisaged. The scheme with regard to pensions is not compulsory; will the letting for 12 years be voluntary? I presume it will be. The advantages to the farmer should be spelled out.
I realise the Minister for Foreign Affairs may not be able to brief us fully on these matters. Surely it is time the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries appeared in this House. He is not here very often, except to answer Parliamentary Questions. He is the person who is involved in Europe. He is the man on whom the farmers— the majority of people in the country —depend to look after their interests. When things are going right in Europe we get statements from him but he does not take the House or the country into his confidence when he is facing problems. He has not asked the House for suggestions or advice on how to cope with the problems he is meeting.
Mention has been made also of the less favoured farmers and I asked a few questions on this subject recently. There has not been much information given with regard to the farm modernisation scheme and this applies to a lesser extent to the pension scheme for farmers who retire and those who lease their lands.
I would point out that the heading on the item dealing with less favoured farmers is “Farm Modernisation Scheme” but this is not correct. I know mistakes can occur but they should not occur in such an important  document. I have one complaint already about the document, namely, that it does not go into great detail. With regard to the Regional Fund, we were told the last meeting was postponed and that a date has not been set for the next meeting. The Regional Fund will be the major fund to benefit this country. It is not good enough for the Minister to submit a document like this without any elaboration whatever. I hope he will give us more information when he is replying.
He should spell out the problems the Community are facing in reaching agreement on the Regional Fund. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, he should give us an idea of the Government's thinking on the matter and on the way the fund will be distributed in this country. Through this fund the Community are assisting countries or parts of countries that are regarded as underdeveloped peripheral areas. I hope the Government will apply this yardstick to this country and that our underdeveloped peripheral areas will get a fair proportion of the money.
Admittedly the question of the less favoured farmer is a fairly small item but we know that it is a social problem in this country. It should be the duty of the Government and their representatives in Brussels to keep this in mind, particularly having regard to the small farmers in the west. I should like to know what proposals the Government are putting forward and what criteria the Council of Ministers and the Commission have in mind. I do not know if it is true that the grant will be decided on the gradient of the land; in other words, that flat land will not qualify. If that is so many of our farmers may be ruled out. I do not know enough about it but the House should be told of the Government's attitude on this matter, what they will agree to and what they will oppose.
The matter of transport policy is also mentioned. I do not know enough about this subject but representations were made to me about licences. In terms of percentages how do we fare with regard to other countries? With the freeing of trade and the free movement  of men and materials across borders it can happen that European transport concerns will operate to the exclusion or part exclusion of our own operators. I hope we will get a fair deal but being a small country it may become lopsided.
I wonder if the Minister for Local Government has any proposals to bring our roads up to a proper standard and if we will qualify for EEC grants for this work. I know there is a Motorways Bill before us at the moment and I wonder if it has a connection with EEC transport policy. I will wind up by appealing to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries, Industry and Commerce and Social Welfare, the main Ministers dealing with EEC matters, to give to the House all possible information in relation not only to our successes in Europe but also our problems.
Mr. Moore: To most people the image of the EEC is in two pictures, the first being one of idealism. The idealism picture deals with the service the EEC can render to less well-off nations. We had experience quite recently of its influence for peace when the Middle East conflict arose. This alone was a justification for the way in which our people voted for membership of the EEC. I am glad that we have applied for a higher degree of participation in international relief for less well-off nations and I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the part he is playing in this respect.
However, I must take the Government to task for the appalling lack of a backing service for our ten representatives on the European Parliament. Deputy Herbert when speaking here earlier in the week—he is a member of the Fianna Fáil and Gaullist group in the European Parliament —complained that even though his paper on transport had been accepted by the European Parliament—it deals with road safety, and we must remember that 50,000 people are annually killed on the roads of the nine nations—when he went to the Department of Local Government to get  their comments on road safety he received only a vague response. This is not good enough. As I have said, Deputy Herbert's paper has been accepted by the European Parliament. I must pay tribute to our ten representatives in the European Parliament for the hard work they do and the long hours they spend looking after the interests of our people, and I must appeal to the Minister to give them a proper backing service of expert advice.
This morning Deputy McDonald, who is a Vice-President of the European Parliament, is quoted as having threatened to resign from the European Parliament because of the poor backing services being given to him. I am sure he was not acting in any impulsive way when he told our Committee on European Secondary Legislation yesterday that he would have to resign if the backing service was not improved. These hard working representatives require an expert backing service if they are adequately to represent us in Europe. Having been a Member of the Council of Europe, a much smaller body, I understand the hard work men like Deputies Herbert and McDonald are doing in Europe and I appeal to the Minister to try to improve their backing service.
Our hopes are still high for a united Europe. Our people voted four to one for entry and it is our firm belief that the EEC can be a great instrument for peace and prosperity not only in Europe but throughout the world and one cannot but be critical of our Government and our Civil Service for failing to provide our men in Europe with an adequate expert service. We have been trying to play our part in strengthening and improving the EEC and I hope the Minister will be able to give us a better picture of the backing services to be given to our representatives so that we will not have the spectacle of a person like Deputy McDonald threatening to resign.
On the question of our present attitude to the EEC, whenever a factory  closes here or whenever there is any kind of set-back, it is all blamed on our membership of the EEC. I believe if we were not a member things would be much worse. On the other hand, are we using the full machinery of the EEC not just in a selfish way to benefit ourselves, which is very important, but in the broader sense in an effort to bring about integration of the nine nations?
One of the great things about this European unity is the fact that it can become and is a great preventer of war. The greatest tragedy which could befall Europe would be another war. Over 20 years have passed since the last European war. I believe this is due to a great extent to men like M. Schumann, Monet and others who had this idea of European unity and their enthusiasm and fervour spread. Nations like Germany and France, which had always been regarded as enemies, found that they could come together among the other nine nations and sink their differences and make the Community possible.
The Minister and our members will play a full part in regard to peacekeeping. In regard to rising prices and unemployment it can be said that many people are inclined to blame our membership of the EEC for these. Perhaps we could blame the Government for not being more forthcoming with information. This was mentioned earlier. We do not get sufficient information on many of these matters. We get reports, many of which are hard to digest, and take much time to read. The news from Europe could be presented in such a way that it would interest the people, not merely the politicians, in the European approach. The people could be shown what the Community will really mean. Unless we do that people will become cynical and regard EEC as being a scapegoat at which arrows can be shot. The blame will be laid on the European Community and this would be a tragedy. When both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were campaigning for the EEC membership they were careful to point out that there would still be problems even after membership  was attained. We will never have a perfect society but we must try to ensure that we make the Community as perfect as possible.
In regard to employment there is the human angle of a man who worked in say a car assembly plant in Britain. He had emigrated but he was able to come back here with his wife and children and buy a house in Dublin. He worked in a car assembly plant here, but the car assembly industry is not having good times. Last week there was a heading in the newspapers about car assembly plant workers fighting closure. This would be a natural reaction in any worker who was afraid his firm was going to close down. The man I have spoken about would be very disappointed, having achieved his ambition to come back to work in Ireland, if he found that the car assembly firm in which he now works is threatened with closure. This may not have anything to do with the EEC. Perhaps the firm was threatened with closure before we joined the EEC. Some firms will close each year for various reasons. Are we doing our best through the EEC to ensure that the car assembly industry is safeguarded as far as possible?
One hears of the shortage of craftsmen in many European countries which have to employ men and women from non-member states. I am not against employing these people. I am sure this helps the weaker economies in Europe. In Strasbourg and Brussels could we do anything about the car assembly industry? Could we indicate that we have people for this work? There is a shortage of craftsmen in certain parts of Europe. It would be much more humane and better business to send cars for assembly here rather than to send our workers to assemble cars in Europe. As I have said before, the people in the Community come first. What I am suggesting may not be practicable but we should put forward some suggestion to show that we have a fairly sophisticated industrial set-up and that we could take on plenty of work here which would employ craftsmen. This  would also help other countries on the mainland of Europe; it would help their problems in regard to craftsmen. Under the EEC conditions we have the free passage of labour. This could be used if necessary. We should try to secure this type of industry. We could assemble cars. The French and the Germans could then concentrate on other industries. Their craftsmen would be free to do so. We must get the EEC to think of bringing employment to people in their own countries.
I am sure that the Minister will spare no effort in regard to this point if he thinks it is practicable. It might help to remove the image which the EEC has got among its opponents who say that it is only a place for cheap labour. We must try to bring employment to the people and not the people to the employment, which involves a man leaving his own country and going, perhaps, 500 miles away.
The Government, through the EEC, have been active in regard to shipbuilding. There is a special section in the second report dealing with this matter. There are great opportunities in regard to shipbuilding. Whether the ships are built on the Lagan, the Liffey or the Lee, the demand for ships is increasing greatly. Bigger and bigger ships are needed. Shipbuilding can be improved under the EEC conditions. We could ensure full order books for the Belfast shipyards and for Haulbowline. The ship repair service at Dublin could be fully utilised. I believe that Europe will have a great air of prosperity.
Bigger ships are being built and we should ensure that we are in this market. We have the facilities just as we have them in the motor assembly industry. Therefore, our efforts in the immediate future should be to ensure that Ireland is shown as not wholly agricultural. That aspect, which I am not competent to speak on, has been dealt with ably by our representatives in Strasbourg and in Brussels. We should show Europe that we have got an industrial arm here and that our concern does not stop at the Border, that we are as much concerned for the shipyards in Belfast as we are for  those in Cork or Dublin. In this report there is a special chapter on shipbuilding. I urge the Minister to ensure that no efforts are spared to get our part of the shipbuilding business going. In that way we will contribute to the prosperity of the Community.
I understand that changes are imminent in the packaging industry. In the constituency which the Minister and I represent, there is quite a large factory which produces various forms of packaging. This is a very fine firm and one which I believe can match European competition at any time. We should show Europe the various industries we have which we can expand and we should show them the goods which we can make. The founders of the EEC put people before money or materialistic interests. If we show aggressiveness in selling our products in the Community not alone will we benefit ourselves but we will help the European Economic Community which, I believe, will expand despite the difficulties it has had so far. These are growing pains.
We sometimes think the French are rather insular or that the Germans are rather adamant but we have to try to see the reasons behind the attitude of these nations. France has always shown a kind of paternal attitude to Europe but we must remember that she is regarded as the cradle of western civilisation and holds a special place in the hearts of Europeans. We should think of the fine contribution made by the Germans, the Belgians and the Dutch to Europe. I believe the future holds a great promise. We should let no opportunity pass to show that we do not go all the time looking for favours from Europe. We should show Europe that we are able to make our contribution to the betterment of the European Economic Community and the people of Europe as a whole. This will show the other Continents that when people with the right motives get down to create a better world this can be done. We can pray now that  never again will there be another European war. The great instrument for preventing another European war is through our membership of the EEC.
I would like to refer to Deputy Herbert's contribution on road safety. We have a great problem here. When we come to adopt this report it will cost a lot of money but we should remember that at the moment the loss in human life and injury on the roads of the nine member countries amounts to 1.5 per cent of the GNP of that area. That is in material terms but when you take the human aspect the great loss of 50,000 people each year you realise how great the problem is. If we take the 32 counties area, our casualties on the road are higher in comparison with the total figures for the Community. Are we prepared to adopt this report on road safety which the European Parliament has adopted? Will we be able to play our part in ensuring that we have roads as safe as possible and the loss of life as low as possible?
We often see very old vehicles on our roads and we know they are not in very sound condition. If we adopt the European Parliament report it will be necessary to have such things as the display of a certificate of road worthiness on vehicles. There are many vehicles using our roads which are certainly not qualified for a fitness certificate. We will have to spend a considerable sum if we adopt all the sections of this report on road safety and if we harmonise conditions for driving licences. This is chaotic at the moment. I hope the Government will contribute out of our total road fund as much as possible towards road safety. This is one area where we share a deep concern with our fellow Europeans. When one reads a report like Deputy Herbert's one realises the broad concepts of the European Community. Not alone is it an instrument for peace, an instrument for helping the Third World or an instrument for increasing prosperity in the member countries and outside the Community, but it deals with such mundane things as road safety.
 Our representatives in Brussels and Strasbourg are doing wonderful work. The amount of travel they have to do is matched by the amount of travel the Minister does. These men have to spend a long time studying the different subjects of debate and also in travelling back and forth to Europe. This is done in the pursuit of a better Europe. These men will have as a monument to them the fact that they played their part in perfecting the European Economic Community.
As a member of the Council of Europe I saw the tremendous aptitude for hard work which the other Europeans have. The Irish delegation are showing that they are equally dedicated, that they have as much ability as any of the other delegations. They are prepared to play their part in Europe if only we at home ensure they are given all the facilities they need; the expertise and the backroom boys must be put at the disposal of our ten representatives. The Community is only in the formative years now, and we cannot get any more out of it than we put into it. This glorious opportunity for the betterment of man in general and Europe in particular must not be allowed to pass by because we did not do our homework or did not give our representatives the full backing they wanted. I hope that when the third report comes next year we shall not have to speak on behalf of Deputy Michael Herbert and Deputy Charles McDonald, these men who have worked so hard and who have been let down here at home.
Practically every aspect of our life is affected in some way by our membership of the Community, and none more so than the still partitioned area of the country. We may have our Sunningdales and various other plans for unity, but the unity which is offered through European unity is greater than any of these. We can show all the people in the North that here is a way of having real unity of purpose, that we are all Irishmen and all Europeans, that having joined in this broader political concept of the European community, the Border  which divides us, which cuts off six counties from the rest of the country, is a very mean little thing which has no place in modern politics. Unfortunately, the people in the North were never given the opportunity of voting as to whether they wished to join the Community. The people on this side of the Border were given the opportunity to show what they thought of membership, and you will remember that in the most emphatic manner possible they voted: “Yes, we are Europeans”. I believe that had the people of the Six Counties been given a similar opportunity they would have been just as emphatic.
The EEC has influenced men's thinking in Ireland. Perhaps the troubles in the last four years do not bear this out, but we have to differentiate between the European concept and what has happened in the North. Please God, the violence will end and we shall have an opportunity not alone of building our own nation into one unit but also of building Europe into one unit. In a few years' time young people of today, who will have grown older, will look back and say that whatever kind of people lived on this earth between 1914 and 1918 and between 1939 and 1945, in what can be classed as the old Europe, that image has gone and that men of all nations, including our own, played a part in building this great Community.
That may be on a high, idealistic plane, but it is worth striving for. As I said earlier, a man here who may lose his job is not going to probe why he lost it. If somebody says he lost it because of some EEC regulation he may be inclined to believe that. There are people who would tear down the Community ideal if they could, but I think the vast majority of the people are now convinced that our future lies in Europe and that outside the European Community our future would be very unpromising indeed. If we were to think of withdrawing we would then create a further partition, because the people in the North would be members because they are attached for the time being to the United Kingdom. Each day that passes the Border becomes more meaningless.  Whatever the violence is caused by— and we all have a good idea what causes it—it is not being caused by the physical Border. There may be borders in men's minds, but we hope that the very fact that the physical border has become meaningless and that vehicles carry goods from Dublin to Belfast and vice versa, and are doing this every day despite the violence, means we are succeeding in getting the people to think “European” and that we do not want to be an insular people, if ever we were. At times we do show little signs of being insular, but this is passing all the time.
The Minister and his Government must show the people working in the car industry or in any other industry here that their future is more likely to be safeguarded by membership of the EEC than if we were outside. Even though the Minister was disappointed with the progress of the first year, as I think most of us were, this is no reason why we should stop trying. The great disaster would be if anything happened to the EEC, but I do not think it will. It has growing pains at the moment, and the Minister and the Council of Ministers of the European Parliament must work out solutions to all our problems, which are being presented not by our membership of the EEC—they would probably be there anyway — but which are more easily solved in the context of the EEC rather than outside it.
While Members on this side would, of course, pledge support for the efforts being made to make it a better Community, we must always reserve the right to be critical, as I have been this morning of what I think is the Government's failure to back up our representatives. I do not think it would be the Minister's attitude that these men should go to Europe without full support, but the fact is that this week we had complaints from two representatives that they are not getting the support they need. The Government might well decide to have a thorough examination made of what can be done. I do know the Minister has sanctioned certain help for the EEC committee, but that is only a  tiny morsel of the help that is needed. When we visit Europe and sees the other delegations there and their tremendous back-up groups and the facilities given to them, we are shown up in a poor light. We must try to change this because that image would be unfair to our representatives and it would also harm the country if the Europeans think we are not in earnest in our membership of the EEC. Nothing could be further from the truth but, unfortunately, we have allowed this image to emerge.
The Communities are very wealthy and they distribute largesse to the more deserving countries outside the nine. We shall certainly back the Government in this; we have a duty to the Third World. In the past year, to the Government's credit, they twice increased the amount which can be given to help in international relief. Our people have always shown, whether it is a famine in Abyssinia or a war in Nigeria, that they are mindful of the needs of other people. Therefore, if it is necessary, I am trying to stress to the Minister that the people are behind the European idea, and I feel the people would react strongly in support of our representatives and complaints by these representatives. We must try to ensure that our best effort is put into our EEC membership and that nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of showing Europe that we are willing to play our part in the whole concept of European unity and prosperity.
A very important aspect of membership is that there is a common policy on the environment. The necessity today of trying to prevent all of us from being smoked to death or poisoned by the atmosphere is accepted all over Europe. On one occasion I recall the Minister and myself cleaning a river to set a good example. He may be pleased to know that in Strasbourg one day I watched German and French men doing the same task in respect of the Rhine except that the Rhine was much dirtier and much larger than the Dodder. In Europe, and indeed in all the member nations, there is a great fear of what  will happen if we do not have a proper policy for the preservation of the environment from noise or smoke or any other harmful element. I think this problem will play a greater part in our relations with Europe and I envisage some Government appointing a Minister for the Environment. Our views may be more advanced then. If we have properly controlled industry there should be no pollution from that source. Meanwhile, we must join the Community in practically every effort they make to ensure that we will not despoil the atmosphere.
At the time of the industrial revolution there was no control and early tycoons built factories wherever they wished and had no regard for safety. Perhaps the greatest indictment of this is in the writings of Charles Dickens who portrayed terrible pictures of unbridled industrial development. We have advanced to the stage of having guarded factories but there is always the danger that a factory may be a cause of pollution and unless we set high standards we may not have a good, clean atmosphere. Europeans who suffer ten times more than we suffer here will talk of the great fear they have that unless precautions are taken there may be whole areas of a country which will have to be cleared of either industry or population.
Some of the harbours and docks of the European mainland are frightening. In one of them they give three signals, one to close windows, the second to stop the machinery and the third to clear out when the atmosphere becomes so bad that people must leave. Happily, we can learn from the mistakes of others and our membership of the EEC should make us feel obliged to play our part. Under EEC regulations it is an offence for one country to despoil another by pollution. We are unlikely to do that unless one takes it that the trade winds always blow from west to east and smoke from our factories might possibly affect Liverpool. But that is over 100 miles away and the chances are very small. Slurry discharged from works here might be carried by  the tide to Holyhead or the Welsh coast but that is also a very small risk. We are not as near England or Wales as Germany is to France or France to Italy. Nevertheless, in this regard we should show the Europeans that we are willing and able to play our part in making a better Europe.
I ask the Minister to outline the steps he will take to ensure that our representatives in Brussels or Strasbourg will be given the best possible assistance and that we shall not have Members, like Deputy Herbert and Deputy McDonald, having to complain publicly that they are not getting the backing they deserve. Despite this, I know these ten men who represent all parties will continue to do a good job in Europe but it will be to our eternal shame if we do not give them the help they need. I hope the Minister will tell us what he plans to do and that when the third report on the EEC comes we shall not have cause to criticise the Government for their poverty of thought on how to aid our representatives in Europe.
Mr. O'Brien: This debate gives us an opportunity to review our first-year in Europe. Some people have voiced disappointment but I believe that for a first year it was very good. The country has benefited quite a bit from membership. Before our entry we had many “dismal Jimmies” telling us that we would have vast unemployment and general hardship and that the country would be overrun. But last year was a very favourable one. Employment was up and cattle exports and prices were right until we ran into international troubles which were not made by Europe.
I should like to compliment the Minister on his stand on the Regional Fund. Had we a lesser man in Europe we would not have got the same hearing. He has made a tremendous impact in the European Community in less than 12 months. His contribution outweighed the size of our nation. It is a great credit to him. When the Regional Fund is set up we should examine it with a view to having a policy of decentralisation. Any money we get from this fund should  be used for decentralisation. We have been talking for far too long and making pious promises about moving this Department or that Department but nothing has happened. People are disillusioned, and rightly so. Thus, we still have migration to Dublin causing great pressures. This is not good for our economy. The Motorways Bill should help because our road communications are not good. This, I believe, is deterring industrialists from moving to the west or north-west. If our roads were improved this could help decentralisation.
One of our weaknesses is that we have very little control over transportation to Europe. Most of our carriers come from outside. There is nothing wrong with people transporting from outside but if there is a business boom in other countries they may tend to take other markets and leave us alone. As a nation we should be looking deeply into this problem.
Are we doing enough to attract industry from the European Communities to Ireland? The IDA is an excellent body. Is sufficient emphasis being placed on capital rather than labour, because it is easier to move capital than labour? We have not seen any signs of this happening. It may be that Europeans are nervous of the problems which exist in part of our country. A greater effort on behalf of the Government should be made to ensure that everything is being done to encourage industry.
Some of our industries are overprotected and will tend to run down. Before this happens we should ensure that employment is protected and the only way to do this is by encouraging new industries. We have incentives. We have land. Europe is bursting at the seams. They have not the capacity to expand further. Therefore, Ireland seems the logical place for them to expand. We should try to attract industries from countries outside the Nine. If we can do this it will ensure prosperity and a much higher employment content for the future.
Very little effort was made over the last year to gear our attitudes and education towards Europe. We have  not tried to introduce another language into our primary schools. Second-level schools have these languages but they are purely for academic purposes. We must introduce second languages into our primary schools. Unfortunately, many people do not go on to second-level education; they may go to vocational schools and the crafts. If they have a good grounding in say, French of German and want to go to Europe to work, they will not go there at a disadvantage. They will speak the language. When one goes to Europe it is embarrassing to hear most Europeans speaking English and other languages as well. We, on the other hand, cannot speak even our own language. If we want to develop a European attitude we must think along those lines. We must get away from the narrow nationalist aspects which have been bedevilling this country over the years and look to broader horizons. The introduction of languages in schools would be a big help.
What European history is taught to children in primary schools? None. The narrow-minded and sometimes emotive Irish history is taught, and, as a result, we are paying the penalty today. If we could inculcate the European spirit into our young people, I believe it would overspill and be an advantage to us in Europe. We have done well in Europe. It was said that when England caught a chill, Ireland got pneumonia. Now England has pneumonia and we have the chill. The reason for this is that we are in Europe and have other markets open to us. With the recession in England if we had not these markets what would we be doing with our agricultural products? We would be selling them at cheap and depressed rates.
That is very important. The lack of communication is one of the things that has been worrying Members. There seems to be a lack of communication from Europe and from the people involved in Europe. In my view this is a fair criticism because we all feel somewhat isolated in this regard. We hope things will work out but we are not sure what is happening. We should have in this House set  days for debating European business so that the Members can be informed by the Minister concerned and by the Members of the European Parliament of what is happening in Europe.
The debate on the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1973, was a charade and we could have devoted some of that time to debating what is happening in Europe. This would allay a lot of the fears Members have in regard to what is happening on the Continent. Concern has been expressed about the backup services in Europe and Members have informed the House of the great disadvantage they are suffering compared with their colleagues from other countries on the European Parliament who have a first class backup service. Our Members complain that they get very little backup service and briefing. Earlier last year we saw a mixup as a result of a breakdown in communications.
However, I am amused at the Opposition's concern about the lack of backup services and the fact that they are not getting what they are entitled to while at the same time, as a result of their intransigent attitude and the breakdown of the pairing system, this country is deprived of representation at the European Parliament. It seems strange that they are now weeping crocodile tears about the lack of a backup service when they will not allow Deputies from this side of the House to go to Europe.
Mr. Kenneally: That is the Deputy's side of the story but he should remember that there are two sides to every story. The Deputy is making the case put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach but we have been more than reasonable on this side of the House.
Mr. O'Brien: It is a sad situation. I welcome this report. Even though the European Community at present is running into heavy weather I believe it will resolve its difficulties. In fact, in solving problems communities such as the European Community tend to emerge a stronger force. When the present problems are ironed out I believe the European Community will emerge as a stronger and more viable unit.
In my view Europe should be a completely united unit. It is important that the Nine are seen to be strong because they can, by example, show the world what can be done. They are a highly industrialised grouping and if they remain together they can be of great assistance to the underprivileged in our world today, the Third World, in particular. By their expertise and their wealth they can bring to the underprivileged countries a new standard of living. While we are a community of nations we cannot live in isolation from our brothers throughout the world. Where we see hardship we must be concerned. It is our duty to ensure that while we are living in the lap of luxury we are not ignorant of happenings elsewhere. We have always played out part in this regard through the zeal of our missionaries and others.
I hope the oil crisis, which has played a big part in increasing inflation and lowering our standards, will be resolved in the coming year. We have heard a good deal about the oil off our coasts. The Government, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in particular, should endeavour to have an energy body set up in Europe to explore all possibilities of fuel. If the development of offshore oil fields is a viable proposition the Community should put money into it and the oil that flows from these fields should be used for the benefit of the Community as a whole.
The Community is not simply about taking, it is about sharing. If we have  something we should share it with our fellow Europeans just as they should share with us. One of our problems is that we tend to look at Europe in the context of what we can get out of it but we should have the attitude of sharing rather than the attitude of what is in it for us. In that way Europe would become a better place and we would be better off with such an attitude. If we have resources and we get the necessary capital to develop them we should share them with our European partners.
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Dr. FitzGerald): This three day debate, which lasted almost 12 hours, has been very wide ranging. In many ways it is all the better for that but I have some doubts about this format of debate, not from my point of view because it has a certain advantage for me in meeting the House on this issue at very long intervals and taking the whole range of problems together. However, from the point of view of this House I am not certain that a method of debating the EEC which involves such an amount of detail being gone into in a general debate to be replied to by a Minister who of his nature is a generalist in relation to the domestic aspects of policy is necessarily the most satisfactory.
When I come to reply in detail I shall, for example, be endeavouring to satisfy Deputies Callanan and Cunningham on the very interesting points they have raised in regard to the farm modernisation scheme. I shall do my best to answer but in the nature of things the answers I can give are bound to be somewhat less satisfactory than the first hand answers that could be given on issues like this by the Minister for Lands and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. I am not complaining that these details have been raised, although in some respects some aspects of the debate seemed to range somewhat beyond the Second Report itself, but I am wondering whether we would need to consider a somewhat different approach.
I made clear in a previous debate  that if the House wished me to report from time to time on what is happening in the Council of Ministers, on the issues that are currently arousing concern at home in relation to meetings of the Councils of Ministers, I would be willing to do so. Nobody has taken up this offer and perhaps the present structure of the business of the House does not make it easy for this to be done. I would hope that, if those changes in the business of the House and the Standing Orders of the House currently under discussion, I understand, in the Committee of Procedure and Privileges, lead to some streamlining of the business of the House, it might be possible for us to make some additional provision so that the House might have an opportunity of discussing particular aspects of EEC affairs of current interest more frequently and having these matters debated where they concern specialist areas with a high domestic policy content by the Minister particularly responsible.
Deputy O'Brien has just suggested a three monthly debate with all the Ministers involved present. That is one possible solution and it is worth looking at. I am conscious of the fact that some of these issues arise at a particular moment and that the timing of the debate, whether it is every three months or every six months, might be inappropriate. Some greater flexibility might be necessary if the House is to be adequately informed on these matters. There was a suggestion by some Opposition Deputies that Ministers were keeping things from them. That is certainly not intentionally the case. None of us wishes to do that. In fact, we try to keep the House and the people as fully informed as possible.
Largely under present arrangements this has to be done through the Press. We try to brief the Press as fully as possible on the Irish position. The coverage of EEC affairs in the Press is excellent. With the specialist correspondents reporting from Brussels and domestically on the different aspects of EEC policy, the people are  well served. Even if the Government wished to hide anything, I do not think they would succeed in doing so with such an alert specialised Press. I can understand the feeling of Deputies that more of what appears in the Press should be dealt with in this House. For my own part I would be glad to try to co-operate in any way I can in that.
I say that by way of general introduction. I do not intend to use that as an alibi for not answering the points raised. I shall endeavour to do so. If I were an Opposition Deputy, I would have doubts about whether the best person to give details of hill farming schemes is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, even though the format of this debate and the nature of the EEC together necessitate that form of dealing with things at present.
Dr. FitzGerald: I said previously that I and other Ministers would be happy to come before the House from time to time to explain the various aspects of policy currently arousing concern and where we were discussing matters in the Council of Ministers at Brussels. I am not aware of anybody having sought such a debate.
Dr. FitzGerald: I was not aware of that. If I were an Opposition Deputy, I would feel the need for more frequent access to ministerial views on these subjects. It should be looked at in the context of any changes in the procedure of the House now under examination.
I want to go through many of the points raised by individual speakers and then come back at the end to deal with some of the larger policy issues. If I seem to skip over points raised by Deputies at this stage, it is not because I do not propose to answer them but because certain major issues like regional policy, and the question  of the meetings of Foreign Ministers in regard to monetary union I would like to deal with at the end having dealt with some of the more detailed matters first of all.
The first point I want to deal with is the very legitimate complaint by Deputy O'Kennedy that the first stage of this debate had to take place very shortly after he received a copy of the second report and that this was contrary to the undertaking given that the report would be available several weeks in advance. As the House will know from what I said at the beginning of the debate, this was not my intention. I was unaware that Deputy O'Kennedy got such short notice. The difficulty arose primarily from the electricity dispute which held up the printing of the report and also from the length of the report itself.
In response to requests from Deputies in the previous debate we gave a lot more information in this report. I think we under-estimated the amount of extra time it would take to get it printed. That might not have been fatal but for the electricity dispute and the slowing down of printing at that time. Being out of the country, I was unaware of the fact that the report had been so delayed or I would have suggested to Deputy O'Kennedy that he might want to delay the debate. However, we will try to make sure that this does not happen again. The matters we are dealing with here are complex and difficult and it is not fair to Deputies to have to debate them at very short notice. They need time to read and assimilate the report and to refer back to other documentation they may have in relation to points raised in the report. We will try to make sure that is done in future and that the mistake made this time is not repeated.
Another point raised by Deputy O'Kennedy related to the question of amending ministerial regulations made under the European Communities Act. Deputy O'Kennedy said that one would assume that if one has power to annul one must ipso facto have power to amend. I do not think he should assume anything of the kind.  We had a debate in this House on the European Communities Bill in which we in Opposition raised this point and the Government, quite rightly—and I think I accepted it at the time— said that ministerial regulations should not be capable of amendment by this House. It is not the normal procedure and the power to annual is the way in which the House should tackle it.
I was convinced by the argument at the time. It seems to me that it is right. The committee which we have established will be examining the matters dealt with in the ministerial regulations at various stages, and have power to recommend to the House how they should be incorporated in our domestic legislation, whether by legislation of this House, or by order. Indeed, they are free to make recommendations as to the form that order should take. The House now has power to influence the Government's thinking in relation to the form of an order and, if it feels the Government have not done their job properly, to seek to annul the order, but amending of orders as a process would, I am afraid, be dangerous and somewhat difficult.
Deputy O'Kennedy spoke at some length on regional policy but I shall return to that myself at some length later on. A question was raised by several speakers about the fact that in the European Parliament the Fine Gael and Labour Parties voted in different ways on a particular issue. At the time my immediate reaction was a feeling that this was a normal and natural thing to happen where the issue concerned did not affect the national interest in a vital way and when, in fact, it was quite open to be argued either way as to what would be in the national interest. That is still my view.
Our different parties are associated with different groups in the European Parliament. This is greatly to the advantage of this country because it means that, except in the liberal group, the Irish viewpoint is ably represented by Deputies and Senators who, within the councils of these groups, are able to put forward our  viewpoint and ensure that the policies adopted by the groups take account of an Irish position. The corollary of this system of parties and groups which we are participating in, in the European Parliament, is that those Deputies who join in a group and help to formulate policy owe some kind of loyalty to the group in relation to issues raised and, unless a matter of grave national interest arises, it is important that they should participate in the discussions on policy and go along with the general decision.
Their ability to influence these groups in our favour when matters of importance arise would be greatly diminished if they constantly ignored the views of the groups on other matters and turned out to be very bad Deputies constantly bucking whatever kind of Whip these groups have. It is inevitable, therefore, that from time to time there will be major issues on which our Deputies will depart from the line taken by the particular group and equally inevitably at other times when issues of national interest are not involved, they will go along with the view of their group, thereby retaining their power to influence these groups in matters of great importance. It is equally inevitable that from time to time the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats will disagree on matters not vitally concerning us—and, indeed, the National Progressive Democrats are in the same position—and Irish Deputies will vote in different ways. There would be no point whatever in having a group system in the European Parliament unless on some issues Irish Deputies voted in different ways some of the time. We know they will do so on all sides, having regard to vital national interests.
On the particular issue on which this division of views took place, I would have had the greatest difficulty in deciding which way to vote. One could argue either way which would be most likely to be in our interest. The issue at stake related to the question of the listing of areas for regional policy purposes. The whole of Ireland is listed; we cannot add anything to the listing. The entire country is listed  because even the most wealthy part of Ireland—the Dublin area—has a level of GDP per head which is 35 per cent below the Community average. Therefore, it is improbable that any tightening up of the criteria designed to reduce these areas would adversely affect this country. To the extent it has ruled out other areas in the Community, it would reduce the claims on the fund in our favour and our share would tend to rise.
My view, although I would not hold this too strongly, would be that a qualified majority in the voting system which would prevent any one country from blocking changes in the areas would tend to favour us. It would mean that countries like France or Britain would be unable to prevent a tightening up that would eliminate part of these countries whose GDP per head is very near the European average. It would not hit us because our richest area is 35 per cent below that average. We would be the last to be hit by any treatment of that kind.
The other viewpoint is that there is a strongly held French view, which is shared by some of the countries to some degree, that regional policy should be for those parts of each country that are least developed rather than those parts of the Community. Therefore, there has been some pressure to suggest that in a country like Ireland, even if the most wealthy part around the capital city is 35 per cent lower in GDP per head than the Community average, Dublin should be omitted on the principle that regional aid should be given only to part of each country.
That view exists but it has not carried any weight so far. We have not had difficulty in resisting it but I can understand a Deputy in the European Parliament having this view despite the big disparity between GDP per head in Dublin and the Community. Because of the existence of that view, there was some risk to us that this part of Ireland might be excluded and, therefore, it might be important to retain the right of veto.
The case is arguable either way. It seems to me a toss-up which conclusion  is reached. Had I been a member of the European Parliament in those circumstances I would have gone along with the view of my group and sought to retain my influence with the group for the purposes of influencing them when important issues would arise rather than going against them on an issue where I had difficulty myself in deciding where Irish interests lay.
I have spent some time on this because there has been some confusion about it, probably because Deputies opposite used it in some way to criticise the Coalition. It was also necessary to clarify the issues involved. It is necessary to be clear on this matter. If expectation is aroused among our people that on every issue the only thought of Irish Deputies in the European Parliament will be what they judge as being marginally better for the country, that they will always put that before the views of the group to which they belong, if our Deputies feel under pressure to do that, their ability to influence the groups with regard to our interests on important issues will diminish. It is important that people should understand that Deputies have a dual role as loyal members of the groups to which they belong and also as loyal Irishmen. They must be given a certain flexibility in deciding on any given occasion how best to act. It would be wrong if because of pressure they would have to ignore the view of their group even when that view has not any serious adverse implications for this country.
As this is the first time this has arisen, I thought it important to spell out this point. It has been clouded by a somewhat partisan discussion. That is, perhaps, understandable and I am not complaining about the political use made of it but people should be clear about the issues at stake.
Dr. FitzGerald: If national interests were at stake we would expect  all our Deputies to have regard to that before their tie to a European party group. I know every Deputy would act in that way and I do not think that is the issue. I know that to be true of representatives of the Coalition Government, and I know it to be equally true of Fianna Fáil. In those circumstances they would put our country first.
Mr. Herbert: On a point of explanation, may I explain to the Minister that our motivation in voting on this issue in the European Parliament was to protect the mechanism of the power of veto. We believe this is essential to a small country like Ireland.
Dr. FitzGerald: I appreciate there is a philosophical difference on this issue between ourselves and the Opposition. The Opposition, and their identification with the Gaullist Party in the National Progressive Democrats, reflect this. They have a greater belief in the importance of the veto and maintaining national sovereignty at all costs. On our side we see the veto as dangerous to a small country.
Dr. FitzGerald: Our view is that at this stage of development the veto is necessary to protect our national interests in certain areas. Movement from that has to be gradual, given the attitudes of other countries in protecting their national interests. We believe that unless a movement away from the veto can be secured, unless there can be a diminution of the ferocity with which minor as well as major national interests are defended by governments, we will not have a Community as beneficial to us as we would like.
The veto is used most frequently by large countries. They have a wider range of vital interests to protect because of world-wide involvements and,  being larger, they feel freer to exercise a veto more frequently without having to fear the irritation and counteraction of other countries. On the other hand, for a small country the frequent exercise of the veto on matters of no great importance would provoke an adverse reaction from other countries that would be very damaging.
Because we have relatively few vital interests to protect—the important ones are the areas of agriculture and regional policy—in practice our power to use the veto frequently is limited because we are a small country and must have regard to the attitudes of other larger countries. For that reason, a system where the veto is frequently used benefits the larger countries and damages the interests of the smaller nations. That view has been consistently held by the three smallest founder members of the community, the Benelux countries. All their experience has taught them this is right.
Until the Community evolves to the point where the veto is not abused in the way it is now to protect minor national interests and where it is gradually limited in its use to the point when it fades away, the Community will be a prey to power politics of the worst kind. That fact that a party such as the Gaullist Party in France, a highly nationalist party in a highly nationalist country, feel so strongly about the veto is not in my view necessarily a reason why Ireland should be in favour of it. We have close and friendly relations with France. We share many common interests with that country but France is a great power and it uses the veto frequently to protect its interests on relatively minor matters. It is to our disadvantage that this is so. Therefore, we should like to move away from that as rapidly as possible, while recognising that at this time the veto is necessary given the attitudes of various countries. It is necessary for us to protect our national interests in key areas such as regional and agricultural policy.
Dr. FitzGerald: I had just made clear that if a threat arose—as could happen at this stage with the CAP or if a regional policy were proposed— we would, of course, in those circumstances, these being two vital national interests, have to consider using the veto but I think we need more discussion as to the appropriate role of the veto in the Community.
It seems to me appropriate at this stage and for the foreseeable future where the Community is developing a new policy not covered by the Treaty of Rome, that that is an area in which a veto should be necessary because you are going outside the existing framework of the Treaty of Rome. That would be true of regional policy. For example, any policy which is brought in under Article 235 going outside the existing framework of the Treaty of Rome is something where vital national interest could be at stake and something which we could not have foreseen before we joined. In the case of regional policy we could because it was underway already but other matters raised in the future under Article 235 which could not have been foreseen when we joined are matters which for the foreseeable future of the evolution of the  Community would require each country to be able to exercise the veto so that it should not have imposed on it things which it could not have contemplated in joining the Community.
Whether in the running of the Community the veto should be used as at present in regard to matters under the Treaty of Rome is a more uncertain point. At present there is no restriction on its use in the sense that any country can simply declare in the middle of a debate that its vital national interest is affected and dig in its heels no matter how small the issue. The fact is that much of the work of the Council of Minister is bedevilled and frustrated by this kind of abuse of the veto. When Ministers of Foreign Affairs find themselves spending hours at a series of meetings arguing over the question of whether there should be a percentage tariff point difference in the tariff on circular or semi-circular wedge-shaped pineapple chunks, it is obvious that the veto is being abused and that is the kind of thing that we waste much of our time at. Clearly in those circumstances we need some restraint on the use of the veto.
What I myself would like to see at this stage would be a system under which when a policy starts to be discussed each representative would have at the outset to declare what aspects of the policy are in his national interest regarded as vital and in respect of which he will feel it necessary if his interests are adversely affected to exercise the veto. An advance declaration would limit casual abuse of the veto.
It might also be desirable that a Government before being able to use the veto should have to get the endorsement of its Parliament which, of course, would always back it if its vital national interest were at stake but which would, perhaps, possibly not be too happy if at frequent intervals, every couple of weeks, a Government kept returning with matters like pineapple chunks seeking authority to use the veto.
In ways of this kind the veto could be maintained for the time being but  its abuse could be restricted. We would favour an approach of that kind at this point of time and we would certainly not see the European Community ultimately as a satisfactory institution from an Irish point of view so long as its operation is such as to require the use of the veto and so long as it is not possible to protect the interests and rights of its members, people and individuals within it by the normal democratic process.
In this House there is no veto for any part of this country. There is no requirement that for any particular county nothing can be done unless the Deputies from County Cork agree. Why is that? It is because we have such confidence and trust in each other that the people of Cork know that the people in the rest of the country will not turn on them and exploit them. They know that they are cherished equally with the rest of the people of Ireland. That is true of every county in Ireland. All the counties know that their Deputies will look after their interests and make sure that they are not placed at any serious disadvantage, because of that mutual confidence. Until and unless in Europe we can develop a similar kind of confidence which renders the veto unnecessary, Europe will be unsatisfactory especially for the smaller participating countries.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to develop those thoughts on this subject. It is something that we could, perhaps, debate further and at great length on another occasion but it seemed appropriate to say something about it now as the matter was mentioned in debate.
Deputy O'Kennedy made some reference to the possible evolution of the Community and the possibility that at some stage there might be a reduction in our numerical representation in the Parliament if we move towards direct elections. As he has raised this point it may be useful to refer to it briefly. In my view the present unicameral system in the Community is a valid one at this stage of development of the Community and within that unicameral  system it has been necessary and right that smaller countries should be over-represented as we are, having five times as high a proportion of seats there as we have share of the Community's population. However, this system of democratic representation is not really satisfactory in the long run and the Parliament we have, not directly elected, with virtually no powers, is not capable of fulfilling the democratic role which needs to be fulfilled in a Community if that Community is to become a genuine Community satisfactory to and acceptable to all the members and a Community within which the rights of each section and each area are adequately protected. Eventually we have to think in terms of moving towards some kind of federal system with stronger governmental structure than this Community now has and a far greater measure of democratic control. A step towards that is to give the European Parliament more power. That we are debating at present and I can assure this House that in the Council of Ministers we are pressing for the maximum extension of powers of the European Parliament that can be obtained at this time. We are arguing this case as cogently as we know how.
When the powers of Parliament have been increased to the point where they are more significant than they are today then it would be appropriate to have direct elections to the European Parliament. Until the Parliament has some more powers than it has now such elections might not be successful because our people and the people of other European member states might not feel that an election was one to be taken very seriously if it is an election to a body that has no power.
Logically, therefore, the first thing is more power for the Parliament. When it has more power and is seen by the people of Europe to be a meaningful Parliament—and I hope that stage will be reached as soon as possible, well before 1980—then we should have direct elections to the European Parliament and then those members directly elected to it, drawing their authority, not from this  House, but from the people of Ireland, and similarly with the other member countries, will be in a position to assert with more authority than they now can their right to further power and to make this Parliament even more democratic than it would be at that stage.
It is by that process, backwards and forwards, that we can hope eventually to arrive at a genuine democratic structure but if we are to evolve a governmental structure strong enough to carry this Community forward it will require, I think, an evolution of its parliamentary structure and that evolution as I would see it would be one along the lines we are familiar with in federations elsewhere in the world. It would be one in which you would have a Lower House in which representation might be related to population and an Upper House with representation equal to the member states, as is the case, for example, in the American Senate, an Upper House with important powers, as the American Senate has, because in a federation it is important that each unit should have full representation. As well as that, in the Lower House of Parliament there should be representation proportionate to population.
So, when Deputy O'Kennedy raises this question of whether our numerical representation in Parliament might be affected, I would see the stages as follows: increase the powers of the European Parliament; move to direct elections to the existing parliament with the same representational ratio as at present—numbers might be increased but proportionally for all; then give that Parliament more power; move towards a European union; reorganise the governmental structure until we get stronger governmental structure and, finally, move to some kind of federal parliamentary structure in which we would have a share in the Lower House proportionate to the number of population and a share in a strong Upper House, which would be one-ninth, if there are still nine members then, of the strength of the Upper House.
I put that forward as a kind of  model as to how in the interests of Europe, in the interests of this country, we would like the Community to evolve. I would like to make it clear that we could never accept that our proportional representation as at present in the European Parliament, that is, 5 per cent— could be reduced unless and until there is a powerful upper House in which we would have equal representation which would, in effect, be at present 11 per cent of the representation. It is important that our position should be made clear on that, that there should be no misunderstanding on this issue. I am glad Deputy O'Kennedy raised it so that I could put that forward.
The next point I want to deal with relates to the question of certain institutions of the Community being located in Ireland. When I say “institutions of the Community” I am using the phrase very loosely. However, there are proposals for new bodies, to be created by the Community or in association with it, for particular special functions—for research functions, for example. There is a European University, for example, being set up in Florence. There are other proposals in regard to other bodies, and we feel that several of these should be located in this country.
Because of the nature of the negotiations involved, it would not be in the national interest for me at this stage to disclose the Government's policy. I can merely reassure the House that the Government have examined the proposals for particular institutions which are coming up for decision in the near future and after careful consideration the Government have decided which of these and in what order they feel it would be in the interests of this country to have located here. The Government are currently actively pursuing a policy of seeking these bodies to be located here. In several instances decisions may be taken fairly soon.
I want the House to know that although I cannot go into details, there has been a full examination of this and the Government have taken a decision  between the conflicting claims of different institutions and indeed of different Departments interested in them and are pursuing a policy based both on what we are most likely to get—there is no point in setting our hearts on something which has been already planned to go elsewhere—and also what it would be in the interests of this country to have located here. I believe that before very long one or two of these bodies will be allocated to this country and will help to contribute to the life of this country with rather more opportunities for Irish people to participate in their work than would be the case if they were located elsewhere. I do not want to go beyond that at the moment, but because the matter was raised it seems right to reassure the House on the issue.
Deputy O'Kennedy went on to discuss foreign policy in relation to the Middle East. I should like to come back to that rather major issue towards the end of my remarks so I shall not dwell on it at the moment.
A question was raised about legal advice and about the arrangements there are pertaining to EEC matters. Deputy O'Kennedy asked if I could indicate what legal advice would be available to Departments on the effects of European laws in the areas of the responsibilities of these Departments. Of course, the Attorney General is responsible for legal advice to all Government Departments, several of which also have their own legal services. The question of ensuring that Departments are adequately advised in these matters is properly a matter of concern and a circular has been drafted and will shortly be circulated to Departments. This will pinpoint responsibility. Of course primary responsibility rests in the office of the Attorney General. The entire matter is under active consideration and the circular will be issued in the near future.
The same Deputy raised a question about international law becoming an optional subject in UCD's law course.  I understand that since this was raised by him, Professor Hand of UCD has been in touch with him and that there has been some correspondence between them. Professor Hand has explained the position. Deputy O'Kennedy was concerned about public international law. Until last year, public international law and conflicts of law—that is, private international law—were a single compulsory subject in UCD. These subjects have now been separated and form two distinct subjects, both optional. In very few universities in these islands is public international law a compulsory subject. Private international law is the important area from the practical point of view of the EEC, and the number of students taking it is much more substantial than in the case of public international law which is not required by either professional body. Private international law is, of course, required by the Kings Inns and is being studied by a large number of students.
There are some problems here because there is not available any full-time member of the staff to teach public international law. The part-time member of the staff teaching it is only free at times not very convenient to students and this may have affected the attendance. The main thing is that private international law is adequately covered and is being taken by a fair number of students. Deputy O'Kennedy has had correspondence with Professor Hand on this and I do not need to go into it any more detail.
A question was raised about environmental problems. As Deputy O'Kennedy suggested, this is more suitably handled by the Council of Europe than by the EEC. Of course the Community, with very close integration between its member states, will wish in certain matters to go further than the wider and looser activities of the Council of Europe. The EEC will therefore not opt out of this area completely: there are matters in which it can go further, jointly as a community of nine. However, it is recognised that the primary responsibility in Europe for environmental problems lies with the Council of Europe, and the recent  review of the work of the Council of Europe designed to pinpoint the areas on which it should concentrate, includes provision for this, and the Ministers—including, of course, all nine Ministers of the EEC—meeting in Strasbourg in January decided to make the Council of Europe principally responsible for environmental problems. Deputy O'Kennedy's view is shared widely and has already been implemented.
Deputy O'Kennedy also suggested that I should have an assistant. I am very grateful for his concern. I feel it would be nice to have assistants in view of the amount of travel involved. This is a matter for future decision by the Government in the light of any review that may take place on the overall structure of Government. I think it is fair to say as a generalisation that the present structure of our Government here, which is inherited and has been developed during the years, is not ideal, given our involvement in the EEC. There is the limitation by the Constitution on the number of Ministers and the situation in which we have very few junior Ministers, who are not in the Government, which we have accepted for a long time. This makes it extremely difficult to get through the volume of work in decision-making in the modern State, even without the EEC. The members of the previous Government will be aware of that. Membership of the Community, with the extra burdens in regard to decision-making involving certain Departments and the amount of travel involved, certainly imposes strains which could in the long run give rise to difficulties. All of us are capable of taking a fair amount of strain—we would not be in politics otherwise— but there are problems which the Government will no doubt wish to consider in due course, particularly the question of whether the present structure is appropriate.
In my own case I find that for much of the year I have to be out of the country for roughly one-third of the time, with visits at fortnightly intervals. Given the volume of work to be done in my Department at home in regard to the evolution of policy  and the taking of practical decisions, apart from parliamentary work and participation in debates, it creates an obvious problem. I am not the only Minister under such pressure. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Finance also carry a heavy burden of work in regard to the EEC. The Government will have to examine this problem in due course.
Questions were raised in regard to a number of schemes and whether they were adequately publicised. A number of complaints were made by Deputies. It is right that they should publicise any difficulties which they feel exist. Deputy Herbert referred to the FEOGA grants and to public statements about them. These grants were fully publicised when they were introduced. This has been pointed out by the Information Officer of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, as follows:
In fact the FEOGA scheme of grants was the subject of detailed discussion between officers of the Department and the EEC Commission from March 1972 onwards. In October 1972 a preliminary Press release was issued drawing attention to the scheme and what it entailed. Subsequently in January 1973, the senior Commission official directly responsible for the administration of the scheme came to Dublin by invitation and had a number of discussions with key personnel from the various agencies concerned with the operation of the scheme in this country. On the basis of the information thus obtained, very wide publicity was given to the scheme and to the requirements to be complied with and the data to be supplied to the Commission by applicants. This publicity was not confined to newspaper advertising. Detailed information was issued to upwards of two hundred bodies and organisations covering all branches of agriculture as well as to numerous individual inquiries. This hardly constitutes “lassitude”.
The description “lassitude” does not seem to describe the volume of activity which took place, much of  which happened during the lifetime of the previous Government in anticipation of Ireland becoming a member of the EEC.
The actual number of applications made amounted in value to over £12 million. This was three or four times greater than the amount we could hope to receive. The problem is not that we put in inadequate applications but that we put in so many applications it would take a long time to get them all sorted out. There is no danger of our grants being less than they might have been. The opposite is the fact. In all 91 projects were submitted by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and 122, all dealing with water schemes, were submitted by the Department of Local Government. Of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' applications about one-half were processed by the IDA and one-half by the Department. The Commission have not made any decisions on grants for 1973. The deadline for these decisions is 31st July, 1974. The first half of the grants should be decided in March or April. There is a similar position about the Social Fund which was also said to have been inadequately publicised.
Mr. Herbert: On a point of clarification, I asked a specific question of the Minister in relation to the FEOGA grants. It was in relation to the individual percentage sought by the applicants. I asked was it true that only 25 per cent of the grant was sought for each individual application of the 91 projects of which the Minister spoke?
Dr. FitzGerald: It is true that the Commission told us that. I must assert that as a fact. If the Deputy feels that the matter is more complicated than  that and should be pursued further I will have it pursued further. That information was given to me by the Commission.
Mr. Herbert: I know that information is wrong. I feel that it did not come from the Commission. Document 109/73, part 1, of the European Parliamentary statement, paragraph 5 of the explanatory statement, specifically states that certain projects merit a 45 per cent grant. I went to the trouble of researching the volume of successful applications for the year 1972 and discovered that certain production projects got a 45 per cent grant. They concerned an AI station in Belgium, a land project scheme in Germany and a particular type of farm in Belgium. There was also a grant for olive production in Italy.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair wants to help Deputy Herbert to elicit important information but it would be more appropriate to do so at the end of the Minister's speech. Interruptions in the course of the Minister's speech are not in order.
Dr. FitzGerald: I have to assert that the Department of Agriculture  and Fisheries statement to me is correct. The information was given by the Commission. The Deputy is entitled to feel that the Commission were wrong in saying this.
Dr. FitzGerald: The Deputy is entitled to say that the Commission's guidance to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is not in accordance with the terms of the directive issued and that the matter should be investigated. That will certainly be done. I will not accept that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries were not give that information by the Commission. They were given that information but perhaps the Commission were incorrect. I am grateful to the Deputy for raising the matter.
On the question of the Social Fund, in the public sector we find that the Department of Labour had consultations with semi-State bodies which might be interested. In the private sector publicity was given in the publications of the Confederation of Irish Industries, the Federated Union of Employers and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The Commission officials met officials of these three bodies on a number of occasions to explain the operation of the fund and the possibilities open to Ireland. Advertisements were also inserted in the four national newspapers on two days. The IDA have also publicised schemes under the fund.
If there are companies that could have made application, the fault must lie with the companies themselves. There is a limit to the amount of spoon feeding the Government and the other bodies I have mentioned can do. I am afraid there are still some companies in this country, which, no matter how much you spoon feed them, still are not able or willing to look after their own interests. We cannot ensure that every company will always look after its own interests. In this instance the publicity was widespread.
Deputy O'Kennedy, as well as Deputy Dockrell and another Deputy,  referred to the European Investment Bank Loan of £7.5 million at 8½ per cent. Since then another loan of £4 million has been made to CIE, the proceeds of which will contribute to modernising the railway network. This was at 8¾ per cent over 20 years. This is the fourth loan from the European Investment Bank. We hope that the volume of such loans will increase in the period ahead and that it will be a significant source of funds for projects here, which we badly need. It is not easy for us to raise money like the capital required to invest in the expansion of our economy. This additional source of capital is an important one; capital available at rates of interest which a few years ago we would regard as very high must be regarded as the present time as very modest.
I now come to the question of farm modernisation. Deputies will, I hope, bear with me if they do not get as full and detailed an account as they would from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Lands. I shall try my best to explain the position fully. We are dealing with three directives—159/72 on the modernisation of farms; 160/72, on the measures to encourage cessation of farming and the re-allocation of land for the purpose of subsequent improvement; and 161/72, concerning the provision of socio-economic guidance for people engaged in agriculture. There is also a fourth directive separate from these three which was not part of the original scheme announced two years ago. This is on mountain and hill farming and farming in certain less favoured areas, about which Deputy Cunningham inquired.
As I indicated by way of interruption in the debate, it is important here to be quite clear what we are talking about. The directives 159, 160 and 161/72 were made by the Council of Ministers not only before we joined but before the referendum. In fact I recall visiting Brussels shortly before the referendum and inquiring from the Council of Ministers' office for a copy of the uncorrected French text  of the decision just taken by the Council. I brought it back to Ireland and I published a number of articles in The Irish Times giving the best translation I could of this highly technical material. Subsequently I got clarification on some points from the Council and published a further article correcting some mistakes I made in the interpretation and translation of the directives.
That was the first news the people here had of those directives. By reading these articles, including the fourth one with the corrections, people got a good picture of the kind of programme of agricultural reform envisaged by the Council. Indeed I made considerable use of this in the EEC debate. I thought it was important that people should know what would be available. Those directives were fixed and determined before we joined. There is no use Deputies asking us to have them amended. They are there. They exist and we accepted them when we joined. We joined on the basis that these directives provide a basis for a satisfactory scheme of structural reform in Ireland.
Deputy Callanan and other Deputies must appreciate this. It is not this Government who were responsible and it is not the previous Government. They were decided by the Council of Minister of the Six before we joined. We took that as part of the package deal. What we have to do —and what we are responsible for and what Deputies opposite are perfectly entitled to criticise us for if they do not think we are doing it right —is to produce domestic schemes implementing these directives, getting the most out of them, operating as closely as possible to their limits and, supplementing the financial provision which they allow for, partially financed from Community sources, by additional provisions from our own resources where that is permitted and to the extent it is possible for us to do it.
The scheme which has been announced from 1st February is one which deals with modernisation of  farms. That scheme is now available to the people. It has been published in full detail. If Deputies want further information about it they really must address themselves to the appropriate Minister. When EEC legislation is implemented in the domestic form by the appropriate Minister I cannot be expected to go into the technical details of an area with which I am not competent to deal. My competence in this matter is very limited. The directives are there and fixed. I have no function in regard to them. Their implementation is a matter for other Ministers. It is for Deputies to pursue with those Ministers whether they are satisfied or not with the form in which these have been implemented and whether they believe we have got the most out of the possibilities of these directives.
I believe we have in relation to the modernisation one. Full details of the others will be coming forth in due course. The farm modernisation scheme was introduced with effect from 1st February, 1974. The scheme under the directive 160/72, will be implemented shortly by the Minister for Lands. The Department of Lands are at present examining whether to implement it by means of legislation or by administrative procedure.
Dr. FitzGerald: The qualifications are laid down in the directive with, in certain instances, some leeway for the member state to operate the scheme in the way most suitable for that member state. I am afraid the Deputy must familiarise himself with these directives and the limits involved. We must all be clear as to what is and is not permitted by the directive. There is no use complaining that the Government do not do something they are not allowed to do by the directive. The Deputy is perfectly entitled to complain if the Government do not do something which the directive permits and which he thinks they ought to do. Good luck to him if he has got criticism of that kind. The effectiveness of the Deputy's  criticism will depend on his having a clear grasp of what the directive permits and then examining what is proposed by the Government in that context.
We would have a very confused debate indeed if Deputies on the other side of the House came in here to complain about our scheme, that it does not do X, Y or Z when X or Y are outside the competence of the Government and only Z is something they could do. Deputies have a duty to inform themselves in this matter. The directives are available. I admit they are not easy to understand. If any Deputy has difficulty in understanding them, as I had when I saw them first and indeed which I still have in even reading them in English, I am sure the relevant Departments will be happy to go over them with Deputies and to explain any points on which they may be in doubt. That is the only way to proceed. Then if a Deputy is still dissatisfied with a scheme and feels that the Government could have done more than they did within the limits of the directive, he is entitled to come in and criticise them in this House. Deputies have to familiarise themselves with the EEC legislation to the extent which will enable them to make well directed criticism of Government policy.
In regard to this particular scheme, the Minister for Lands gave some indication of what the Government's proposals will be. He reiterated them in a speech which was reported in The Irish Press last Tuesday, to which I refer the Deputy. I do not want to get involved in the details of this because it is not an aspect of Foreign Affairs policy. It is a matter of policy for the Department of Lands in this instance in relation to directive 160.
In relation to directive 161, following consultations with farming organisations the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' proposals for the implementation of this scheme were formally submitted to the Commission on the 4th January, 1974. The Commission are required to indicate their opinion of their acceptability by the 4th March. Pending the issue of the Commission's opinion it has not been possible for the terms of the proposals to be released publicly but copies have  been circulated on a confidential basis to the interested bodies consulted by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is understood the Commission intend to endorse the Irish proposals subject to some minor amendments. When they are cleared in final form by 1st March there will be a considerable amount of work to be done in organising the practical means for operating this scheme for socio-economic guidance. The proposals are lengthy and complex and I am sure will be studied with care by Deputies.
Deputy Wilson raised some queries on this. He asked what is involved. The directive provides that the guidance may be to inform the agricultural population of the possibilities open to them for improving their socio-economic situation, to put persons interested in changes of policy in regard to their firms in contact with a competent advisory service, to give information and advice on the continuation of an occupation in agriculture, choice of an occupation outside agriculture, a retirement from all occupational activity, to give information and advice on opportunities for further training and to direct interested persons to the competent specialised services. That is what is involved here. The plans which we are putting forward envisage that advisory and training services should be given by the existing bodies in this field at the county committees of agriculture and agricultural colleges by an expansion of their functions.
Provision is also made for services to be provided under the directive by other bodies approved by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for these purposes, which could include farming organisations and other bodies prepared to meet the criteria laid down by the directives. The question of giving grants to approved agencies would be a matter for consideration by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries on the merits of each case. That is where we stand on that particular matter.
Deputy Cunningham raised again the point on the publicity given to the  farm modernisation scheme and also a point in relation to the continuity between the old and new schemes. These are important points which I think I should say something about. Apart from the fact that normal Press coverage of this scheme was extremely extensive—very few schemes have ever got wider Press coverage—the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries placed announcements in the Press. They also had meetings and contacts with the organisations involved in this field. These are continuing to give advice and information for their own programmes. The advisory services of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have also been briefed and are organising information for distribution at local level.
As regards continuity, anybody who has already applied for aid under the old scheme will be able to continue under the old or opt for the new. Commitments under the old scheme will be honoured. Applications under the new scheme will be dealt with by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the normal way and will be reimbursed later by FEOGA. Therefore, there will be no hiatus between the old and the new.
There is also some question as to whom grants are available. Some Deputies seem to be in doubt about this 1,800 figure. The 1,800 figure is the target set. The aim is to help farmers whose incomes are below that level to attain that figure within six years. If a farmer is not able to satisfy the advisers that he could achieve that within six years, this does not exclude him indefinitely from the scheme. It is open to him to seek to improve his position, so he reaches a point from which he could move to that income within six years. Therefore, people in the transitional situation can get into the scheme at a later stage even if at this stage they do not seem likely, with their present methods, their present knowledge, the present conditions of their farm land, to be able to attain it within this period. Of course, these people are entitled to assistance by way of grant, and the new grant scheme which replaces the old one and  which is open to these farmers as well is, in fact, more generous and is on better terms than the existing scheme. The position, so far as I can make it out—and I am no expert on this subject—seems to be thoroughly satisfactory. If Deputies want to pursue this further with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Lands in regard to the respective schemes they can do so, but I find from what I have been told that the position is on the whole fairly reassuring.
A question was raised by Deputy Cunningham and others as to the applicability of the mountain and hill farming scheme or of the scheme for farming in less-favoured areas. This directive was adopted by the Council on 20th January, 1974. It will not become operative until the Council adopts a list of the less-favoured areas in the Community and agrees to the rate of FEOGA refunds in each case. Negotiations on these points are continuing and this directive is being handled by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.
Deputy Cunningham asked whether assistance will be confined to areas where there is steep gradient. No, not necessarily, because the directive covers a number of different types of situation. Gradient of land is not a sole criterion for aid. Article 3 of the directive provides that the less favoured farming areas are composed of the following three categories: (1) mountain areas in which farming is necessary to protect the countryside, particularly, for reasons of protection against erosion or in order to meet leisure needs; (2) other areas where the maintenance of a minimum population or the protection of the countryside are not assured. There are flat areas in Ireland of which that is true; (3) small areas affected by specific handicaps and in which farming must be continued in order to protect the countryside and preserve the tourist potential of the area or in order to protect the coastline. Under the directive mountain areas are to be characterised by a considerable limitation of the possibilities of the use of the land and an appreciable increase  in the cost of working it, due to difficult climatic conditions, because of altitude, or, at a lower altitude, the presence of slopes too steep for the use of machinery or requiring the use of very expensive machinery. A combination of these two factors will also be taken into account.
The less favoured areas, other than mountain areas, are made up of farming areas which exhibit all the following characteristics—all the characteristics, not any; it is important to stress that the pressure of infertile land unsuitable for cultivation or intensification, with a limited potential which cannot be increased, except at excessive cost and mainly suitable for extensive livestock farming; where the economic situation of agriculture is appreciably lower than the means and a low or dwindling population predominantly is dependent on agricultural activity, the accelerated decline of which would jeopardise the viability of the area concerned and its continued habitation. All those need to be fulfilled, but, again, they are conditions which are fulfilled, in my inexpert view, in many parts of Ireland that are not mountainous.
There is no question of cattle being excluded. The directive does not specify that sheep farmers only will receive aid. In article 7 it specifically mentions cattle, sheep and goats as well as other forms of production will qualify for aid. Therefore, I can reassure the House that the scheme, as it has been accepted now, not without considerable effort on the part of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to get a satisfactory scheme from our point of view, is not confined to mountain areas. There is no requirement that there must be a particular gradient, and it is open to us to seek the application of the scheme to a number of areas in Ireland, some mountainous and some not. Just which areas will eventually be accepted is something we cannot know at the moment. That matter is under negotiation.
I hope I have dealt fully with all the points raised here and that Deputies will have a clearer appreciation of what is involved and a firmer  basis on which to probe the matter further with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Lands.
Deputy Wilson made reference to County Cavan being left out of what he described as the Simpson Plan. This document to which he refers is not a Government document. I think he is referring to a synopsis of discussions of the working party on development in the north-west of Ireland prepared by Mr. John Simpson of Queen's University, Belfast. This report, which is a document produced privately, in December last year was presented to the United Kingdom Government and to our Government. The map to which the Deputy refers is not in the Simpson synopsis itself but in the paper submitted to the working party by Mr. Alan Robinson on the definition of the north-west. So far from the Government having decided to leave Cavan out, it is an individual submitting a document from a working party to the two Governments and producing a map, who leaves out County Cavan. I do not think we can be asked to take responsibility for that.
I should add that, in our view, the problems of the Border areas are really twofold: there is the general problem of the north-west in Ireland which is aggravated by the Border running around by counties Donegal, Leitrim and that part of Cavan in the north-western part of the country. There is, secondly, a Border problem within the relatively more developed areas further east. It seems to us that there are two separate problems here, and the proposals which we have put forward and about which we have approached the United Kingdom Government to make a submission jointly to the European Commission, with a view to having studies carried out jointly on the problems of the two sides of the Border, relate to those two areas separately. Therefore, the question of the boundary between the two areas is something which is open for discussion. The truth is that the county boundaries are not, for the purposes of regional delineation, particularly happy.
 Counties like Leitrim, because of its great length and the difference in character between north and south, even counties like Cavan find themselves really in different regions of the country and there is always a problem as to whether you divide a county in two for purposes of regional study or maintain county boundaries to which our people, as we know, are very attached. There is another debate going on in the House in which this attachment is being expressed. If we are going to study the north-east and north-west separately—and clearly the problems of areas like Dundalk-Newry are different from the problems of Derry and Sligo—somewhere between the two a line must be drawn. The Government and I have an open mind as to the right place to do that. Parts of County Cavan clearly belong to the north-west and parts of it, arguably, are closer to the north-east region. The main thing is not to argue about boundary divisions but whatever some individual may have done in submitting a map to a working party to submit a document to the Government. We, in our Government, in submitting a proposal to the British Government, have met this question of Border problems by looking for two studies covering the two parts of the Border area, leaving the question of precise boundaries to emerge as a result of these studies.
Prima facie it seems to us that if you stick to counties the best division in the north-west is one which involves Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry. The north-east would then comprise Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Armagh and South Down, perhaps. That is not a very satisfactory division because parts of Tyrone are really closer to the north-east, but if you were confined to county boundaries you would have to do it that way. The main thing is that we are seeking the co-operation of the British Government in getting these studies carried out under the auspices of and with aid from the European Commission. Out of these studies will come perhaps a clearer delineation of the two different types of Border  regional problems and perhaps advice on where the line should be drawn. But the people of County Cavan may be assured that they are not in any sense being left out of consideration— quite the contrary. The problem is that different parts of Cavan may arguably fall into both categories but, in any case, the problems of County Cavan and the nearby counties will be studied under this arrangement when we get the agreement of the British Government to go forward to the European Commission.
I am glad of the opportunity to explain that matter and to mention the fact that we have reached the stage of seeking British agreement to this going forward. We have kept the Executive in Northern Ireland in touch with what we have been doing in this matter although the whole question originated before the establishment of the Executive. It was first taken up, I think, at the discussions in Baldonnel between the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Health some months ago.
Deputy Kavanagh raised a question on European schools and the adequacy of the number of Irish teachers at these schools. The Department of Education are considering the matter of increasing the number of teachers in these schools and it is hoped that it will be possible to augment the staff for the 1974-75 school year. Deputy Wilson spoke on educational policy and referred to the Janne Report, the report of a group of experts presented to the Commission. The Commission will use the report as a basis for proposals it will submit to the Council early this year. It is still rather speculative; it is a proposal to the Commission, not by the Commission. In our report, therefore, we did not summarise the whole of the Janne Report but the proposal put to the Commission. Deputy Wilson seemed to think we should have said more but we must try to keep our reports down to a reasonable length. The important thing about the report is that it should alert people to all the developments, not that it should give every detail of them. It is important that the House in reading the report  should be aware of everything that is going on. Then, individual Deputies can follow it up more closely. We did list the proposals made in the Janne Report.
At their meeting on 16th November, 1971, the Council of Ministers of Education of member states unanimously acknowledged the need for co-operation between member states in the sphere of education and established a committee of senior officials, to draw up proposals on the scope, procedure and financing of this co-operation. The committee reported in April, 1973, and proposed a number of areas for co-operation through the institutional organisations. The question of establishing a European Centre was discussed in the context of institutional organisations but no firm proposals were made and no commitments entered into. The member states agreed that the results of the committee's work should be examined at a Council meeting of Education Ministers and translated by them into appropriate policy decisions. Such a meeting had been scheduled for 18th and 19th March this year but it has been postponed and is now expected to take place in April or early May. A committee of senior officials of member states on which Ireland is represented is preparing for this meeting and they actually met yesterday and are scheduled to meet again on Monday, 4th March.
The ministerial meeting will allow a full debate on all aspects of the European Educational Policy and especially those mentioned in the Guichard Plan and the Janne Report. In particular it is expected that the Council would discuss greater freedom of movement of teachers, students and researchers, academic recognition of diplomas, assisted education for foreign workers and their children, increased co-operation between the universities, compilation of documents and statistical information and reciprocal recognition of degrees and other proofs of qualification.
On the question of mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas Deputy Wilson referred to paragraph 18.4 of the report and asked what had been  the fruit of the consultations between the Department of Education and the educational interests on this question. These consultations are continuing. They have two functions: first, to brief educational interests on developments in relation to the mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas and, secondly, to obtain the observations of the educational interests on such developments. The most recent consultations took place on 11th January. The following bodies were represented: the Higher Education Authority, the National Council for Educational Awards, the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick, the four universities, the City of Dublin Vocational Committee and the Irish Federation of University Teachers. The meeting discussed the Dahrendorf hearings referred to in paragraph 18.3 of the Second Report and the progress of discussions within the Community institutions on the proposals. The views and observations of educational interests are always taken into account in presenting the Irish position at such discussions.
Deputy Herbert complained about not being adequately informed concerning the draft directive on harmonisation of laws on driving licences. Department of Local Government officials asked that the material for Deputy Herbert should be channelled through our Department and we naturally co-operated. Deputy Herbert seems to feel, I think, that in some way we were holding things up: he referred to me as the chief censor. This is not fair: we have no function in the matter except to transmit at the request of the Department of Local Government information to Deputy Herbert and we certainly did not censor any of it.
What actually happened—and perhaps there has been some misunderstanding here—is that five typed foolscap pages were sent to Deputy Herbert containing detailed comment on the document submitted by him. Instead of mailing them to Limerick an official of my Department left an envelope at the request of Deputy Herbert's secretary at his hotel in Dublin on Thursday, 17th January. If  this did not reach the Deputy I do not think it was our fault. The Deputy said the Department of Local Government had no comment on articles 6 or 8. I have read what was sent to Deputy Herbert—perhaps he did not receive it for reasons outside our control—and in fact there is a comment on article 6 and part of a page on article 8. Every effort was made to provide the Deputy with policy briefing on the proposals. I have read through the brief he got and I think it was extremely good because on a whole range of issues the Irish Government's position was stated and the Deputy, if he received it, was put in an extremely good position to present an Irish case.
I would be happy if I thought that all Deputies got as full a brief as was prepared for Deputy Herbert on this occasion. Some of the complaints we had, very understandably, from members of the European Parliament about the inadequacy of their briefing, would be very fully met if they were as well served as Deputy Herbert was on this occasion. I am not quite clear what the complaint is. It may be that the brief did not reach Deputy Herbert before he left for Brussels. I have the brief here. It is a very full and adequate one and I stand over it. I am sorry if something went wrong and the Deputy did not receive it in time.
Mr. Herbert: I got that brief but thought it was valueless, especially in reference to a basic amendment put down by the British giving member states power to issue driving licences to operate within their borders. The comment I got from the Department was that this would be contrary to the Community spirit.
Mr. Herbert: It is a key amendment. The British amendment specified a date, that they should operate until the year 2025 and I have omitted that date. I have strengthened the amendment. It is to be taken in committee next week.
Dr. FitzGerald: I cannot find this reference. I have a five-page memorandum which takes each article and states for each item in it what the various amendments purport to do and what our position is on them. I am sorry if in respect of one of several dozen amendments that the Deputy did not——
Dr. FitzGerald: The Government would not want to support an amendment which was against the spirit of the Community, because to do so would be damaging to our interests there. If the Department so advised the Deputy they probably advised him well. As I cannot find the reference in my brief I cannot comment on this particular case.
 We would accept in principle either version. We would favour the U.K. amendment. We would resist the proposal of the Directive and the Committee for initial medical examination except for drivers of large goods vehicles and buses classed as C, D and E. We would accept an eyesight test for all drivers. We would strongly favour these U.K. amendments.
Dr. FitzGerald: The Deputy's complaint is that the brief was inadequate. It takes each article, deals with each amendment put forward and states the Irish view in what the House will now see are extremely explicit terms.
We would not support U.K. stand on any of their amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. We would accept in principle the Committee's recommendations but we might make a case for extending date of effect to two years (or more) after adoption of Directive.
Dr. FitzGerald: There is no reference to Community spirit here. It is quite specific and says exactly what our view is. If the Deputy did not like it he was entitled to take a different view but he could complain that he was not given guidance on the matter. If all Deputies seeking briefs do as well as Deputy Herbert we will be very well served in the European Parliament. The Deputy is being unreasonable and the House can see he is unreasonable from what I have said.
Dr. FitzGerald: We now come to the question of the facilities available to the committee and members of the European Parliament. The position is that the European Economic Community committee sought a large staff of 14. This request was so out of line with what I thought reasonable that the Minister for Finance decided a study should be carried out to find out what, in fact, are the needs of the Committee. My original thinking was that if they had a staff of five, including two people allocated to help the members of the European Parliament, they would, by the standards of this House, be very well staffed and the position could be reviewed after a certain length of time if that staff proved inadequate to cope. The committee in their wisdom chose to look for a staff of 14. The Minister for Finance reacted, understandably, by saying that he could not agree to this without a study being carried out. In the meantime the committee has a staff of two. The study commenced on 12th February and is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. I regret the delay. Whether the committee handled it wisely or well is a matter about which the House will have to make up its mind. By making a claim for a staff of 14 they created problems for themselves instead of solving them. No doubt the committee have a different view on this. I hope the study will show what the needs are and that they will be quickly met.
 I am particularly concerned that members of the European Parliament who have spoken in this House are unhappy with the service they are getting. This hold-up is connected with the staffing of the committee. It seemed to me that the two problems could best be tackled as one and the staff serving the European Parliament delegation, who are all members of the committee, should be closely associated with the secretariat of that committee. Perhaps that was a mistake and the two problems should have been tackled separately. It would have been better if the needs of the delegates had been tackled separately. That, of course, is speaking with hindsight.
The present secretariat have the duty of keeping the European Parliament delegates and members of the committee informed. It may be that the staff of two are not in a position to do this adequately. I would not be surprised if that were the case.
The staff of my Department are available to assist in matters of policy. It would be an improper use of my staff for them to be substituted for the work of the secretariat of the committee in providing factual data to members. Members are entitled to guidance on policy from all Departments and that will be given by officials and, where necessary, by Ministers. If members of the European Parliament wish to see me at some stage to discuss policy issues I am always available for that purpose. I will be glad to help any way I can within the limits of time available. I wonder if the position will ever be completely satisfactory if they have to handle all this themselves and take the initiative in seeking information and guidance in policy without having research assistance for that purpose. I am sympathetic with the points made in this House by members of the European Parliament. If I were a member of the European Parliament I am sure I would share their sense of frustration. I will do everything I can to ensure that they are given the necessary assistance to carry out their work, if they are not being put in a position to do that work as effectively as we would  like to have it done. We have a responsibility to see to that and I will do anything I can to help to get that problem resolved as rapidly as possible. If it is partly my fault that their problems have become tied up with those of the committee I am sorry in retrospect that I ever suggested that the two should be brought together in that way though at the time it seemed a reasonable suggestion. I hope we can help them to resolve these problems.
The House, in my view, has been impressed by what it has heard about the problems they face. I am aware of the strain there must be on these Deputies in travelling. Whatever burden of travel I have it is worse for them, they have more travelling to do than I. I do not seem ever to travel in a plane in the general direction of Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg without meeting Deputies going backwards or forwards. They have not the advantage a Minister has of having staff available to him. Even their travel is sometimes more difficult than it is for a Minister whose path is often smoothed in various ways en route.
The problem of coping with the unfamiliar procedure of another Parliament, the linguistic problems, which the Deputies face are all very serious and are aggravated by problems such as the inadequacy of the telephone link with Europe and the fact that they do not seem to get Irish daily newspapers until some days later with the result that they are out of touch with what is happening at home. All these create serious problems for them and it is the duty of this House. and the Government, to give them every assistance they can in carrying out their very difficult task. This debate, which has been useful in many ways, has been particularly useful in highlighting these problems and in putting pressure on us all to get them resolved to the satisfaction of the Deputies concerned.
The points made by Deputies about linguistic problems are certainly valid. There is no doubt that we are not well equipped for this purpose. None of us really has the range of languages which is necessary to be 100 per cent effective in this multi-lingual environment.  I share the sense of frustration of Deputies in this. I have no German and I find myself from time to time at meetings where the informal discussions are carried on in German. It is a case of either having to switch to English for my benefit, which may inhibit the conversation somewhat, or else I am left unable to know what is being said. Other Deputies have similar problems with French.
This does leave us at a disadvantage and Deputies have stressed the importance of developing our educational system so that it is normal for educated Irish people to have a fluency in foreign languages like French and German as it is normal for most of the educated nationals of these countries. Those Deputies are right to stress this need.
Deputy Thornley mentioned the problem posed for all countries in Europe by multi-national companies and their activities. This is something of which we have been rendered more conscious by the energy crisis. I support Deputy Thornley in what he said on this. We supported the initiative of the Danish Government in asking to have this matter studied within the Community framework and in Washington we also supported and pressed, for the inclusion of studies of the activities of multi-nationals as part of the work to be undertaken arising out of the Washington energy conference. This is something about which European countries generally are concerned. It was not listed by the United States amongst the topics to be considered and we had the job of ensuring that it was added as an eighth item to the list of seven topics they had mentioned and ensuring that it was not narrowed down because there was proposal that one should only look at the future activities of multi-nationals. The European countries at Washington were not prepared to accept that and that proposed limitation was removed by agreement.
We are pressing that this matter should be studied at expert level, not merely studied by the co-ordinating group itself at a level of generality. I can assure Deputy Thornley that both in relation to the energy crisis and the  general European industrial situation we are concerned to ensure that multi-national companies have to act in a transparent manner so that the Governments in the countries in which they are operating know what they are doing and they have to carry their fair share of taxation and that they do not become a power over and above and beyond that of Governments.
I should now like to come to the question of regional policy. Deputy O'Kennedy raised this matter in a somewhat contentious way when he spoke. He was critical of our handling of regional policy and I should like to take up what he said because I think that in his mind there was a certain amount of chronological confusion. He said that I was at fault—I am referring to Volume 269 of the Official Report, column 710, of the 29th November—because this country was aware of rumours and suggestions and I did not state my position in the House or take Members into my confidence or get public opinion behind me until it was too late. Deputy O'Kennedy said then that if I could give evidence of statements made during that period he would be glad to acknowledge it. That is the fault he imputed to me. For himself he spoke about Fianna Fáil convening a special meeting during the summer break to make a statement on the matter. He referred to the arguments which they put forward in August. Later, in response to an interjection, he referred to the Fianna Fáil statement appearing in the Press sometime in late August.
The picture painted by Deputy O'Kennedy is that of a negligent Minister for Foreign Affairs idling away his time on other matters from May to September while in August a vigilant Fianna Fáil Party, aware of the rumours and reports circulating in Europe, took action in the matter to alert the country to the problems facing Ireland in regard to the regional policy. It is a dramatic picture, it is an attractive picture from an Opposition point of view, but it is unfortunately based on several chronological errors which totally invalidate it.
 The fact is that the Fianna Fáil meeting which Deputy O'Kennedy twice described as having taken place in August took place on Thursday, 13th September, and the statement issued was reported in The Irish Times of 14th September. The vigilance of the Fianna Fáil Party was not such apparently as to note the statement I issued on 24th July. Deputy O'Kennedy said that I said nothing and if there was any evidence of statements he would be glad to hear about it. It would have been a little better if the Fianna Fáil Party had noted the statement I issued to the Press on 24th July and, having taken a leisurely 7½ weeks to consider that statement, it would have been a good thing if they had taken an account of that in the statement they issued 7½ weeks later.
The statement I issued arose when these rumours developed for the first time, rumours to the effect that the July proposals of the Commission, due to come out at the end of July, would not, in fact, reflect the thinking of the Commission which we endorsed and found satisfactory in its document in the month of May. The first rumours to that effect appeared in the Press on a day when the Council of Ministers was meeting in Brussels. They were drawn to my attention immediately. Before that meeting ended, and without any delay I personally drafted a statement, had it typed and issued it to the Press. This is the statement which was issued on that date:
It is my understanding that the Commission has not yet decided what it will propose to the Council of Ministers in this matter. The position, of course, following the normal Community procedure is that the Commission will make proposals in due course and that the Council of Ministers will then make the necessary decision.
 Regional policy is concerned with the transfer of adequate resources from richer to less developed areas in order to promote a balanced economic evolution in the Community as a whole. This was particularly emphasised at the summit meeting of heads of State or of Government last October, which said that resources of the fund must be such that, co-ordinated with national resources they would correct the principal regional imbalances in the enlarged Community during the course of the development of the economic and monetary union, namely by 1980.
I am convinced that the Council Minister will carry out this mandate of the summit meeting which would, of course, imply a transfer of resources to Ireland far greater than the relatively negligible sum mentioned in Irish newspaper reports.
When the matter comes to the Council, I shall, if proposals are made by the Commission, which fall short of the summit decision, make absolutely clear the Irish Government's position in respect to this commitment of the summit.
I do not think I could have acted with greater speed. Within a couple of short hours of the rumours being published, I had this statement issued sounding a note of warning to the Commission on the proposals they might adopt if the proposals being put to them took the form mentioned in the newspaper reports, the first newspaper reports on the subject.
The promptitude of my reaction was in somewhat marked contrast with the leisurely process by which Fianna Fáil over a period of seven and a half weeks considered the matter and finally issued a statement on 13th September. For Deputy O'Kennedy to tell this House that I said nothing between May and September, and that Fianna Fáil issued a statement in August is, with respect, the height of impertinence.  It is such a travesty of facts that it is something which one would not normally expect to be done by a responsible Member of the Opposition. No doubt if Deputy O'Kennedy were here he would say he forgot that it was in September and not in August he issued his statement, that he was unaware of the fact that I had issued a statement, and that when he denounced me for not doing so he had not got around to checking.
That is not the way a responsible Opposition act. Criticisms of this kind on the handling of a matter by the Government should be more firmly founded on fact than the fiction put forward by Deputy O'Kennedy here on 29th November. I am sorry I have had to wait three months to put the record right. Unfortunately, the debate—a good and useful debate—was broken by the Christmas interval and is taking place now at the end of February. I did not have the opportunity in that time to put things right. I hope the Press will give the same publicity to the facts about this as was given to the travesty of the facts put forward by Deputy O'Kennedy in the debate on 29th November.
On the question of regional policy there are several other things I should like to say. First of all, I think from the debate there is some confusion about the nature of a regional policy. Deputies seem to have an impression that the European Commission will start new schemes in certain parts of the country, pumping large sums of money in which were not previously being pumped in. That is not the nature of this scheme. What this scheme does is to aid and assist financially member governments with schemes they operate. We have in existence schemes of this kind because, on the one hand, we have grants given to industry from our own financial resources and, on the other hand, the State provides infrastructure for industrial and tourist development in various parts of the country.
What the Regional Fund will do will be to reimburse us for part of these costs, thereby enabling us to pursue these policies more extensively and on a larger scale. The question  of where this extension takes place and how we reorientate our policy towards particular parts of the country is entirely a matter for us. It is up to this Government to decide that, given the increase in resources coming to us by way of reimbursement of the existing pattern of expenditure, we will first enlarge this expenditure by at least the amount of the additional aid given and secondly reorientate it towards part of the country where the need is greatest.
We will, of course, be claiming money back in respect of grants given. If grants are given in County Wicklow for industry, or in County Louth, we will put in our claim for reimbursement of the share of industrial grants in these cases just as we will in the west. If Deputies are thinking that we will be operating this scheme in relation to the west only they are wrong. We must operate it in respect of anywhere we give assistance or grants, and are entitled to get the money back. We have to get the maximum amount of money back.
When we get the money it means that our expenditure on these schemes, industrial grants and infrastructure for industrial and tourist development, will be relieved by that amount. We will be enabled therefore to extend these schemes and have them on a larger scale. In doing that we must re-direct our policy towards the west and north-west, neglected for so long under Fianna Fáil, and ensure that there is an adequate regional development programme in those areas which there has not been for the past 16 years. We must use Irish money made available by the relief of the existing Irish schemes in all parts of the country to operate an adequate and generous regional policy in the west and the north-west.
Deputies should be clear that that is how the scheme works. It is in reimbursement of existing expenditure by us in every part of the country. thereby releasing resources enabling us to put a bigger effort into the areas that really need it. It is we who decide that. If the regional policy adopted in two or three years time is regarded as unsatisfactory, there is no alibi for  us in the EEC. We will be responsible for the policy as to where the money goes, not the EEC. That must be clearly said. It is up to us in Government to prepare an adequate regional policy and use the extra resources made available by the reimbursement of Irish expenditure throughout the whole country to have an adequate regional programme in the west and north-west. That is what we propose to do.
When people ask have we schemes ready, there is misunderstanding. It is the existing schemes in operation which will be reimbursed. My worry is not that the scale of our existing industrial grant and infrastructure provisions will not be sufficient to claim back the amount of money allocated to us. My worry is to the contrary: that the way in which this policy has evolved and the proportion of the money which is to be allocated to countries with much lesser needs than ours is such that the total sum available will not be sufficient to reimburse the level of activity and will not bring us sufficient extra money to enable us to do what we need to do in the parts of the country which have been so long neglected under the previous Government. I am glad to have the opportunity of making clear, I hope, how the Regional Fund works. It is important that people should be clear on this.
On the question of our attitude to the fund I am glad to have the opportunity of explaining to the House the stage we have reached. The position is that the scheme as put forward in July by the Commission allocated virtually half the total resources in effect to Britain and France. The Commissioner for Regional Policy has on a number of occasions—quite bluntly and frankly, it must be said—explained this allocation in terms of political need and the need to take account of political reality.
It is our view that while the European Commission must be conscious of political reality and must not put forward starry-eyed proposals which are not capable of securing support it is wrong for them to have such regard for political so-called reality  as to produce a scheme which is unrelated to genuine need in Europe for a regional policy. We do not accept that the scheme as put forward was adequately designed for this purpose. The fact that half the money was, in effect, allocated to Britain and France—two countries which are not among the poorest in Europe, nor are they the countries which have the major problems—meant so far as we were concerned that the scheme was basically wrongly designed.
Our criticism of it on those grounds has, I am afraid, been upheld in an unfortunate way in that the German Government share this view so strongly that they are not prepared to provide the sums of money necessary to provide a fund twice as large, roughly, as what is needed to deal with the problems of Ireland and Italy and certain areas of difficulty like Greenland, in order to hand over funds to their great commercial rivals Britain and France.
So, this triangular conflict has evolved with the British Government anxious to have a Regional Fund out of which Britain would get a large sum of money to help to persuade public opinion that the EEC is a more attractive proposition economically than British public opinion now thinks it is; the French Government anxious to ensure that France should not secure from the fund anything less than Britain; and the German Government unwilling to subsidise on this scale their great commercial rivals Britain and France. That is a triangle which it is our job to flatten into a straight line of some kind, but it is very difficult to flatten it into a straight line, just as it is difficult to square a circle.
In December at a meeting of the Council of Ministers I made a proposal designed as far as possible to reconcile these conflicting points of view. I had already put forward a proposal showing what we would seek from the fund if it were on the scale proposed by the European Commission, that is, 2,250 million units of account over a three year period. In December, faced with this conflict, in an attempt to resolve it I put forward a compromise proposal which  had three features. First, it managed to do what was necessary with a fund 600 million units of account smaller than that proposed by the Commission thereby going a long way—I felt far enough, but apparently it was not the view of the German Government—to meet the viewpoint of the German Government, a fund of 1,650 million units of account. It provided the same net benefit to Italy and the United Kingdom as the original fund so the net transfer—that is the gross transfer less the gross contribution to the fund— to those two countries would be approximately the same as the Commission proposed, and the net transfer to Ireland would be twice what the Commission had proposed because the Commission's proposal in the case of Ireland was grossly inadequate.
That proposal was received as a useful contribution to the debate. Unfortunately, it did not receive the endorsement of Germany as regards the sum of money. Germany is not yet willing to give a sum of that magnitude. However, the proposal was well received as a compromise of compromises, showing what could be done with a smaller fund than the Commission had proposed and providing equal benefits for Britain and Italy and substantially greater for us. It made clear what we thought appropriate in the Irish instance.
In that debate there was a clear acceptance by the President of the Council of Ministers and by Commissioner Thomson that the Irish case was a special case that needed special treatment. The case we put forward, that every part of Ireland is a region in need of aid, that we have no part of the country from which to draw resources and, therefore, unlike all the other member countries we are in a unique position and require additional aid beyond what any so-called objective criteria may seem to show, was accepted in principle by the President of the Council and by Commissioner Thomson; it was not demurred at or disagreed with by representatives of any other country present.
That is not to say that the proposal  I made for the doubling of the Irish share was accepted but only that the principle was accepted, that whichever of the various systems of criteria were applied they would need adjustment to give Ireland more than the amount that would emerge from the different criteria because of our special need.
Unfortunately, agreement has not been reached on the Regional Fund. The German Government have not been willing to provide a sum of 1,650 million units of account. It is arithmetically impossible to give to the United Kingdom and Italy similar net benefits and to give to Ireland the additional benefits we need out of a smaller fund. The conflict remains between the German Government who are only willing to provide a smaller sum, the British Government who are anxious to ensure that the net benefit to them will be as great as the Commission proposed, the French Government anxious to ensure that their net contribution to the fund will not be unduly enlarged beyond the very small figure proposed by the Commission, the Italian Government trying to ensure that they get at least what the Commission proposed, and the Irish Government trying to ensure we get additional assistance over and above what the Commission proposed.
The conflict between these interests is not easy to resolve. The division in the Community at the Washington energy conference has not helped the situation because it led immediately to the postponement of the meeting on 18th February of the Council of Ministers at which regional policy was to be discussed. I cannot bring the House any further on this at this time. As there has not been a meeting of the Council of Ministers since the Washington conference it is not clear what is the mood of the different countries or what are the prospects of getting agreement on this or any other Community policy. I shall be attending Council of Ministers meetings on Monday and Tuesday next, preceded by a meeting of the Political Committee of Foreign Ministers discussing political co-operation. After that we will have a clearer picture of  the mood of the Community in the post-Washington period, of the extent to which member countries regard as very serious the conflict that arose in the Community, or the extent to which they show a desire to smooth over those difficulties, to re-establish the unity of the Community, unhappily broken at the Washington conference.
At this stage I cannot express to the House any views on the speed with which we will resolve the question of regional policy or the likely terms. I can only say this—it is important that it be said—unless proposals emerge that are significantly more favourable to this country, particularly in terms of the percentage share of the fund and also the absolute sum of money involved, than that put forward by the Commission it will not be possible for the Irish Government to accept the proposals. There should not be any doubt in anyone's mind on this point. It would not be to our advantage to agree to a regional policy on the lines proposed by the Commission. If necessary—I hope it will not be necessary—it is better that we put a spoke in the wheel at this stage, insist that the matter be further considered and a more genuine regional policy emerge, better designed to reach the needs of countries like Ireland and Italy, than to accept a scheme that would relegate us to a position of relative insignificance in terms of benefits from the scheme which should have been designed primarily for countries such as Ireland and Italy.
At this stage I cannot tell the House if there will be a regional policy or if there are proposals put forward which we could accept. I cannot tell the House that it may not be necessary in the ultimate analysis for this country to use its veto if a proposal unsatisfactory to us is put forward and accepted by other countries. All this remains ahead of us; perhaps we will have a clearer idea by Tuesday night on where we stand.
There were other general questions raised with which I should like to  deal. Deputy Wilson wondered if economic and monetary union would suit us. This is a question that is not susceptible of a simple answer. In one sense, not only would it suit us but something of the kind is essential for us. Unless there is a monetary union involving fixed parties of currencies the CAP will remain at the mercy of parity shifts between member countries. We will remain in the position of being unable to get the full benefit of the CAP because of changes in parities and the operation of monetary compensation adjustments, such as exist as present. Already we are in the position where the effective value of the unit of account is quite different from what it was when fixed for the purposes of the CAP and we are losing significant sums in terms of domestic purchasing power as a result. So long as the Community remain at the mercy of these parity shifts, as long as there is not a monetary union strong enough to withstand shocks and sure enough to maintain the parties of the different currencies as fixed, the CAP will have an element of insecurity and it will not bring the benefits to the farmers of this country that it should bring.
More than anyone else, except possibly France, we have an interest in the coming into existence of a monetary union. At the same time, we must recognise that if a monetary union evolved in the immediate future, without an adequate regional policy to help us to accept the strains that would be imposed on our economy, it could create great problems for us. We want to see a strong, worthwhile regional union that will ensure the survival and success of the CAP. To secure these two aims in that order are the principal economic objectives of Ireland in the Community.
At the same time, in examining the approaches made by other countries to the question of monetary union it seems to me at times that other countries who have not had our experience in the past 50 years of operating a de facto monetary union are not totally clear about the implications of such a union or on the steps necessary to achieve it. Last April, at the Council  of Ministers, I endeavoured to draw the attention of other Minister to this, to point out to them that some of the thinking behind the monetary union proposals is, in economic terms, simpliste, and dangerously so. I have endeavoured to point out that the achievement of monetary union can be secured only if the economies of member countries and their institutional structures in terms of wage negotiations, for example, are assimilated to each other. So long as member countries have different rates of inflation, deriving from totally separate processes of wage and salary bargaining, not even influenced by each other through a lack of transparency brought about by the different currency units, so long as that situation exists it will be difficult to maintain parity between currencies.
We hope to make a contribution to thinking on monetary union, to deepen that thinking and to make it a little more sophisticated. We hope to use the experience we have had from a de facto monetary union for the last 50 years in order to contribute to the evolution of monetary union in Europe that will protect the CAP. By helping in that educational process we hope there will be a regional policy strengthening our economy and enabling it to stand up to the pressures and shocks to which it will be subject within a monetary union. That is the best answer I can give in a tentative way to the question posed by Deputy Wilson on monetary union.
Deputy O'Kennedy raised a question about political co-operation in the Community. Here again Deputy O'Kennedy betrayed some confusion of thought. He seemed to think this was something completely new, in which this Government had become involved. He said “Most of us were surprised to know of these consultations”. These are consultations referred to in page 7 of the report where reference is made to the fact that a wide range of topics has been discussed by this political committee, consultations in the field of foreign policy and so on. He said “Most of us were surprised to know of these consultations” and went on to imply  that this was something new which had not existed previously. I am surprised at this because the fact is that these consultations are something which have existed in the Community for many years past. Indeed, before we joined the Community the then Government participated in these discussions and there were two meetings attended by Dr. Hillery, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the 26-27 May, 1972, and on 20-21 November, 1972. At these meetings discussions took place on the Middle East, Mediterranean policy, the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Paris Summit both before it and after it in terms of what action might be taken after it in the political sphere.
The previous Government therefore were deeply engaged in these consultations at that time, including consultation on the Middle East. Deputy O'Kennedy talks as if this is something completely new and expresses some concern as to whether this may affect our position as a non-aligned country in relation to foreign policy. He asks was there not at least an awareness that a precedent was being established here in discussing the Middle East. No precedent was being established. Dr. Hillery established the precedent in discussing the Middle East on 26-27 May and 21st November, 1972. We have been following in the path he trod and happy to do so and happy to continue to do so also in future.
The fact is that the member countries of the EEC have been engaged for a good while past in trying to co-ordinate their foreign policy. I cannot say that they have had very much success in the sense that deep divergences still exist, divergences of foreign policy which became especially apparent in relation to the Middle East crisis, when the divergent sympathies of member countries led them to take up perceptibly different positions. However, on 6th November, 1973, meeting together, the Foreign Ministers sought to reconcile these divergences and to take a common line on the Middle East. This we did. This posed no difficulty for us because the common line  consisted in making a stand on Resolution 242 of the United Nations and that is something which we had supported from the beginning. So, we were happy to support this initiative. Indeed, I can say that in the July meeting on political co-operation in Copenhagen the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs asked that the question of the Middle East be discussed and we supported that. Unfortunately, this proposal of Italy and Ireland to discuss the Middle East did not secure support. No such discussion took place and it was because of that that the nine countries found themselves at the outbreak of the Middle East war in a position of confusion as to their position and I regret very much that the Italian/Irish initiative of July was not followed up at that time.
Far from being fearful that these foreign policy consultations might involve us in something that would not be in our interests, I feel the contrary —that if there were more consultations and more co-operation and if we were able to hammer out some kind of agreement it would be much more in the interests of this country and of Europe as a whole. It is the lack of co-operation that I regret rather than the efforts to achieve co-operation.
These divergences in attitudes to foreign policy issues have, of course, found expression elsewhere. In the Washington Energy Conference there was notable divergence of approach between the French Government and other governments. Our purpose at that conference was above all to maintain the unity of the Community and we worked with the other Governments in putting forward compromise proposals and trying to secure agreement to an approach which could be acceptable both to France and to the other governments, some of them concerned to conciliate the American position and not to find themselves in conflict with the United States.
We failed, but it was not for the want of trying. It is fair to say that Ireland played a more active part at that conference in seeking conciliation and agreement than any other country. If agreement was not found within the Community it was. I am afraid, because  it could not be found, not because an effort was not made to find it.
Of course, the countries of the Nine are countries with very divergent historical traditions. It is not perhaps surprising that they should have difficulty in reaching agreement. We ourselves with our tradition of resisting colonial rule obviously view things somewhat differently from some of the other members who still tend to think in terms that represent a throw-back to some degree to the period when they were colonial powers. Obviously, reconciling these attitudes takes time. Between these former colonial powers there are rivalries deriving from their past history and between the European countries which were not colonial powers there are historical differences. Some had bitter experiences of Nazi persecution. Some suffered terribly. Some were countries in which the Jewish community suffered terribly during the war and whose populations therefore retain to this day an understandable and wholly laudable sense of obligation to the Jewish people, and this finds its reflection to some degree in their foreign policy. Other countries who did not suffer in that particular way, who had not this acute experience of the horror of Nazi persecution of the Jews, see the Middle East war more in terms of the interests of the states there today rather than in terms of what happened in Europe 25 years ago. It is inevitable that these different historical experiences—still vivid in the minds of people who are in charge of foreign policy in these countries and still vivid in the mind of public opinion in these countries—should have a reflection in different attitudes on policy issues like the Middle East.
It will not be easy for a Community of countries with such extraordinarily different histories to conciliate these differences and arrive at a common viewpoint. Yet if it falls to do so the European Economic Community may find it very hard to build into something firmly established, because as an economic community it is going to require for its full evolution as an economic and monetary union a governmental  structure of a federal kind. Unless we can arrive at that, some of the great gains, such as the common agricultural policy, may find it hard to survive; yet if we are to arrive at that kind of governmental structure such a federation must have a common foreign policy, must be able to get over historical differences of the past and arrive at a common viewpoint.
The purpose of this political committee is to do this, not by any country riding roughshod over others but discussing and debating together and trying to build on what is common to us as nine European countries undergoing a similar experience in the European Economic Community. That is our task. It is a vitally important task. It is one in which we can play a role and our role is perhaps in some ways an unique one as the only member which is not a member of NATO. But for our presence there the meetings of the political committee would be meetings of countries all members of NATO, all sharing and participating in NATO meetings—in fact the political co-ordination committee could become, without our presence, almost a NATO working group. That it cannot do when we are there because we are not involved in NATO. The tendency of some countries at times to forget the forum they are in is something that we are there to correct and to ensure that the Community does not evolve as an element of NATO but evolves independently and evolves its own foreign policy separate from and apart from the NATO framework.
The most dramatic expression of this divergence arising from the presence of Ireland is in relation to the two declarations that the United States Government sought to have agreed with Europe in the year 1973 and early 1974. Some other countries might have been able to agree to a single declaration had NATO and the EEC been concentric and not overlapping circles but, of course, as we are not a member of NATO we cannot subscribe to a declaration which has defence elements in it involving us and therefore there are two  declarations and not one. Other countries also for different reasons prefer that there should be two and it is because we are members that it becomes essential that there should be two declarations rather than one and our presence is helping to maintain the distinction between the European Economic Community and the European end of NATO—a distinction which could otherwise be overlooked at times if membership of the EEC comprised only members of NATO.
And so our role is in its own way quite an important and active one, in which we try to secure not just our own interests but the interests of Europe as a whole and indeed the interests of world peace. So much for the foreign policy side.
I want now to make some general comments in conclusion on the Community and where it is going. First of all, it is worth remarking about this debate how little, I think nothing, was said about the kind of fears people had when we joined the Community and when we debated it at the referendum. The fact is that it has not brought urban unemployment on the scale that some people feared. The debate has been about being within the Community and we have been fortunate in that we have not carried on the referendum debate when it is no longer relevant. It was relevant at the time: it was vitally necessary the issues should be disclosed to the Irish people, that all the possible dangers should be seen so that they could be taken into account in the decision taken.
Where we have the great advantage over Great Britain is that we had a referendum and the issue was settled. Having been settled, we can now have a debate here on the real issues of the Community and how it works. We are not going over the old ground again and again as is being done in Britain, and in this respect our political system has proved better than the British system. We have got the EEC debate out of our system. We have been able to spend this year working constructively within the Community without having to look over our shoulders all the time. I  think it is a pity that the British political system did not permit a referendum of this kind. On the other hand, perhaps if they had a referendum they might not have joined and that might have created problems for us. Certainly, from our point of view this debate has been a far more constructive one than a similar debate would be at this time in the House of Commons.
On the future of the Community, no one looking at it realistically could be happy with the situation today. It is interesting to try to analyse why we are in these difficulties. It seems to me there are several aspects to this problem. First of all, there is the fact that Britain has not been a wholehearted member during the past year, that British Ministers have had constantly to look over their shoulders at British public opinion, that they have had, for example, in relation to regional policy, to make it appear much more important and valuable than it ever could be to Britain. This has made it more difficult within the Community to reach agreement on new policies than would otherwise have been the case.
There is also the fact that the French Government have not, it seems, been able to work out a completely coherent policy on their internal relations in the Community and their external relations with the US. The French Government more than other Governments in the Community are conscious of the dangers to European independence vis-à-vis the United States and are anxious that Europe should be independent of the US and not be unduly dominated by the US—that is something which all of us share, all of us being in full friendship with the US with whom all our countries are closely linked: we wish Europe to have an identity of its own and to stand on its own feet as far as possible and we hope it will be possible to a greater degree in the years ahead.
The French Government have been particularly concerned about this, and we respect this concern and to some degree share it, as all member countries  do in one way or another. At the same time, the French Government have not drawn what I would think of as a logical conclusion: that if Europe is to stand on its own feet vis-à-vis the US, if it is to be more independent of the US, it must first become more united; it must be brought together in a much closer union than exists at present; it must have a much more effective, decision-making system and it must achieve both in the political and economic spheres a much greater unity of purpose and of the ideas than it has now. If this conclusion had been reached by the French Government, they have pursued this in the Community in a way that would have produced the kind of results in terms of positive progress that were needed within the last year. It is this, as it appears, ambivalence in the French policy that has held up progress in pursuing European unity.
Then there is the case of Germany. There is a country which has become suddenly conscious of the fact that because of the structure of Community policy, because of the pattern of wealth in the Community, because of the relative importance and role of different countries, it is paying a very high proportion of the costs of the Community, and German public opinion is becoming resistant to paying more and more, yet it does not see the progress towards greater European union which German public opinion genuinely favour. So you have on the part of Germany a reaction against the lack of progress which now, in the matter of regional policy in particular, is contributing to lack of progress.
There are, therefore, on the part of all three major countries special problems which have come to the fore in the past year and have prevented the Community making the progress that we in this country would like to see. Our role can only be a small one but it will always be a constructive role. Because we are outside some of the interplay of power politics, because our rightful interests are limited in scope— they are very important to us but they arise only in very specific areas—we  are in a position sometimes to see more clearly perhaps than some of the major powers and we are free to make a contribution towards the reconciliation of differences and to put forward constructive proposals as to how difficulties may be overcome.
That is the task we have been trying to pursue in the past year. Whatever view there may have been of Ireland a year ago, within the Community today among the various member governments, officials and informed public opinion nobody is in any doubt as to whether Ireland is some kind of British satellite, brought in with Britain and backing the British view regardless. In fact on many issues our views and those of Britain diverge markedly. What people know is that Ireland is a communitarian member— to use a curious adjective imported into the English language by the French—that we are genuinely concerned for the survival and success of the Community, that we adhere to our Community obligations, that we can be relied on to be constructive, not ever to abandon our vital national interests and that, subject to that limitation, we can be relied on to play a constructive role, a European role.
I think we have in this past year won ourselves some respect in the Community on that account. That respect is worthwhile in its own right, for its own sake, for a country like us. It also has, even in the crudest commercial terms, a cash value. When we come to press a matter where our vital interests are at stake, the fact that we have made a positive and constructive contribution will help us. This has been the case in regional policy.
When I in September toured the European capitals to put across the Irish viewpoint, to explain why as we saw it there is a special problem for Ireland that required special treatment, I met with great sympathy in the various capitals. That sympathy has since then been translated into support at various degrees of activeness for our proposals and our approach to regional policy in the Community that we would not have secured had we not been able to go there as representatives of a country playing an  active and useful part in the Community.
If the day ever comes when all the Irish representatives in Europe do is to look for more money here and more money there and new schemes to assist us somewhere else, then we will not even secure that limited objective, because our credibility will have disappeared. The fact is that we are beneficiaries of the Community on a large scale. Quite apart from the benefits to agriculture, the Exchequer benefited last year by more than £50 million. Within a year or two that figure will exceed £100 million, a sum we would otherwise have to find from taxation or borrowing at home.
These are important benefits. We are net beneficiaries and we will remain beneficiaries only so as long as we make a positive contribution in the sphere of Community policies, so that people feel it is worthwhile contributing something to have the Irish there, so that they will not resent the fact that we got out far more than we put it. It is our job in presenting the Irish case and in representing Ireland in the Community to ensure that that is the impression we leave with the people we meet, that that is the impression the European people have of Ireland. In that way and in that way alone will we secure both our own national interests and the interests of Europe.
|Last Updated: 14/09/2010 23:00:23||Page of 111|