An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht, 2002: Céim an Choiste (Atógáil). Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 11 September 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 554 No. 4

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AN SCEIDEAL.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Before we broke for lunch, I indicated the attitude of the Labour Party to this amendment and said that I very much welcomed the discussion it facilitated. I had been outlining my disagreement with the rather shrill contribution of Deputy Mitchell. The morality of different positions was referred to in the proposal of the amendment and in Deputy Mitchell's reply and I address that because it is a very important issue.

I concluded my previous remarks by saying one cannot argue for a kind of realism, the content of which is militarism requiring the provision of defence capacity, as the only basis of practical policy and as somehow an alternative to the complicated opportunities of diplomacy which are perceived as being softer. Deputy Mitchell invited the public to be afraid, basing that fear on a lack of capacity to defend ourselves. That has many echoes of Cold War thinking, but the fear we should have is of the collapse of diplomacy in relation to military posturing. The collapse of diplomacy has meant the loss of authority by the General Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in relation to the members of the Security Council, particularly its permanent members, and a perceived distance between the moral instinct of the General Assembly and the abuse of their positions by those permanent members.

Ireland ran a campaign for membership of the Security Council on a platform of reform of the UN about which we have not heard a single word since it became a member. It also ran on the basis [383]of a commitment of 0.7% of GNP in overseas development aid, which it has broken, and it has offered rhetorical flourishes in Johannesburg when it might have been required to offer more solid commitments.

The reason it is right for people to table amendments to flush out the Government's position and justify the Labour Party's third reform initiative coming out of this debate – the European Institutions Bill – is that certain kinds of accountability are required. I represent as many plain people as Deputy Mitchell does and they ask me rather direct questions too, one of which I put to the Minister of State. Is it not poisoning the atmosphere in which we are trying to achieve something if he cannot tell us whether our Government supports Mr. Blair's initiative for war, President Chirac's suggestion that Iraq be given a three weeks to readmit inspectors or the German suggestion that a considerable body of proof is required before a strike on Iraq can be justified? After the event there will be parliamentary questions in November when tens of thousands of people may have been killed and then we will have a statement in relation to other initiatives saying that the Quartet has met and been very concerned about Gaza and Jenin. The Irish people are saying they are willing to share sovereignty, but want to know what was said in their name in relation to fundamental principles.

I ran into all of this as far back as 1981 when I published an article in Studies arguing for a foreign policy committee, an ad hoc one having been established. It was opposed tooth and nail for years, but the principle was that things could have been discussed there before they became a reality. There is a message for members of Fianna Fáil in this. As a former Minister, I inherited a habitats directive from the European Union and although I have never regretted signing it, the opposition to its implementation should have been debated when it was being drafted. There is no point in the Government saying that all of this should have been known and that everything is fine when it is fudging our foreign policy.

The plain people Deputy Mitchell thinks should be shaking in their beds until we have the capacity to blow planes out of the sky also say other fundamental things. For instance, they say that perhaps the reason we do not voice our opposition to regimes being toppled and various aspects of the abuse of human rights is that, as the recipient of the largest share of foreign direct investment from the United States, we are not free to do so. There is also the matter of the very welcome interest shown by the United States in the Northern Ireland peace process. When one discusses these matters quietly over a glass of red or white wine, one is told by various people that they are interested in the achievements of quiet diplomacy. The good old embassies have no problem in rounding up a troupe of gin and tonic servants to run off to hear the different versions of events.

[384]There is a real gap and a real anxiety which leads people to assert that there is such a thing as an Irish foreign policy. While I accept we have to place our foreign policy in a pool of sovereignty with other nations with which we have co-operation, we are still entitled to hear what it is. Currently, we do not get many opportunities to do so. In October, when the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is reconstituted, one will find that it is poorly staffed and financed, has little research capacity, that, once appointed, its chairperson will be briefed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and that, apart from a few set pieces, statements and so forth, it will not get very far.

It is time the Government side stopped abusing those of us who have a genuine concern about transparency in Irish foreign policy. Having entered into talks with the Government and obtained a specific reference to neutrality in the Constitution, a place I have described as appropriate and judiciable and in which jurisprudence can be lodged with safety, the Labour Party recorded a real achievement. The approach taken is better than aspiring to seek to influence the other member states in other ways. I also doubt whether a protocol is achievable.

The difference between Deputy Gay Mitchell and me is that I very much respect the position of those arguing against a European armaments industry, an unaccountable foreign policy and the absence of transparency. There are other issues at stake, which are neither abstract nor academic and were not invented by me. Perhaps one feature lost during the Second Stage debate was the very fine contributions which referred to Article 133. How do the Minister of State and the Government respond to the suggestion that financial interests have a greater influence on European decision making than Irish citizens and have found it easier to access the Commission on issues of trade? As all these issues are very real, we do not need lectures on the need to have, as it were, anti-aircraft installations around the country.

I also want to reply explicitly to a question as old as James Dillon, namely, the notion that neutrality is a concept which was somehow invented. In 1972 Tony Browne and I wrote a booklet on positive neutrality for the Labour Party which drew on writing on neutrality as old and older than James Connolly's first writing. We used the concept of positive neutrality, not to describe some kind of impotence, but to show how one would use one's position as an opponent of empire and war to try to conduct diplomacy using transcendent principles by which people could live, operate and resolve conflicts.

That was the background to neutrality. The problem was the fudge that emerged later. Let us examine the position of Members of this House when I entered it in 1973 or even as early as your election to the House, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Members loved to get up on their hind legs and declare Ireland to be militarily neutral but not ideologically neutral. What did they mean by that? They meant that if it came to a choice [385]between Franco and saving the Spanish Republic in its day, they would choose Franco. For a time certain Members on the Fine Gael benches, notably James Dillon, were suggesting that Ireland should become the 51st state of the United States. The irony is that the dishonesty on neutrality came from people who did not want to declare on whose side they would line up if it came to a choice between the western anti-communist rhetoric, the Soviet Union and what was described by various people writing from the perspective of India as “The Third Way”. India, which had achieved independence, argued that one did not have to choose between an abused communist system in the Soviet Union or the western system because there were other countries emerging into the family of nations.

Reference was made to Patrick Keating. I challenge Members to refute that our best period was during the Aiken era when we carved out a particular character to Irish foreign policy. What were its constituent parts? We gave a lead at the time, the legacy of which is that we continue to lead in the area of non-nuclear proliferation and the declaring of nuclear arms illegal. Certain Members accused people who raised the issue of neutrality of being somehow vague – cowardice and hypocrisy were the phrases used. The slide has been on their part because their position is that we should adopt an approach which would allow us to avoid ever having to criticise anything about the West. How can they justify this?

The argument between the Green Party and the Labour Party is about how to achieve a particular end. It is a respectful difference of opinion. I respect the position of Green Party members and I am sure they respect mine. The notion that realists are somehow playing a game is destroying political trust in this country. The House would be surprised at the number of people throughout this country who ask questions every day about our attitude on all foreign policy issues, from Palestine to Gaza and elsewhere. There is a far greater interest in all these issues than the Government realises.

The way to approach the people is for the Government to admit to them that it did not explain what has been done in their name in Europe, that it went into Intergovernmental Conference processes which were not open and drafted and participated in treaties from which there has been no comeback for the people in general and the Parliament in particular. It should apologise for this and tell the people it understands the reasons they voted as they did in the last referendum, that it is making changes and that, having listened to their concerns about neutrality, it will, in future, have an anticipatory discussion about major changes in the European Union and Ireland's relations to it, including resourcing our capacity to examine issues in advance.

All this would be very positive. There is no point in painting a picture of oneself as being sophisticated when in fact one is avoiding all the moral issues. As a member of the Cabinet during [386]the crisis in Srebrenica, I do not claim that moral questions are easy and I am reluctant to use this category of morality as an example. Faced with a human rights situation of the magnitude of Srebrenica on one's borders, which is the morally superior position – to be impotent or consistent with one's previous position that one cannot become involved? One is challenged in such circumstances to take moral action. However, while action is required, it also means that if one is to create for oneself a capacity to act in such situations, one must create all the necessary transparencies, including those related to the logistics of sharing information, mechanisms of control, possession of weapons, consultations, training and other matters. We are not doing this. If one fudges the relationships between those with a simplistic military agenda and those with a defence agenda which is shaded, one loses one's capacity to have an authentic response to issues as morally challenging as the one I describe.

Having argued in good faith for a particular inclusion in the Constitution, we intend to stick to it as our preferred position. At the same time, it is very important to realise, accept and listen to the value of this debate which has introduced issues neglected for too long.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Roche): Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I found the contributions—

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  On a point of order, is it not the case that the Minister of State replies to the debate?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  As this is Committee Stage, the Minister of State may contribute to the debate now and other Deputies may speak afterwards.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  There are no restrictions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  That is correct.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Did the Deputy wish to speak before me?

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  No, but I wish to speak on the amendment.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I will make a short contribution now and take up other issues later. The polarity of this debate is healthy. This is the type of debate we should have had, but which we have always ignored. Deputy Michael Higgins was right when he posited the extraordinary dichotomy we face. How can one not be morally outraged by Srebrenica? How could we have sat on our hands if during the last years of the last war we were aware of what happened in Bergen-Belsen or any of that? One could not choose to be neutral in the sense of being absolutely neutral between the real horrors and the other possible situations there.

I would not agree with many of the points Deputy Mitchell would make. One of the marvel[387]lous outcomes of last year's referendum, which some Deputies opposite may dismiss, is that we have reached a point where we are about to put wording into our Constitution which had nothing to say on this issue. I acknowledge the role played by the Opposition parties in facilitating and helping to reach this state. I have had many interesting discussions with people from the Labour Party and Fine Gael. I take great pride in the additional words proposed to be added.

One of the points made by Deputy Higgins could not have been better made. A proposition, although perhaps idealistic, had been made in the proposal put before us by the Green Party and Deputy Higgins has reflected on the realism of the situation. We have an opportunity to write something into our Constitution at this point, which will be justiciable within the terms of our Constitution in our State.

The amendment by the Green Party, in effect, tries to posit that Ireland should take a stance similar to that taken by Denmark. With respect, the circumstances are not the same. Deputy Higgins made the point very well that the amendment we intend putting into the Constitution is a positive reaction to the position Irish people proposed or found themselves in last year.

With regard to the Danish situation to which Deputy Gormley referred, the opt out clause they sought to enter was done post factum. They had already agreed the Maastricht treaty. They found themselves in a dilemma and went back to Edinburgh in 1992 in relation to that. Four years later they obtained a protocol which is annexed to the Amsterdam treaty. Historically, that is the position as the Deputy described it and he was accurate. The position here, however, is slightly different and that is why Ireland should not consider such an option. Deputy Higgins outlined the position more eloquently than I have heard anyone else do. These are issues of which we should take possession. We should first close any lacuna that may exist. There is no direct comparison between the Danish situation at that time and the Irish situation now.

It would be a mistake to apply Danish circumstances to Ireland's situation. Denmark was seeking to opt out of commitments it had made. That is a fundamental point of which we should not lose sight, although I am not accusing Deputy Gormley of doing so. The Danes made commitments in Maastricht which they then found impossible to keep because of a decision of their people. They needed a legal instrument to rectify a situation to which they had committed themselves.

The Danish position was also different in other ways. Deputy Gormley mentioned that Denmark is a member of NATO and I agree with him that is neither here nor there in terms of this issue.

By contrast, we are not seeking to opt out of this provision. That is why the issue of a protocol is ill focused. We are not seeking to opt out of the Nice treaty or from any of the EU treaties [388]that preceded it. Moreover, the main treaty provisions on security and defence policy are laid down in treaties other than the Nice treaty. That is a point on which Deputy Higgins touched. That is why the Labour Party agreed that this is a better course of action. We are addressing something that is not in the Nice treaty but something that is significant here. We cannot seek an opt out clause from a treaty in respect of an issue that does not exist in it. That is not logical.

Irrespective of what Members may think of the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties, they are endorsed and in place. Our policy of military neutrality is fully protected under those treaties and under the Nice treaty and the guarantees we have guarantee our position in that regard. The Declarations of Seville make it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that is not only our reading of our position but the reading of our position by the other member states. No one can scoff at the Declarations of Seville and say they are of no consequence.

A Deputy:  They are not legally binding.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  That is a point of view, but I would question its validity. I do not believe one can simply dismiss the views of all the other member states.

Because of what happened last year we have reached a point where we are about to achieve something which I regard as immensely positive. If the people of Ireland vote “Yes” in the upcoming referendum, this Bill and that referendum will give people the opportunity to put into their Constitution for the first time a protection that will provide that not only this Government but any future Government cannot become involved in the adventures of common defence. That is a positive step forward.

The bottom line is that Ireland is not opting out of playing a constructive role in peace and stability in Europe, but neither is Ireland opting into a situation where we would play warmongers in Europe. That, obviously, would not attract attention from any shade of opinion in this House or outside it. It would be profoundly wrong to isolate ourselves. Ireland will continue to play a positive and constructive role, but it will be one involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian activities and not one involved in warmongering.

One issue, on which Deputy Gormley touched, but which has not been addressed in the debate is that of financing. This issue is dealt with in the amendment. There is no question of Ireland being put in a position to finance an EU operation that does not meet with our approval. I do not know if that is what Deputy Gormley intended to say, but if it is, I respectively point out that he was mistaken. That is not the case. That does not and will not happen under these arrangements. In approaching the financial issue, I draw attention to the general principle, which is reflected in the conclusions of successive European Councils, that participation in any form of [389]crisis management mission is voluntary. In the framework of financing, that has been agreed. Full respect has been maintained for the treaty provision that member states who choose to formally opt out from any operation will not be obliged to contribute to the financing of that operation. That is an important point. Ireland will participate in humanitarian crisis management missions and I do not believe any one would object to our doing so. That is where we find our true status as a nation and where we have gained such respect in the world. We will do so on a case by case basis and subject always to UN authorisation. We should not lose sight of the fact that the triplock arrangements are in place and will continue to be in place.

For the first time we are having the kind of debate on neutrality and what it means in this State, that we should have had during the past 40 to 50 years. That may be something we will address in the upcoming session in the forum, but we should be under no delusion that this formulation offered by the Green Party is in any way an improvement on the current arrangement. As Deputy Higgins said, it is not, and it is not for all the practical, pragmatic and realistic reasons he outlined.

The discussion we have had on this issue is the type of discussion we should have had over the years. It is healthy to disagree in a democracy, but we need to get our thinking clear on what we mean by neutrality. I do not believe it is a choice of impotent diplomacy, on the one hand, and militarism on the other as suggested by Deputy Michael D. Higgins. That is an equally false argument. It certainly would not be the view held on this side of the House nor do I think it would be the view of the vast majority of the Irish people. All we can do is determine our own destiny. In the upcoming referendum we are giving the people the opportunity of writing something into a Constitution which is silent on this issue. The electorate will have the opportunity to say “Yes” to an amendment which will give them the one guarantee they can count on – that given by a sovereign people to themselves in their fundamental law – that the Government cannot enter, now or in future, into any form of common defence without first putting it as a referendum to the people. This is remarkable progress and we should celebrate the fact that we are making such advances.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I thank the proposer of the amendment which gives us an opportunity to discuss this aspect of foreign policy that we have shied away from over the years. While I do not agree with his view in its entirety, I listened with great interest to my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, as he elaborated on that subject. The time has come for us to have a debate on neutrality and the longer the debate goes on the better. We should not denigrate one another but should seek a consensus once the debate is over.

My colleague, Deputy Gay Mitchell, may have [390]been misunderstood. He made a very interesting speech in the House today as he did last week in his Second Stage speech on the Bill. He pointed out the dangers that exist in a situation of neutrality because it is dependent on the extent to which the country has the resources to defend itself. If we go back to the 1930s there were a certain number of neutral countries throughout Europe, but, with one or two exceptions they did not fare very well when war came. There was very little respect for either their boundaries or citizens in time of war. The idea of neutrality is a fine one and I support the call to avoid war in all circumstances where it is possible. However, let us not forget that in the past 60 years when there was one particularly awful war in Europe those neutral nations were unable to prevent war taking place. I do not think anything can be achieved once there is an aggressor to voraciously plough ahead to achieve his objectives. I have studied the events of that era, but have yet to see how a policy of neutrality could have prevented the conflict given that there was an individual driving the warmongering.

I fully appreciate the reservations of Deputy Michael D. Higgins, and others, in regard to a breach of our established policy of neutrality. There is a grave danger in this era of modern technology that smaller neutral countries may find themselves vulnerable to attack from aggressors who have no regard for boundaries or policies of neutrality. What guarantees do we have? People may say Deputy Gay Mitchell is scaremongering, but I think he is being realistic. While we might not agree with what he is saying it is important that we listen to him as part of this debate. He proposed a scenario where a hijacked plane might head for a neutral country. To what extent would our neutrality protect us? I presume we would call on our neighbours, both within the EU and elsewhere, to assist us. Maybe they would and maybe they would not. We must live with the reality of such an event taking place. Gone are the days when Ireland was an insignificant country on the western shores of Europe with no meaningful role to play except to talk about things. We are now a more important location and we have an influential role and every time we opt out to return to the periphery it diminishes our importance, which is not in the national interest.

I would far prefer to be at the table influencing decisions on defence than to be outside the room and have others taking the decisions in my absence. That is a personal position with which not everybody may agree, but at least this country would have some opportunity to influence the decisions. If there was a negative outcome then it is true that we would be tarred with the brush of guilt along with the others who made the decision. In the past 150 years in Europe I have yet to see how neutrality served the purpose that was originally intended. My worry is that one's neutrality will not be respected by others. What will happen then? If there was an attack on these [391]shores we could not have a referendum to determine if we would defend ourselves. I presume some kind of action would be taken somewhere, that somebody would be inspired enough to call for help or for us to take action ourselves. We will have to have sufficient resources to be able to defend ourselves in such circumstances. If we do not, then to whom can we turn for help?

The Irish military authorities have for many years wished to be in a position to influence defence policy in Europe in a positive way.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  There are some NATO supporters in the Irish Army.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  No. That would not be a fair assumption at all. They wish to avail of the information available at first hand rather than to get a condensed version for the minions. They wish to be in an influential position. I have no reason to believe the Irish military authorities are warmongers. I have no reason to believe they will launch an attack on anybody. They have conducted themselves with great valour and are a credit to the nation on all the peacekeeping missions in which they have been involved over the past 50 or more years. We should not doubt their motives. They have very good reasons for wishing to be in the inner circle dictating policy. If that were the case, at least we would have the compensation of being able to say we tried to use our influence in a positive way for the benefit of all. They would also have the right to say, “We do not agree and will not proceed,” as have other European countries in the past.

I do not wish to go back over the Second World War again, which is what comes to most people's minds. Somebody mentioned Spandau, Dachau and various other places. I do not propose to discuss that area, but have no doubt that every Member of the House has studied European history very carefully, including its most recent history. It is beyond belief there are atrocities comparable to those that took place in the course of the Second World War, carried out by numerous, so-called civilised societies against each other. The inhumanity displayed during that era surely had no boundaries. Therefore, I do not for one moment accept the notion that other peaceful means could have been readily found at the time.

There comes a time in everyone's life when one has to stand up and be counted on one side or the other. With regard to European defence and security in the future, we must ask ourselves if it is reasonable to expect that we can be part and parcel of a Union, to which we contribute and from which we draw and to which we are committed in every way except in respect of defence, and expect that Union to look after all our interests in all eventualities for ever more. I am not so certain. It is a little like somebody saying he or she will avail of the cover of an umbrella but would like somebody else to carry it when the time comes to do so. I am not so sure that everybody [392]accepts that as being a fair commitment in terms of everybody accepting his or her responsibilities.

At least on this occasion we can air our views. One of the things we have not been able to do since I first came into this House is to have an adequate debate on this subject. Therefore, I look forward to a continuation of this debate. I have every confidence in the ability of every Member of this House to make a valid contribution based on his or her experience, knowledge and ideology. I have no reason to doubt that whatsoever. I hope there will be, in the course of what will follow on the referendum on the Nice treaty, an opportunity to further this debate.

I know it has been identified in some quarters that neutrality was a major issue in determining the outcome of the last referendum. I do not think so. It was an issue like many others, but it was not the major one that some would have me believe. For example, in respect of the 17% who voted “No,” one will find that many of them regarded neutrality as a major issue, but what about all the others who did not vote? What was the issue for them? Was it the same? I am not so certain. From what I am aware of, based on research done in this regard, that was not the case.

If this is sufficient to achieve a result in the Nice referendum, then I am for it. I am willing to make that sacrifice and help in any way I can. This was referred to by other speakers also, even though I do not necessarily agree with them. I hope we will not live to regret the issue of neutrality and the particular attachment in the amendment now being pursued. I hope we will not live to regret it in the short-term because we are all freely capable of coming to a conclusion without compulsion from any quarter. I hope events do not take place to cause us to regret any decision we might now make on neutrality.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I strongly support this amendment. I welcome the positive co-operation among the “No” campaigners in this debate. It is important that the democrats, particularly the progressive forces in Irish society, work closer together in the real interests of the people. On the “No” side, we welcome the proposal by Deputy Gay Mitchell and the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, to have a broader discussion on neutrality.

When we talk of neutrality and the desire to retain a strong, independent foreign policy and keep and develop our relationship with the United Nations, we do not mean sitting on the fence, whether in the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda. It is wrong to distort the key moral issues in this debate. Let us not forget the brave Irish people who gave their lives on UN missions working for peace, equality and justice in the world. They died in the interests of peace. They certainly did not sit on the fence. I challenge Deputy Gay Mitchell and other Deputies on this question. Yes, defence issues are important moral questions, as is expenditure on nuclear and [393]chemical weapons, particularly when people are hungry and without water.

The “Yes” side should not distort the main issues in this debate. People have every right to bring forward ideas that will reduce conflict in the world and stop the drift towards militarisation and war. These are the brave people who have risked their necks for world peace. I remind Deputy Gay Mitchell and many on the “No” side that those who died on the Rainbow Warrior, for example, did not sit on the fence. When a foreign EU government bombed their boat, these peace activists did more for world peace in a week than so-called EU warlords in nuclear clubs.

Let us consider East Timor and the role of the United Nations there. This is another example of where a strong mandate can be implemented. Let us call a spade a spade and let the people know there are Members in this House who now challenge world leaders who can spend a fortune on defence, yet when it comes to our fire or health service or a disability Bill, there is always a problem in getting the funding or keeping the public finances in order. It is typical that in recent days we could spend €1.5 million on a Minister's toilet, yet cannot afford a caretaker in many inner city schools. This is the type of everyday occurrence that ordinary people have to put up with and regarding which we have to listen to debates every day in the Dáil. Consider the fire officers of New York and London in recent days. Tony Blair and George Bush have a problem in finding the finance to pay them, yet they have absolutely no problem in spending millions getting ready for another war on Iraq. This nonsense from the major political parties must be challenged, particularly in the Dáil.

I welcome the fact that we now have a group of Members in this House who will not always go with the flow and will challenge the political elite in this country and also bring forward radical alternative proposals regarding important world issues, particularly important peace issues. That is the reason I support this excellent amendment from the Green Party. It is a strong, positive amendment which sends out a strong message to the people of Ireland, the European Union, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Above all, it shows vision for the future. I urge all Deputies to support it strongly.

I strongly endorse what Deputy Joe Higgins said in respect of one minute's silence for the victims of the massacre of 11 September in America. Like Deputy Higgins, we also send our sympathy to the people of Iraq and to the families of civilians in Afghanistan who have died over the past couple of months. Our foreign policy and the kind of views we put forward show that Ireland is on the side of the poor in the Third World and other regions and, as such, we are seen as a distinct country with a different view of the world.

The discussion on Irish neutrality, the Treaty of Nice and the Seville declarations has raised many questions. Many people are asking what legal status these declarations will have to which the [394]reply is none whatsoever. A declaration is a statement of intent and has no legally binding status. A declaration attached to a treaty does not alter the provisions of the treaty one iota. It is the treaty which becomes law if and when it is ratified. The Nice treaty is unchanged since its rejection by the Irish electorate in June 2001. The answer to whether these declarations mean the Government is really committed to Irish neutrality is, sadly, “No”. The Government defines Irish neutrality as Ireland not participating in a mutual defence pact – our not being automatically obliged to help defend another EU state under attack. We are not so obliged and nothing in the Nice treaty ever stated we would be. What it does confirm is that Irish participation in the European Rapid Reaction Force will operate up to 4,000 kilometres outside the borders of the EU. I stress the words “outside the borders of the EU”. This force will see Irish troops operating offensively not defensively – I have no problems with people defending their country – alongside troops from other EU countries and in co-operation with the nuclear armed NATO military alliance. This is the real world and the Minister of State should realise that these are the issues about which people are concerned. If this is not a breach of Irish neutrality, what is? That is what the Nice treaty entails and nothing in the declarations rules this out.

Inserting a guarantee of Irish neutrality into the Constitution would only help if it meant we would not participate in offensive operations outside the EU. The Government might introduce a constitutional amendment that ruled out Irish participation in defensive arrangements but that would allow it to send troops to fight outside the EU with the Rapid Reaction Force. That type of constitutional amendment would be irrelevant and useless.

On the point of whether the Government and the Dáil will hold veto power over when Ireland contributes to any particular operation of this EU military force, the Government can decide as it pleases. It has a Dáil majority so it can ensure parliamentary approval for anything it wants. The Government has already allowed US forces the use of Shannon Airport – Deputies will be aware of the protests there over the past couple of weeks. It has also allowed EU war planes to carry out exercises over our air space. The Government cannot be trusted to defend Irish neutrality. That is what people are saying. It has already shown that it will join up to military adventures when asked to do so. In the meantime, even before a particular operation comes up for discussion, Ireland will be involved in planning and purchasing equipment for this Rapid Reaction Force so our neutrality will be eroded before a shot is fired. That is the bottom line.

The Government says it will only commit Irish troops abroad when there is a UN mandate to do so. Do we trust it? The current Taoiseach said in 1996 that joining NATO's Partnership for Peace without a referendum would be a serious breach [395]of faith and fundamentally undemocratic. He then went along and signed us up for the PfP without the promised referendum. This shows what political promises and declarations are worth. In any event, a UN mandate is no guarantee of goodness – some 5,000 Iraqi children die every month as a result of UN mandated sanctions.

Those of us who hold strong views on supporting the United Nations are also critical that it does not do enough. We do not accept the proposition that Britain or America should be the police men and women of the world. That job belongs to the United Nations. If there are flaws in the United Nations, we should correct them and we should not allow America and other big countries to undermine its authority. The vast majority of Irish people have a strong regard for the United Nations. It is in our blood and our history to be international peace brokers, respecting different traditions and trying to take our place on the international stage.

There are people within the Defence Forces and PDFORRA who are strongly supportive of NATO. We do not, however, stand up to them. People within the leadership of the ICTU breach policy even though congress policy is to defend Irish neutrality and have independent foreign policy. There is nothing wrong with challenging these people; we have a moral duty to do so.

Questions of trust, neutrality and foreign policy are linked to this amendment. Many people who listened to the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, over the past number of weeks will note he has presented the “Yes” vote in a very dynamic way. If one looks at his record and comments in June 2001, he shared many of the reservations I have expressed today. I would like to quote from what the Minister had to say in this regard and perhaps he might clarify matters when responding to my queries. On 21 June 2001, Deputy Roche, in the Official Report, volume 538, columns 1058-61 stated:

It is foolhardy to talk about another referendum at this stage unless something fundamental changes. To attempt to rerun a referendum as a means of reversing the democratic decision taken by the people would be rightly regarded as an affront. Something fundamental will have to be changed in the Nice treaty before we can even contemplate putting it before the people again.

On 13 December 2000, Deputy John Bruton, then leader of Fine Gael, stated:

This is one of the weakest negotiating outcomes achieved by an Irish Government in a European forum since Ireland joined the Union . . .

I would like to remind Deputy Durkan of that one.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Will the Deputy give way?

[396]Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  The leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, stated:

It [Nice] was a disaster. I am confident that had the Rainbow Coalition been in Government this treaty would not have been accepted by us last weekend.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy Durkan has asked if the Deputy is agreeable to giving way to a question?

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  Yes.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Deputy McGrath indicated that it is right to challenge the opinions of the Defence Forces and trade unions but does he accept their right to an opinion? Does he accept Deputy Bruton's right to express his opinion also?

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  Yes.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Does he accept the necessity, to enable the debate to continue, to accept those opinions as valid?

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  The answer to the three questions posed by the Deputy is, “Yes”. I mentioned the ICTU and the Defence Forces earlier. I would be very concerned if a section of leadership within congress were breaching policy. I have a problem with the Defence Forces being very political and politicised. I have a genuine fear in that regard. Some of the statements made by the Defence Forces over the past couple of years in relation to NATO and European military forces are a little too political for my liking. I am a firm believer that the Dáil and democratic Government of this State should be the policy and decision makers. I respect all views and it is essential we hear them. As a democrat, I strongly support that view – I am a member of a group called Democrats Against Nice.

It is essential that people understand that there are people within this State who strongly believe Ireland should be a broker for peace. We strongly believe Ireland should be out there. In this regard, I think of families in the Lebanon and the Middle East who had a fantastic regard and respect for Irish soldiers on United Nations missions and how they won the respect of many different sides to that conflict. I thought of the presents I saw given by these Lebanese families, at the height of very negative and violent conditions, and how the Irish soldiers enjoyed the warmth and support of these people.

I support this amendment. I want us to look forward but try to capture the impartiality and respect we used to have. Many people genuinely fear that we are losing it. I heard the Tánaiste speaking of the Roman Empire and someone else talking of the British Empire and we are now talking about a European empire. I get very worried about that. In case people have not read their history books, empires do not work. The vast majority of EU citizens did not get a chance to [397]vote on this treaty. We are lucky to be given the chance to vote on it, even if the “Yes” parties did not accept the result of the last referendum. It is essential to have a wide-ranging debate on this issue.

I thank the Green Party for tabling this amendment and urge all Deputies to support it.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I support the spirit of what the Green Party is trying to achieve with this amendment. Essentially it seeks a legally binding commitment that this country will not, at any stage, join a military alliance of states. I will not vote for it but I will support any call for a division on it. I understand that it has been tabled to assist discussion, but it would allow for the ratification of the Treaty of Nice. There are many more problems with that treaty than the issues of militarisation and foreign policy. The amendment says Ireland will not prevent the development of closer co-operation between member states in the area of defence. We should be absolutely opposed to the military alliances that exist and those that are intended to be created in the future. I do not believe this State should stand aside and merely say it will not participate in, for example, common defence but will allow others to go ahead and make plans in that area. What is intended regarding the undoubted plans to militarise Europe has the most serious consequences for the future of the peoples of the continent and the future of the world.

It is very clear from the Nice treaty that it is the intention of the major powers to move to what is euphemistically called a common defence. That is a code for a military alliance between the major powers in particular and other countries as well. The annexes that accompanied the French Presidency report are quite detailed in the plans and propositions regarding the military structures which should be set up within the EU. The direction and thrust of the major EU states is crystal clear. The Presidency report on the European security and defence policy includes:

to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises, the European Union will be able to carry out the full range of Petersberg tasks as defined in the Treaty on European Union: humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management.

What does “tasks of combat forces in crisis management” mean? The same annex states: “The main challenge for member states is to develop military capabilities which can be put at the disposal of the EU for crisis management purposes. The aim is to mobilise member states' efforts in this sphere.” It is very clear that a very broad mandate is being put in place allowing the military powers in the EU to come together. Various tasks are euphemistically referred to without spelling out that crisis management can mean that [398]the EU will, at a certain stage, throw its weight into the internal affairs of countries outside the EU when it suits the economic or political policy of the Union.

The plans for the military structures which are already being set up within the EU are particularly alarming. These are very clearly spelled out in the French Presidency report. These structures are not suddenly appearing now, they have been developed over a period of time to a stage where they are now at a fairly high level of sophistication. The annex says:

As provided in the Helsinki report, the European Union Military Committee – EUMC –, established within the Council, is composed of the Chiefs of Defence – CHODs – represented by their military representatives. The EUMC meets at the level of CHODs as and when necessary. This committee gives military advice and makes recommendations to the Political and Security Committee, as well as provides military direction to the European Union Military Staff . . . The EUMC is the highest military body established within the Council.

The Nice treaty gives a treaty basis to the political and security committee to direct a policy with regard to the common foreign and defence policy. Here we have a sophisticated political and military structure allowing the EU to act as a military force outside its borders. That vindicates the point I have often made that the real intention of the EU, especially the bigger powers, is to see themselves as both a partner and a rival to the United States in world political, economic, military and diplomatic spheres.

It is common knowledge that many people in Brussels get quite annoyed that the financial supports the EU gives to various sections in the Middle East does not garner it the same diplomatic clout as the United States because it is perceived as not having a coherent military structure. We have a responsibility to be quite clear on what is intended. We should take a strong stand against any development which would see the EU developing like the United States of America whose foreign policy has had a disastrous effect on the peoples of the world.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I am reluctant to intervene but the principles of the Bill have already been debated on Second Stage. On Committee Stage, Deputies should address the amendments before them, not make Second Stage speeches.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I am the only person to be offered that advice by the Chair although Deputies ranged quite widely.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair will offer such advice generously, if necessary.

[399]Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I am specifically addressing the motion and am arguing why I could not agree with the phrase that “This State will not prevent the development of closer co-operation of member states in the area of common defence.” I am not dwelling too long on this point. The world stands on the brink of a war led by the United States on the people of Iraq. We do not want to set up another massive capitalist economic power with a military wing which will adopt a similar role in world affairs in the future. The other reason for opposing so-called common defence is the provision in the Nice treaty that the progressive framing of a common defence policy will be supported, as member states consider appropriate, by co-operation between them in the field of armaments. Allowing a common defence to proceed would give moral consent to the armaments industry in the EU. This industry is not widely publicised or discussed in the mass media but its production of obscene weapons of mass destruction annually within the EU amounts to an incredible €55,000 million. Common defence allows the development of that type of Europe, even if Ireland is not direct participating in such defence. The interests of the people of Europe and the world demand that we absolutely oppose the armaments industry and call for its end in Europe and elsewhere. The huge resources criminally wasted in the production of arms should be diverted instead to the well-being of humanity and the transformation of the world in which we live.

The declaration on so-called neutrality which accompanies the Nice treaty is a sham. It provides that the Irish people would have to vote on a formal proposal to enter a military alliance but, in reality, successive Governments, including the present one, have acted and act as if they were not neutral and were part of an alliance. If the United States and Britain start to drop bombs on Iraq, will the Government again make facilities at Shannon available for war planes to refuel and assist them in other ways? These are not the actions of a state which takes neutrality seriously.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should address his remarks to the amendment.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I believe I have complied with that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is well outside the parameters of Committee Stage.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The amendment proposes a procedure which would allow a certain course of action to be adopted by the State. I should be allowed to enumerate arguments as to why this would be unacceptable.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  There is no difficulty if the Deputy stays within the parameters of the amendment before the House.

[400]Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I have done that but everyone who participated in the debate so far has mentioned this point and the related issues of neutrality and military policy. I was doing likewise.

Tuigim spiorad an leasuithe seo atá thíos ag an Chomhaontas Glas ach tá mé ina aghaidh i ndáiríre mar cuireann sé gnó an chonartha Nice ar aghaidh. Ar ndóigh seasfaidh mé leo más rud é go gcuirfear vótáil sa Tigh.

Baineann an leasú seo le polasaí slándála agus cosanta na hEorpa agus tá sé thar a bheith tromchúiseach go bhfuil muid i lathair na huaire ag tabhairt aghaidhe ar an rud go bhfuil coistí polaitíochta agus slándála agus coistí míleata suite i mBruiséil ag déanamh bainistíochta ar pholasaí mhíleata de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh agus tá an tír seo páirteach ann. Ní dóigh liom go dteastaíonn ó fhormhór mhuintir na tíre seo dul síos an bóthar sin agus dá bhrí sin ba cheart go gcuirfeadh an Stát seo in aghaidh na straitéise atá cinnte ag cumhachtaí móra an AE – a bheith mar aonad mór eacnamaíochta agus ansin arm Eorpach a chur ar bun chun tacú leis an aonad eacnamaíochta úd.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  When my colleague, Deputy Gormley, moved this amendment three hours ago we did not realise that it would excite so much comment. I welcome the opportunity to respond to the debate.

The amendment is an attempt to give Irish constitutional form to the protocol secured by Denmark on the Treaty of Amsterdam. This was promised to Denmark because of its refusal to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. It is worth noting the similarities and highlighting the differences between Ireland and Denmark which are nations of similar size and population. Denmark is somewhat smaller geographically but is similar in its rural-urban make-up. It is also quite similar spatially since much of the population lives around its capital city and the rest is diversely spread throughout the countryside. Ireland and Denmark have much in common. Denmark is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and, in securing the protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam, it sought to have nothing to do with the Western European Union. We believe that, likewise, Ireland should have nothing to do with the Western European Union. However, we are also of the opinion that the country should have nothing to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We believe in a policy of active neutrality and have campaigned for the putting in place of legislative and, more important, constitutional measures that will help protect what is commonly perceived and accepted as a positive policy of neutrality in this country. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the measures proposed by the Government in the Bill will help us to achieve this.

I welcome the tone and content of Deputy Michael D. Higgins' contribution, which represents a vast improvement on much of what was said on Second Stage. The word “neutrality” is [401]not mentioned in the Schedule, which leaves open so many doors for Ireland's participation in military alliances and conflicts which do not have a European Union context. Under the current wording, we could quite easily join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and we would not need to have recourse to any vote of the people to allow us to do so. As neutrality seems to be the love that dare not speak its name in respect of the Constitution, we cannot accept what the Government is proposing. It is on those grounds we put forward the amendment.

Other Members highlighted the economic cost involved in and even the necessity of having a military outlook towards defending the European Union, in the first instance, and then Ireland as a nation. There are obvious questions which arise in terms of from whom we need to defend ourselves and the context in which such a defence would be required. These are perhaps pertinent queries today, when we are celebrating the anniversary of an horrific act of international terrorism. I do not believe that the ferocity of hatred and zealousness which inspired the 11 September attacks on New York could be directed towards this country, particularly in light of the way we practised our foreign policy in the past. The effects of that type of hatred have shown themselves in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the United States with, for example, the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan. Are we not in a position to accept that what happened on that day and the subsequent events affected the most powerful political, economic and military nation in the world? America is a country which is armed to the teeth and has always believed itself to be prepared for any eventuality. When the time came, however, everyone witnessed what happened at the World Trade Centre.

I cannot accept the arguments put forward by Deputies Mitchell and Durkan that we need, similarly, to engage in an exercise in purchasing for ourselves a military expertise or might that will protect us from unforeseen circumstances which cannot be explained or envisaged. An active foreign policy that promotes Ireland in a positive light is our best protection. We need to pursue a policy of “jaw-jaw” instead of “war-war”.

Our other objections to what the Government is proposing – which we are trying to change by means of our amendment – revolve around the fact that anything that has already been agreed and has compromised our position as a neutral nation is having an ongoing effect. United States' military aircraft and personnel are still in a position to use Shannon Airport, we are still participating in the Partnership for Peace and we can still become involved in a rapid reaction force, albeit agreed through the Treaty of Amsterdam. We are committed, in economic terms, to ensure that we have an inter-operability with the defence forces of other nations that are involved in those arrangements. I do not believe it is honest to state [402]that the expense only arises as and when we decide to become involved in a particular operation. Those expenses occur on an ongoing basis and they result in our having to make choices now with regard to what are our capital expenditure priorities and how these are going to affect other areas of crucial public expenditure. By committing ourselves to such military bodies, we are compromising what we can do in the health service, in the education sector and in other social areas. The effect will be quite marked.

Comments have been made about the effect of foreign direct investment. Deputy Higgins made a fine point about such investment, namely, that we need to recognise that most of it comes from a particular source – the United States. Is our need for such investment predicated on engaging in unquestioning support, in terms of our foreign policy, for the Government of that country and its actions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The point I made to Deputy Higgins is also relevant to Deputy Boyle. In my opinion, we are moving away from the substance of the amendment before us.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Like Deputy Higgins, I have only a few of short points to make.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Yes, but it is important that we try to remain within the terms of the Standing Order.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I was merely attempting to respond to points that have already been made in the debate on Committee Stage. I am referring to comments that were made earlier.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  That is the problem, a Cheann Comhairle. Everyone else was able to make their points without being hindered.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I will conclude on the point relating to foreign investment. In my view, the points made earlier by the Minister about foreign direct investment being scared off if we do not behave or vote in the correct way merely undermines our right as a nation to plot our own course in the world and act in a way we believe might influence international behaviour. For these reasons, our amendment is well argued and should be accepted as a preferable option to the proposals the Government has put forward in the Bill.

I am sorry Deputy Joe Higgins does not feel able to support the amendment. I wish to explain to him that it is put forward in the context of being one of several measures we would like to see changed in the Bill. It will be the totality of the views of Members of the House in considering our amendment which will determine whether we will accept the vote at the end of the day. On those grounds, perhaps the Deputy might reconsider whether he will support the amendments we are putting forward.

[403]Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Deputy Boyle explained that since the amendment was moved we have listened to a number of quite interesting contributions. This is the only real opportunity we have to debate issues in the House because the Second Stage debate is often a set-piece during which Members read from scripts. I will now respond to some of the issues raised since I moved the amendment.

Deputy Mitchell argued that, for example, the amendment would not prevent an attack on Ireland and that we would have no defence if terrorists hijacked a plane and used it attack this country. The United States has the best resourced intelligence service and military forces and is the most powerful nation in the world, but it could not prevent the attack on the Twin Towers. The Deputy claimed that neutrality would not help us in the event of an attack but I am stating that his arguments in relation to it – I am trying to adhere as rigidly as possible to the substance of the amendment – are completely and utterly false. By playing a role in the world and, as Deputy Higgins stated, engaging in diplomacy, I believe we could solve a number of major problems. Bombing Afghanistan, as America opted to do, has not solved matters. By playing a positive diplomatic role and solving the difficulties in the Middle East by stating that we mean business in terms of resolving the impasse in Palestine, we could possibly bring an end to our troubles. Deputy Mitchell's argument is extraordinary. He used the word “extraordinary” approximately five times in his contribution, but I will not repeat that particular feat.

The Deputy then referred to Srebrenica. How would the amendment provide assistance in respect of that city and what happened there? It is instructive to look at what actually happened at Srebrenica rather than just referring casually to it. There seems to be an idea that a mention of Srebrenica will deflate all arguments on neutrality. That is simply not the case. What happened was that the Dutch, in particular, did not play their role effectively and the French general who was asked to bring in air strikes refused to do so. That was the crucial difference. Two members of NATO, the Dutch and the French, contributed to the terrible massacre which occurred at Srebrenica. On that basis, I argue that bringing Srebrenica into this debate is entirely a red herring.

Other issues have been raised. I have great regard and respect for Deputy Joe Higgins who referred to his party's amendment in relation to neutrality. However, there is no specific mention of neutrality in the Government's amendment, nor is there any specific mention of a UN mandate. The Minister of State should tell the House why. I have asked him a number of questions already and I am still awaiting answers. Why are we referred to as a former neutral by NATO countries? Why do the Finns and the Swedes no longer refer to themselves as neutral but as non aligned? [404]I expect answers from the Minister of State to those questions. Why is there no mention of a UN mandate? The reason is, very simply – and I regret being so cynical about this – that the Government wishes to have it in legislation, rather than in the Constitution, so that it can be changed at the stroke of a pen. That has been done many times in the past, as in the case of the Referendum Commission. With the greatest respect to Deputy Higgins, I hope he appreciates the possibility that governments may act in that way and that, at some future time, they will do so. On the rapid reaction force, there is no need to have a UN mandate. That is the factual position and, in this debate, we have not had answers to these very specific problems.

The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, has spoken of a changed context. The context has not changed and that is why we have put forward this amendment. The Seville declaration did not change any context. The only change is that Deputy Roche is now a Minister of State. Now that he has got his ministerial merc and the other perks of office, there is an about turn. Suddenly, it is no longer an affront to democracy to have a second referendum – it is now quite acceptable. That is why I have felt compelled to accuse him of hypocrisy. It is blatant hypocrisy on his part to push this referendum at the Irish people for a second time.

I ask the Government to consider my party's amendment which carefully addresses the function of the European rapid reaction force. The Minister of State has referred to common or mutual defence. What is really at issue with the rapid reaction force is mutual offence, operating outside of EU borders. Common or mutual defence is an antiquated notion at this stage. It is part of the old NATO architecture. NATO, as I know from my visit to its headquarters more than a year ago, is trying to modernise. It recognised that it had to revise its structures and it did so by incorporating the Partnership for Peace. The Partnership for Peace saved NATO and we are now members of it. The notion of common defence is a redundant concept at this stage. There is now a completely different security architecture in which mutual offence is the by-word.

For all those reasons, this House ought to accept the Green Party amendment which, as Deputy Boyle has said, is part of a package which will safeguard Irish neutrality and ensure that we will not have to pay for weapons of mass destruction – the term now being bandied about so frequently by President George Bush. There is no doubt that we are now part of a European rapid reaction force with nuclear capability. Britain, France and other EU countries have nuclear capability. Deputy Durkan's argument that it is preferable to be at the table to decide on these issues is quite bizarre. It would be an equally good argument for joining Fianna Fáil in order to make them good and to ensure they make the right decisions. At some point, one has to make [405]a decision that one will not be part of something that one does not wish to touch with a barge pole. That is how I and my party feel about the European Rapid Reaction Force and that is why we have put forward this amendment.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  In making my short contribution, I hope to avoid repeating arguments which have been made already. Not being a legal constitutional expert, I am not sure whether certain clauses at the start of Article 29 have greater force than others. In a sense, the first two sections in Article 29 encapsulate the intention of my party's amendment. I argue that our amendment is closer to the spirit of the Constitution than the alternative which the Government is offering. In those first two sections of Article 29, Ireland “reaffirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations, founded on international justice and morality” and “affirms its adherence to the principle of pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination”. I submit that what the Government is proposing is, in spirit if not in legal technical terms, in breach of those two statements.

One of the main reasons for the defeat of the first referendum on the Nice treaty was that the Irish people still adhere to the sense of the first two sections of Article 29. They genuinely believe the best way forward in international dispute resolution is through international arbitration and judicial determination, not through the creation of rapid reaction forces which can never be neutral or uninfluenced by issues of material or political gain for one country over another. That is at the core of the Green Party amendment and was also at the core of the rejection of the previous referendum. The people have realised the direction the Union is taking and that the Nice treaty is one of a series of treaties bringing this country in that direction. The people do not wish to go in that direction in this specific area.

Given the much quoted comments of the Minister of State that the treaty would have to be changed significantly, it is incredible that the Government did not follow the Danish example by seeking a change in the treaty or, if that was not possible, a commitment such as the Danes received that the position would be changed in the next subsequent treaty. That solution is the essence of our amendment. We have a further amendment which takes out the requirement for a protocol in the treaty or in a subsequent treaty and keeps the essence of the commitment we are seeking in our own Constitution.

It may still be possible under the Treaty of Nice conditions that such a common defence pact would have to take account of our constitutional requirements. That may become a legal debate but at least it could be something we could hold as a line. The amendments proposed by the Government and the Labour Party miss the main point. We do not object to a common defence – we would come to our neighbour's aid. Rather, [406]we object to a common offence which, as Deputy Gormley said, involves activities outside the European Union countries. These are two simple points but they bear repeating. I support this amendment because it is closer to the intentions of the Irish people and the framers of our Constitution and I hope all parties in this House share its sentiments. Indeed I know many members of Deputy Roche's own party do, although they cannot say so publicly. This referendum is not about party politics. It is about individuals saying what type of country they want and what its role should be in international affairs. I hope the Minister of State bears this in mind and does not forget his own people and where they stand.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  This is a minor housekeeping exercise which may be dealt with on Report Stage, so I will keep it brief so as not to take from other Members' speaking time.

As we debated this Bill, I asked why it was entitled the Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002. Perhaps it is because I am a conservative in constitutional matters, but I would have thought it was the 24th amendment of the Constitution, albeit the 26th attempt at amending it. Perhaps that could be explained at a later stage.

In relation to the wording of the amendment, the Irish translation from the English text has been faithful but it states “Ní bhíonn Éire páirteach”, whereas, it should probably read “Ní bheidh Éire páirteach”. Similarly, in the English text, it should probably state “Ireland shall not”, because what it purports to change, in relation to the legislation, is in the future tense. That is a minor editing point which can be handled later.

In reply to two small points that have been raised – and I accept there is a difference in interpretation – following from Deputy Eamon Ryan's point relating to Article 29 in which he correctly quoted sections 1 and 2, one could also argue that it behoves one – the principles having been stated that constitute the peaceful settlement of disputes – to define what one means by neutrality. That is what motivated the choice of the Labour Party. Having accepted the spirit of Articles 29.1 and 29.2, it was considered preferable to define what one meant in terms of a practical venture from out of the Constitution which is why it is defined in terms of military and defence matters.

It is also interesting to note that while the amendment accepts the principle of not interfering with other states' exercise of co-operation, it is in that sense accepting autonomous versions of sovereignty. In the later amendments, which are not entirely consistent with it, a different version of sovereignty is sought, because it exercises sovereignty in the later sections to seek to curtail the exercise of other states' right to co-operate. In fairness, the amendment on which we differ is consistent – being the one the Green Party tabled on the last occasion and on which it has developed its arguments.

[407]In relation to the issue of UN established forces there is a real difficulty. We need to consider whether we should solve the matter in terms of constitutional reference or in relation to amendment of the Defence Act. Replies to parliamentary questions on this precise point are less than satisfactory in this regard. There is some confusion as to what is a “force established by the United Nations”, what is a “force established with the authority of the United Nations” and what is “action taken in the spirit of the United Nations”? It should be judged entirely in terms of the discussion, to which I referred earlier, about the ambiguity and the need for transparency in how these textual references are used. They are not the same. Again, one must return to previous arguments made in the discussion about the Petersberg Tasks.

The attitude of the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations and their possession of a veto means there are particular tasks which the refusal of enabling action from the Security Council might prevent but which human rights requirements might demand. Why, for example, has there been such morally intolerable silence about what is taking place in Chechnya? The answer is that with a Russian veto on the Security Council, they will not discuss Chechnya. Likewise, with the Chinese veto, they will not discuss Tibet and with the US veto, they will not discuss prisoners in the US and so it rolls on. One must take account of that. Therefore, on balance, the appropriate route to take is that of amending legislation. However, in fairness to those participating in the debate, there should be some response from the Government to say what accompanying changes it envisages to the Defence Act because amendment is necessary.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  On a point of order, before the Minister of State replies, I respectfully ask him to directly answer the questions—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a point of order. The Deputy made his contribution and I call the Minister of State.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Although the debate was valuable, we have not progressed the argument over the past hour and a half. The first fundamental point, made by myself and Deputy Michael D. Higgins, is that the protocol arrangement which is proposed in this amendment is not just inoperable, it is inappropriate and is far weaker than that proposed. As Deputy Higgins said in his final contribution, it is far better to write these issues into our Constitution. He also pointed out that we are trying to deal with our sovereignty rather than trying to impose it on anyone else. He spoke of a future reference to one of the other Green Party amendments which I hope we will reach.

Deputy Finian McGrath seems to think that political debate is about assertion. He suggested that Irish troops are now to be involved in offen[408]sive operations. I have no idea where he got that idea from because it is simply untruthful. It ill behoves any Member of this House to make assertions which are simply not true. Perhaps I misheard the Deputy and, if so, I apologise but I am fairly clear that is what he said. The Deputy also ignored any reference to the issue before us which is the type of phrasing we want to put into the Constitution.

Deputy Joe Higgins' contribution was interesting because, in contradicting the contributions from the Green Party Members, he recognised the significance of the phrase “common defence” and his understanding of that phrase is in concurrence with mine. The Government proposes to insert that particular set of words, which have a specific focus, into the Constitution and by so doing will give the Irish people the best guarantee they can have. Returning again to the point made by Deputy Higgins in his contribution, if one examines Articles 29.1 and 29.2, it clearly follows that this is the appropriate way to move forward.

Deputy Boyle referred to a protocol and to the Danish situation. With all respect, there is a difference between the situation now and the situation in which the Danes found themselves after the Maastricht treaty. The reason a protocol is not appropriate now is that we are not trying to take something out or to move away from something that is in the Treaty of Nice. There is nothing in this regard in the treaty of Nice so the concept of using a protocol as the Danes used it with regard to the Maastricht treaty, and got it adhered to following the Edinburgh Council and put into the Amsterdam treaty, is inappropriate. It is not the appropriate way to move and there is no logic in making that parallel. Deputy Boyle may nod all he wants but if he says with as much vigour as he can that this is Christmas Eve, it is still not Christmas Eve. The reality is that there is nothing in the treaty that would be taken out or deferred from by way of a protocol.

In deference to the Ceann Comhairle's judgment I simply make a reference that Deputy Boyle is off mark on foreign direct investment but I have already dealt with that.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Will the Minister take a question on that?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy will have an opportunity to come back on that if he wishes.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I made my contribution on the issue of FDI on Second Stage. The Deputy is wrong and everybody who has created a job in this country would disagree with him. The Deputy has a right to his own opinion—

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Thank you.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  —but if he looks at people, like those in the Chambers of Commerce or all the business people in the Cork area who have [409]recently been mentioned in the Irish Examiner, he will see they have created jobs whereas he has not. They have some experience in the matter.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Has the Minister read the IDA report?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  If the Deputy has a look at what the IDA itself says, he will see he is wrong. If we were to take the advice of Deputy Boyle, who is playing with fire in this regard, we would lose many more jobs. We would be placing ourselves in a peripheral position in Europe. As The Economist's intelligence unit said we would create question marks about where we stand and we would make things extremely difficult.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  The Government is creating question marks and has done a fine job of ruining things.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputies are wandering away from the amendment.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  We are. One other issue that has struck me is that one of the parties who argued long and hard on the issue of neutrality, Sinn Féin, is not here throughout this entire part of the debate. That is reprehensible because we all remember in the last referendum campaign that party's attacks and complaints about militarism. I would have expected Sinn Féin members to be here if they had something to say on the issue. I give credit to the Members from the Green Party who have been present for the past three hours and to Deputy Finian McGrath, with whom I disagree, and Deputy Joe Higgins who are here and making a contribution. I find it astonishing that a political party that made such a big issue of this last time out does not even bother to sit in the Chamber.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I think they walked out.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  In recent times Deputy Gormley has sadly departed from his normal gentlemanliness to using abuse and personal invective to deal with things.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I am learning from the Minister.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Deputy Gormley asked specific questions about the Finns and the Swedes. It is up to them to decide what is right and appropriate for Finland and Sweden. It is not up to us to decide for them. The interesting point which illustrates—

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I was not suggesting that.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Well it is of interest regarding the Deputy's attitude. The Finns have always used the term non-aligned. The Swedes too are [410]interesting and I had an interesting discussion with the present administration of Sweden as to why they have used the word “non-aligned” as opposed to neutral. The interesting point is that their argument asks the question – neutral against what? That is what determines their attitude. They have also argued that “non-aligned” is a more accurate description of where they are at.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  And where we are.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  We go back to the outset of this debate. The Deputy said that reference to Srebrenica had nothing to do with this debate. Unfortunately it does if we are discussing what we mean by neutrality. I have always taken the view that it is difficult to be neutral in the absolutist sense. Faced with a great good or a great evil I am not sure what the Deputy would choose but I would choose good rather than evil.

The Deputy mentioned the specific issue of Srebrenica, and it was raised by several people. It illustrates something interesting. It confronts us with the issue of the impotency of a number of institutions we have always had as touchstones, including the United Nations. The operation that broke down there was a UN operation. I am not sure who did or did not give the orders but I have read the facts in recent material.

The key issue here is how we deal with the issue. We all agree that our neutrality was an issue in the last referendum. It was dealt with and it is one of the issues to which the Government has responded specifically. We did negotiate the Seville Accords. It can be argued that these contributions by 15 member states and by ten applicant countries are of no significance. I would disagree because I believe that a solemn, political undertaking given by a group of nations has significance. I have not reached the Deputy's point of cynicism yet. Even if the Deputy is right, what we are doing today and when we give the people the choice when they vote in the referendum is that for the first time in our history we are writing into the Constitution a specific prohibition to any Government to enter into a common defence without first having a referendum of the people.

As Deputy Michael D. Higgins as pointed out, that is the most appropriate way of achieving that desire. I hoped that people who seriously cared about the neutrality of this nation would have seen that as a major and progressive step forward. There was a good deal of debate. This was not a set of phrases plucked out of the air. The context has changed dramatically because for the first time the people will be able to put into the Constitution the only kind of guarantee that really counts – the guarantee by the sovereign people to the sovereign people in perpetuity that no Government can enter into a common defence without their prior approval in a referendum. That is significant progress.

[411]Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I will be brief as I do not wish to prolong this. My colleague, Deputy Eamon Ryan, made an important point regarding Srebrenica. It is not a case of a “do nothing” attitude. We have supported, as can be seen from the voting record, UN action in East Timor and other countries and we supported UN action in Yugoslavia. An analysis of what actually happened reveals clearly that the fault lay with the Dutch who behaved in a disgraceful way. There is no way we would condone that sort of cowardice. Ours is not a “do nothing” attitude. We are talking about a constructive neutrality.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I am sorry, but I was not saying that it was.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  This is the impression that was being created. When confronted by a great evil what does one do? I and my colleagues say we do something. In regard to the question of what is going into the Constitution I have asked a direct question. Why is there no mention of neutrality? The Minister says that he wants to use the word “neutrality” and not the concept “non-aligned”, which is more accurate. Why is it not put into the Constitution?

The Minister's colleague, Deputy Cowen, talks constantly about the UN mandate. Why is that not put into the Constitution if it is so important. The Minister has failed to answer those two fundamental questions because he does not have the answers. This amendment is a piece of fluff, a way of pulling wool over people's eyes. As this debate progresses in the coming weeks and members of my party discuss these issues on television and radio with the Minister of State, the true extent of this deception will be revealed. The Government's proposal will be defeated on that basis.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Many people would have been much happier if the common defence question had been spelt out much more clearly. The overwhelming majority of people in this State would prefer if we did not support the attempts of the big powers to coalesce, pool their armaments and use their military and economic might to malignly influence economic conditions in poorer countries. It would be far better to respect the opposition of the majority of the people, which was one reason the treaty was rejected last year. I do not believe that the section of the Bill that the Government is putting to the people goes far enough in respect of common defence. The implication is that the country will stand outside such an alliance, but will do nothing to stop the undoubted thrust of powerful EU states in the direction of militarisation.

Today is 11 September and today, of all days, this issue should stand clarified in people's minds. The horror inflicted in New York a year ago resulted directly from the manner in which the major powers used and abused their power and armaments for decades in pursuit of economic goals and the maximisation of the super profits of [412]their major corporations. It is twisted logic, therefore, that such a horror was visited on thousands of innocent Americans.

Many of us are disturbed that the media here and throughout Europe stopped still today to mark the first anniversary of 11 September 2001. While we were shocked by the horror and unspeakable anguish suffered on that date, and endured to this day by many, we feel strongly that it is criminally negligent that the suffering of hundreds of thousands of poor people in the Third World as a result of the actions of the western powers is dismissed as nothing. Their plight does not receive acres of newspaper space and hours of television time. As we prepared to stand in the House today to honour thousands of last year's innocent victims, I insisted that we should remember the innocent victims of the great powers, whose suffering is equally real.

Deputy Gay Mitchell attacked the Green Party and others for advocating the United Nations deal with security matters, as opposed to an EU military force. I disagree in that respect with my colleagues in the Green Party and Deputy Higgins of the Labour Party, with whom I agree on many international issues. I do not believe that the United Nations, as presently constituted, is an organisation which we can trust to defend the civil rights of the world's poor or to stand for the type of world where justice is implemented in the economic, social and political spheres. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council contain some gross violators of human and civil rights. Russia has played a monstrous role in crushing the people of Chechnya. China routinely smashes all opposition within its borders, including that of free trade unions and minority religions. I do not believe we should look to such countries as an alternative to the European Union.

The horror of 11 September 2001 would be unthinkable in a world in which economic management and political structures are transformed to the extent that people no longer feel they have to visit horrific destruction on others. The €55 billion wasted on armaments each year in the European Union, as well as the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted by the United States and others on the armaments of destruction each year, should be directed to transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of poor and impoverished people. If other massive resources, such as the energies of thousands of scientists and others playing ancillary roles in the armaments industry, were diverted to eradicating the problems of poverty, hunger, sanitation and conflict, there would be no al-Qaeda and no dictatorships. We would have a transformed world. Why do people not talk about taking such measures as a solution to some of the world's problems? Resolving such problems involves shifting power democratically from multinational corporations to ordinary people. These issues need to be addressed radically.

[413]An unfortunate tragedy for the people of the United States is that the organisation which carried out the atrocities on this day last year was called into being by the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia when the jihad was declared in Afghanistan. Fanatics were called from all over the Muslim world to be armed and trained by the countries I have mentioned, with dire consequences for the people of New York, Algeria and other places where the horror campaign was pursued. The issues we are discussing should be dealt with in a more radical way, rather than tip-toeing around with a structure here and a structure there, a solution too often suggested in this debate.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I have addressed most of the issues. We would all favour a better world if such a thing were possible. In response to Deputy Gormley's most recent contribution, I point out that the issue of neutrality is addressed in amendment No. 7 in his name. We are not discussing that amendment at this stage.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I asked the reason neutrality is not addressed in the Government amendment.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I will answer that when we get to amendment No. 7, but suggest to the Deputy that it may be a good idea for us to think more precisely about what we mean by the word “neutrality”. The Green Party has not suggested a definition.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  How does the Minister of State know that?

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  If we have learned anything from our recent constitutional history, it is the danger of importing terms not precisely defined.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  What did the Heads of Government agree to if it was not a definition of neutrality?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Does the Minister of State have a definition?

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  We all have an intuitive understanding of what we mean by neutrality, but we do not have anything like an appropriate definition. The term “military neutrality” has been sneered at—

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  What was agreed to in Seville?

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  —by Deputy Gormley. Perhaps he will tell us if Ireland is neutral in the face of international terrorism. Obviously not. Are we neutral when it comes to a choice between good and evil? Obviously not. Were we ideologically neutral during the Cold War? Clearly not. We have to use words with precision when we introduce them into the—

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  It was the Government which introduced them.

[414]Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  This is a dialogue of the deaf. I was asked a question and I am answering, but on each occasion when I answer there is an harangue.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Minister of State is going in circles.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  There is no point in continuing in this manner because we owe it to ourselves to listen. When we import terms into the Constitution, we must be clear what we mean by them. The issue is not as well defined as Deputies would strive to suggest to the people. They can sneer and snigger, but they will avoid defining precisely what they mean every time. Every time the question is asked they will slither away from the answer, they will have another question. The question, however, must be answered before we put this into the Constitution. That is the reason the constitutional amendment as it is framed is superior in every regard to this loose formulation which the Green Party would have us introduce, a formulation which would end up being determined, not by the Irish people, but in court.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  This is incredible. There is now a Seville declaration to protect neutrality that the Minister of State says he cannot define properly but about which he has an intuition. I do not know where he is going with this, but he is tying himself in knots.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I will not allow the Deputy to do what he always tries to do. We have a precise formulation in the phrase which will be put to the people. The Deputy is trying to suggest, and anyone with any sense—

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Minister of State said he had an intuition.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  —will see this, that we should go back to what the Danes did in the Maastricht treaty. What they did is of no relevance whatsoever to the situation in which we now find ourselves. We are offering the people in this amendment the best guarantee they can possibly have – their own guarantee. As Deputy Michael Higgins said, it is the appropriate guarantee because it is written into the Constitution. If that could be improved, fine, the Deputy should come forward with an improvement, but the suggestion that there is some magic solution is not good enough.

The people must be offered certainty, they must be offered something relevant. What the Deputy has been suggesting for the last three hours is not just inoperable, it is also inappropriate. The suggestion that we should import what the Danes did way back in the Maastricht treaty is irrelevant in this situation. The suggestion that we could insert a protocol removing ourselves from something that is not in the treaty is not only irrelevant, it would also be dishonest to put such a proposition to the people. We must come into this House and honestly deal with the situation that faces us. To suggest that something that [415]was relevant in the Maastricht treaty is relevant now is not honest and not an appropriate response to where we find ourselves. To suggest that we can put words that we do not properly define into the Constitution is not truthful and a service to the people.

We are offering in this amendment the first opportunity the people will have to write into the Constitution a guarantee given by themselves to all generations of Irish people to come that no Government can enter the issue of common defence without a referendum. That is remarkable progress. The Deputies may wish to dismiss it, they may wish to slither away from the reality that they must defend what they are trying to do, but, as has been pointed out repeatedly, the proposition they are taking has no relevance. The concept that what the Danes did in the Maastricht treaty is a precedent is not just inaccurate, it is also irrelevant. The Danes were trying to exclude themselves from an undertaking they had given in the Maastricht treaty which they could not operate any further. That is the reason it was appropriate for them to go for a protocol at the time. That is not an appropriate way for us to address this issue. The situation was addressed clearly by Deputy Michael Higgins when he pointed out the reason this is the appropriate way to approach the issue.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  We have a practical choice here. The Government is committed to maintaining a force of 850 troops for use in UN peacekeeping missions, where we have an extremely honourable record. It has now also committed 850 troops to a European rapid reaction force which would operate under the Petersberg Tasks. It is clear the Defence Forces cannot maintain two such military units and we must make a choice as to where we allocate our resources. With the exceptions of the IBEC and Cork Chamber of Commerce cumainn, all Fianna Fáil cumainn would say – in the honourable tradition of the Minister of State's party – that they want the Defence Forces to wear the UN helmet and not operate under an EU force. That is the decision that the Government must take when it votes on this amendment.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The Government is trying to accommodate the passing of the Nice treaty, but I get worried when I look at the proposal. Let us assume no one ever attacks this country. That is the best case scenario.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Why would anyone do that?

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  That is the question one could ask about the twin towers.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That question could be answered.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I am not so sure it could be answered. Could the question of Srebrenica and other [416]places be answered? The history of Srebrenica is that UN soldiers were disarmed and arrested, whether we like it or not, and 8,000 people were killed.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Because the French would not provide air support.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I thought the Deputy was anti-militarist. If he is going to be neutral, neutral means neutral, it does not mean that air power can be called in when wanted.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Deputy should have been here for the debate.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Neutrality means there is no engagement in militarism.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Neutrality is not impotence.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  There is a grave danger that this fig leaf in relation to neutrality in the proposal before us could be dangerous. Let us assume there was an attack on this country and that we required assistance from outside. I presume our neutrality would not allow us to have any foreign assistance or foreign aeroplanes in our airspace.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Article 51 of the UN Charter could be used.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Would we have time to have a referendum to figure out how to deal with such a situation?

If people read the transcripts of this debate in 50 years' time they will be looking back at an upcoming nation that was supposed to be selfsufficient and modern in its thinking. I cannot understand how it is suggested that in the event of something like that happening we would have to have a referendum. We could not allow anybody to help or save us. Simplistic solutions are being put forward in relation to what happened in Bosnia and that part of Europe that has caused problems over the past ten years or so since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I support strongly the notion of working under the UN Charter, but the UN failed in that case sadly and other means had to be found to protect the people. We could have sat by as a neutral country, as could all other European countries, and perhaps it would have been the right thing to do, but a lot of people died. The people out there did not think we should stand by or detach ourselves from reality. Deputy Michael D. Higgins and I were both members of the Committee on European Affairs at that time and the ambassadors from all surrounding countries – Italy, France and Germany – were called before the committee. These all had an input but were manacled and could not take action for one reason or another. The killing went on all around them. I do not suggest that would be replicated here, but a serious danger is emerging.

Other people read and hear what we say and take it on board. In the present global climate, [417]there are those who have the power and resources to be able to take on a small country readily and easily. They do so and will not respect anybody's neutrality and I merely point out that in those circumstances telling an aggressor they cannot act in a certain way because we are a neutral country just would not work.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  What does the Deputy believe?

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I have been here a few years during which I have listened with interest to quite a few debates. I make it a point never to interrupt another speaker and I hope that those who have arrived in the House in recent years will try to continue that tradition.

Those are my views and I hold them sincerely. They might not be correct – although I hope they are – but they are mine. I fully respect the points made by Deputy Michael Higgins who is equally committed to peaceful resolution of conflicts that have arisen and who has done a tremendous amount of work, much more than he would ever take credit for. We do not agree fully on this matter although we have agreed on others in the past. We need to tell the House what we have learned over the years from our experiences and let people make up their own minds.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  It is time to put the question.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I have one point.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  The Deputy should not speak for too long.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  When the Minister speaks in [418]regard to the section on common defence and gives it massive historic importance, we should point out how limited it is as it refers simply to decisions taken by the European Council. It is a very narrow provision relating simply to the EU and common defence and is not by any means an assertion that this country will be genuinely neutral. The amendment for which the Minister claims historical recognition makes no provision for the possibility of the United States of America and Britain launching a criminal assault on the people of Iraq which would undoubtedly cause thousands of innocent people to die. It would happily allow this Government to support the USA in such a criminal endeavour and it is, therefore, important that we see that it relates to one narrow aspect of militarism as far as our globe is concerned. We cannot allow the Minister to give the impression that it allows the Government to claim that it rejects all military alliances. Clearly, this and successive Governments support and have supported major powers acting in their own interests and brutalising many poor peoples around the world.

Cuireadh an leasú.

Amendment put.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputies who are claiming a division please rise in their places?

Deputies Boyle, Cuffe, Gogarty, Gormley, Eamon Ryan, Sargent, Gregory, Healy, Joe Higgins and Finian McGrath rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The division will proceed.

Boyle, Dan.
Cuffe, Ciarán.
Gogarty, Paul.
Gormley, John.
Healy, Seamus.
McGrath, Finian.
Ryan, Eamon.
Sargent, Trevor.

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, Barry.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Browne, John.
Callanan, Joe.
Carty, John.
Cassidy, Donie.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Costello, Joe.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cregan, John.
Cullen, Martin.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dempsey, Tony.
Dennehy, John.
Devins, Jimmy.
Ellis, John.
Finneran, Michael.
Fleming, Seán.
Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Glennon, Jim.
Grealish, Noel.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hoctor, Máire.
Howlin, Brendan.
Jacob, Joe. Keaveney, Cecilia.[419]

Kelleher, Billy.
Kelly, Peter.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Seamus.
Kitt, Tom.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDowell, Michael.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
McManus, Liz.
Martin, Micheál.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Mulcahy, Michael.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Connor, Charlie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
[420]O'Donovan, Denis.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Malley, Fiona.
O'Malley, Tim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Parlon, Tom.
Pattison, Seamus.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Sexton, Mae.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Treacy, Noel.
Upton, Mary.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilkinson, Ollie.
Wright, G. V.

Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis diúltú don leasú.

Amendment declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Ten Members requested a vote and eight voted. It is appropriate in this House for Members who claim a vote to vote when they have the opportunity.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  The Deputy chose to seriously complicate the issue and then did not bother to vote on it.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I did vote, dunce. One can vote for, vote against or abstain and I abstained. To clarify the matter, the Standing Order refers to those claiming a division, it does not state—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  It refers to those dissenting.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Dissenting from what?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  From the question before the House. If Members are dissenting, they are against the question.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Who is the bigger dunce now?

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Abstention should be recognised in this Dáil.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  It is not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not the question. In future it would be appropriate if Deputies who call for a division vote in the division as they are recorded as dissenting under the Standing Order for claiming the division in any event.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  I hope the Chair is—

(Interruptions.)

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Deputy Higgins should check the facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We will move on to the next set of amendments. Amendment Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, will be discussed together.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Tairgim leasú a 4:

I gCuid 1, leathanach 7, línte 7 go 11, fo-alt 8º a scriosadh,

agus

I gCuid 2, leathanach 7, línte 21 go 25, fo-alt 8º a scriosadh.

I move amendment No. 4:

In Part 1, page 6, lines 7 to 11, to delete subsection 8º,and

In Part 2, page 6, lines 21 to 25, to delete subsection 8º.After a lengthy debate on the issue of neutrality and its constitutional position I would like to move to a second area of major concern to the Green Party in relation to the Treaty of Nice and its possible effect if ratified and accepted by the electorate. “Enhanced co-operation” is a term which, on the surface, appears innocuous and even benign, but which might have a more proper role in the fiction of Orwell or Huxley. It is a combination of words meant to have a positive purpose, but which, when examined, have an altogether more sinister intent.

It is not easy to object to a better or improved way of working together. That means that we have to justify what we are saying. The operative term here is “we”; who are the “we” and who is defining it. In terms of future development, the European Union is no longer likely to be a collection of equal status states but is developing into a two-tier model with various degrees and classes [421]of membership. On these grounds enhanced co-operation should be very much objected to. It could also be said that forms of enhanced co-operation already exist. It has been put to us on the “No” side of the argument that we presume to speak on behalf of applicant countries and their interests. If one takes that argument and puts it to its other extreme, then the process that existed in terms of the community model that a ratification was not possible until all 15 countries agreed to it, was ignored. The Irish electorate chose not to ratify the Treaty of Nice in 2001, as was their sovereign choice, and did so before any other sovereign government in the EU chose to embark on its ratification process. We had the first attempt at enhanced co-operation by 14 member governments choosing to ignore the decision of the Irish people. That is enhanced co-operation in reality; that is enhanced co-operation in practice.

We have our own peculiar form of enhanced co-operation in the operation of this House. We have classes of membership for political parties depending on how established they are and how many Members they have. The idea of political parties having equal access, status and opportunity in this House is a very good metaphor for how the EU is likely to shape up in the coming years, should we agree to this direction and should the people be persuaded by the type of emotional bullying and blackmail that has been engaged in during this debate to date.

If we look at the phrases that accompany the idea of enhanced co-operation in regard to the Treaty of Nice we see clauses such as: “shall be aimed at safeguarding the values and serving the interests of the Union as a whole by asserting its identity as a coherent force on the international scene”. This seems to be the very act of nation building; taking upon the organisation of the European Union those rights and decisions that should properly be the decisions of a sovereign nation state. There is further talk “of enabling the Union to develop more rapidly into an area of freedom, security and justice while respecting the powers of the European Community”. Again, we are in Orwellian-speak here with the juxtaposition of terms such as “freedom, security and justice” with a term such as “respecting the power”. We are talking about a political system that is getting further and further removed from the ordinary citizen. What enhanced co-operation is about is defining the right to make decisions on behalf of a broad mass of people with minimal input on their part. On these democratic grounds the Green Party is very strongly opposed to what is being proposed here.

The qualifier in regard to enhanced co-operation is that “Member States which are not party to such co-operation shall not impede the implementation thereof by participating Member States”. I suspect it will be an argument made by the Government and other parties supporting the idea of the Treaty of Nice and its proposals on enhanced co-operation that we should not inter[422]fere in the actions of other member states. It might even be argued in regard to the debate we just had on neutrality where we did make that distinction that it might be inconsistent on our part. The argument I make in that regard is that, unfortunately, in the sphere of military affairs and defence policies there is already an infrastructure that was put in place that pre-dates the European Union. It exists as a political reality that we have to face.

The problem with enhanced co-operation and what is likely to follow the decision making structures that evolve in this way, is that we will be allowing on one level, either through our participation or our non-participation, decisions to be made that will have an impact on us as a nation or will have an impact on the cohesion of the European Union as a political structure that can work in its proper interests of members and citizens. An example of that could be in regard to the applicant states where we see their introduction into membership of the EU that is on a take it or leave it basis.

In regard to how we proceed with this amendment, I put it to the House that the greatest concern outside the neutrality and military aspect, as far as the Green Party is concerned, is the existence of the democratic deficit which is further entrenched through these provisions and the distance between how individual citizens are interacting with the nation state. We see this most particularly in this country in how people are being lectured to on how they should, or should not, have a role in how Europe is being developed. I await with interest the arguments that will be made against this amendment.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Deputy Boyle certainly—

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  There are two amendments being taken together. The second amendment is in my name.

Acting Chairman (Mr. McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  There is a grouping. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are alternatives. Amendment No. 5 is in the name of Deputy Joe Higgins. The Deputy does not have to move it but he can address it. I am just taking the speakers in the order they have indicated.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Am I next?

Acting Chairman:  Yes. Followed by Deputies Gormley, Sargent, Lenihan and Andrews.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I apologise to the Acting Chairman. I do not want to hold up the procedure but when I have an amendment on the floor do I not have the right to speak on it at the time it is first moved?

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy will be allowed to speak as many times as is necessary.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I support the other Deputy Higgins. There is a certain logic and merit in his [423]point, and for the sake of brevity as well, to hear the case for the alternative formulation at the one time. We have already decided we are debating amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 together. For the sake of economy why do we not proceed on that basis and then we will try to be as economic with the time as we can be.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I thank Deputy Michael D. Higgins for his good suggestion and hope we can all agree with it. I do not intend to speak very long on this amendment.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I am happy to come in after that.

Acting Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I see this as being a very critical component of the Nice treaty. I actually see it as one of the main reasons the treaty is being brought forward by the European Union states at this time. The provision for enhanced co-operation which is hereby provided really responds to the impatience, especially of some of the larger states, to move ahead with projects of their own, particularly in the context of an enlarged Union where they might feel themselves dogged by weaker states less economically and politically developed and less equipped in various ways coming into the Union.

Instead of moving forward as one Union of 27 states, they are hereby putting in a provision whereby a number of states, which will in effect be the most powerful ones, can move ahead rapidly to suit their own interests. Therefore, it is clearly naked self-interest on the part of some of the major powers within the EU that dictates this particular provision for enhanced co-operation. This is why, when we were being told in the course of the debate that the Nice treaty is absolutely essential for enlargement, we responded that many key provisions of the treaty are not essential for enlargement and that this is one of those. If they want to go ahead and enlarge the EU they could do so without putting in the provision for enhanced co-operation. More than anything else, this justifies the claim made by me and others that enlargement was the means by which they levered other key provisions, particularly that pertaining to enhanced co-operation, into the treaty because it is how some of the key powers wish to move forward.

The provisions in the articles whose deletion we have recommended should make very disturbing reading, particularly for the smaller states within the EU, because it is quite clear that in matters of crucial self-interest – economics, foreign policy and other matters – they will be left behind should it suit the larger states. That is what this provision is designed to do.

We must stress that this provision is couched in very vague terms, which means it can have a very wide remit. What precisely does enhanced co-[424]operation mean? The Government and EU, to enable a better, more full and honest debate, should outline the areas where this could become a reality and the effect it would have on how the EU moves forward. This is because it is laying down very vague but very general principles that can have a very wide application in economic matters. As stated in Article 1.6, it can apply to joint action or a common position and the foreign and security policy, and only military or defence implications – it is narrowed down to that – are not included.

With regard to enhanced co-operation in respect of common foreign and security policy, it is allowed that a qualified majority is sufficient to enable a group of states to move forward. That has very sinister connotations because it means that a group of states – it will, in all cases, be the larger ones – can conspire among themselves to advance their particular interests in dealings in the international arena. Eight states, for example, as opposed to the 27 of an enlarged Union, could do so.

In the past ten years, with regard to matters of critical foreign policy, we have seen interference by some of the major powers outside their own borders, with very dire results. For example, the German interference in Slovenia at the beginning of the 1990s had an extremely negative effect on the whole region. Germany actively conspired with the Slovene Nationalists to bring about a set of circumstances in which Slovenia, in a very pre-emptive fashion, declared a secession from Yugoslavia.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  What a tragedy.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The result was to give a carte blanche to all the Nationalists within the Yugoslav Federation and the reactionaries such as Milosevic to jockey in their own self-interest and in the interest of the cliques around them, using their positions as different national entities within the federation, with catastrophic consequences.

This is not about denying any nation the right to self-determination, to which every nation, including Slovenia, has the right. If, instead of interfering in that extremely negative way at the beginning of the 1990s with what was a powder keg in the Balkans, the thrust of policy and resources concerned how the people of the federation could have moved forward by way of mutual co-operation between the different nationalities, with resources being poured in, the horror that emerged in the Balkan war could have been avoided entirely. That was a very concrete example of how a major, powerful country within the EU could interfere in foreign policy to the grave detriment of a people, in this case the people of the former Yugoslav Federation.

The Minister of State may shake his head. I ask him to respond to the points that are being made concretely because the provision for enhanced co-operation gives powers such as Germany, France and others the right to move ahead at a [425]rapid pace in similar circumstances in other areas of the globe. They can do so by qualified majority. Therefore, if the Irish Government took a different line – let us say, optimistically and hopefully, a line in the best interests of the ordinary people of whichever country was the subject of designs by the major powers – it would be left on the sidelines. This is because it could be outvoted in providing enhanced co-operation in regard to a crucial issue such as that. That is a key point in terms of how the provision affects foreign policy.

Article 1.9 refers to enhanced co-operation “enabling the Union to develop more rapidly into an area of freedom, security and justice”. How could it be that some states may move “more rapidly into an area of freedom, security and justice”? If we take those words at face value, does that mean that those left behind will be less free, less secure and less just? What is the meaning of this? To find the meaning, we have to decode much of the language that exists in this treaty. The words used do not take on their normal meaning. This means a number of states could move to create a zone within a zone within the EU. We had a disgraceful example of this during the EU summit in Gothenburg last summer. A few chiefs of police in Sweden, which was hosting the EU summit, unilaterally revoked the arrangements of the Schengen Agreement overnight. They then incarcerated peaceful protesters in buses – one group had travelled from Germany – and prevented them participating in peaceful demonstrations in Gothenburg. I know some of the activists involved. They were brought to a disused military barracks, held there all day and were then sent, under armed escort to the Danish border to be further escorted to Germany. We witnessed a similar situation during a recent meeting in Spain. Peaceful protesters travelling from Portugal – EU citizens – were arrested by the Spanish police and prevented from entering Spain. What then do we mean about freedom, security and justice? It means states can make arrangements which can give rise to situations such as I have outlined.

It is very interesting to note, when it comes to economic matters, that Article 1.11 provides that enhanced co-operation does not distort competition. This ensures the economic thrust towards privatisation of state enterprises, deregulation of services and the smashing of state subsidies – this will apply in particular to some of the eastern European applicants – is not allowed. This means the policy of the European Union which is dictated by the European round table and other major industrialists continues to be implemented. That is, essentially, a carte blanche for the exploitation by multinational corporations. Some of the workers in eastern Europe, coming out of a grim Stalinist dictatorship will suffer the depredations of the multinationals.

Article 1.12 suggests that enhanced co-operation shall be open to all member states who join the EU. A situation could arise in regard to for[426]eign policy and economic matters that some states, particularly weaker ones, will not be able to keep pace. Therefore, while allowing this in practice, it is very likely that what one will have is an increasing division between blocks within the EU. That is why we said this leads to a two-tier and two-speed Europe.

We will also have the spectacle within the Council of Prime Ministers that while all members of the council shall be able to take part in the deliberations in regard to enhanced co-operation, only those representing member states participating in enhanced co-operation shall take part in the adoption of decisions, which is ludicrous. One could then have a situation whereby Governments representing their people, who may have very strong views on a particular area of enhanced co-operation in foreign policy, may speak at a meeting but may not vote when those participating move to take a decision that may be inimical to the interests of the people of Europe generally. We will have a two-tier system within the one room as provided for here. Some Prime Ministers and Ministers will be able to vote on particular issues with others being able to speak but not vote. It is clear that we are setting up a situation whereby the main players within the EU shall not allow themselves to be hindered when they wish to move forward with projects that suit them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call the Minister of State.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I gave way to Deputy Higgins.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must now hear a speaker from the Government side. If the Minister does not wish to speak now I will call Deputy Conor Lenihan.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  While I have a few points I would like to raise, I am intrigued by the reference to people emerging from a grim Stalinist dictatorship and the depiction of eastern European countries as somehow emerging from that into becoming second class citizens. Deputy Higgins also made reference to the Slovenian people. He appears to be suggesting that the Slovenians would have been better off if they had been maintained within a structure created by a kind of Stalinist dictatorship in Yugoslavia where they would not be allowed to leave and so a gentle revolution would allow them to enhance and improve their mutual respect within the Yugoslav structure. Whatever the reasons for the blood letting in the Balkans, there is a longer historical lineage than the mere creation of the single structure created by Tito following the war. This is total madness. It is a view of history totally without rationale. We should not suggest people should be imprisoned in structures of that kind.

It is deeply ironic that so-called left wing Deputies in this House are making the case against enhanced co-operation which is the sub[427]ject of the amendments before us. The whole idea of enhanced co-operation is almost intrinsically left wing. It is inclusive and allows people who have reservations and do not wish to move ahead with certain ideas, structures and policies to opt out. It is the idea of a multi-speed Europe whereby people can actually pick and choose at which level they wish to participate. I do not see this as a menacing and threatening thing. It is an opportunity for smaller countries – and larger countries if they so wish – to opt out of areas of co-operation. It is almost a negation of some of the fears stirred up on the opposite side of the House in regard to this treaty. Small and big countries will enjoy the protections created by this treaty.

Deputy Higgins spoke of big countries while conveniently forgetting that it requires a minimum of eight countries for any move on enhanced co-operation to occur. If memory serves me correctly, there are no big countries in Europe in terms of rich, heavyweight industrially populated states. Therefore, by definition, to move to a position of enhanced co-operation will require the consent of a smaller country other than those depicted and spoken about. Enhanced co-operation is almost the incarnation of political correctness at a European level. It allows people to pick and choose the level of co-operation for which they want to opt, which is good. It underpins and protects Ireland's unique position.

One of the huge canards being introduced into this campaign is the notion that the other countries can, under enhanced co-operation, move ahead with changes regarding our taxation code, specifically corporation tax. One of the great achievements of this treaty which does not seem to have received as much publicity as it should have is that it copper fastens our low corporation tax rates. Some of the larger countries are very jealous of our low corporation tax rates and have indicated on many occasions in the last decade that they would like to see them changed to their higher rates. One of the logical consequences of a “No” vote to this treaty is that the big countries will come after our tax rates again. The Treaty of Nice protects our tax rates because it requires unanimity—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy may be moving away from the amendment.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  In his reply to these amendments, will the Minister confirm to the House that enhanced co-operation cannot be misused or abused as a device to introduce higher levels of taxation in this country? I say that advisedly because it was an issue in the last referendum campaign which was profoundly worrying to the business community. Its members voted “No” in great numbers in the last referendum because they had the fear that the treaty would facilitate an attack by the larger European countries and bureaucrats against our very low corporation tax [428]rates. They were obviously mistaken in forming this opinion.

I was intrigued by Deputy Boyle's statements earlier, which displayed a degree of snobbery normally associated with the right rather than the left, when he suggested that because of our concerns on foreign direct investment, we should not be influenced—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Lenihan, we are debating amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  My comments are related to the amendments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I am afraid the Deputy is moving away from them. A passing reference is acceptable but we cannot have a detailed statement.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  The Deputy suggested that foreign direct investment is somehow a calculation we should not make when deciding on whether to vote “Yes” or “No”. I would have thought it was one of the most important considerations. Perhaps the Minister will address this in his reply. I regard it as one of the issues which underpins and guarantees employment in this country. If we are to agree with Deputy Boyle, we should not put our fingers in the greasy till—

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  The Deputy should not speak of greasy tills.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —or worry at all about investment from America or overseas. In his magical wonderland of green politics we can, presumably, do without these inward investors.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Deputy Joe Higgins referred to Slovenia earlier. I was out of the House to attend a meeting of the Joint Committee on European Affairs and had the opportunity to meet with the Slovenian ambassador. Slovenia is about to have a referendum on joining the EU. If what Deputy Higgins suggested had taken place, they would not be in a position to do so. Opinion polls indicate that between 60% and 70% of the population will vote and Slovenia will not be a net beneficiary when it joins. I do not think the alternative was between what happened and total peace. The alternative was to leave them under Milosevic's Yugoslavia rather than under his Serbia. The Deputy is really arguing against his own point when he says that this happened. That happened outside of enhanced co-operation. The very point is that it happened outside the institutions of the European Union. The Italians, Greeks and Germans all had their own interests and the Russians had a particular interest. The Muslims were left out on their own. I do not think Deputy Higgins's argument stands up.

I wish to refer to a briefing document available from the Institute of European Affairs. It was prepared by Mr. Tony Brown, an eminent and prominent member of the Labour Party. He is a [429]man of great dignity and has given a great amount of time to the idea of a peaceful and stable Europe. I am honoured to be able to quote him. His document explains the issues on this question. It states:

It [enhanced co-operation] allows some member states to move forward in a specific policy area at a faster pace than others, which are unable or unwilling to do so. But it also ensures that all member states are entitled to join in when they are able and wish to do so. The issue is whether enhanced co-operation will do no more than accommodate diversity in an enlarged Union, or will lead to two classes of EU membership.

That is really the issue. He goes on to discuss how this happens and gives examples:

For example, in the 1990s there was general agreement that major improvements should be made in workers' rights and other social policies, but the UK disagreed. It was therefore decided that the UK should be allowed to remain outside the arrangement while the others went ahead with the so-called Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty.

That was an example of enhanced co-operation and how they got around it. It is not all negative.

It is worthwhile to spend some time on the issue of enhanced co-operation because it is an interesting development. Like any part of foreign policy, it is an area this and every other State will have to participate in and watch with care. It is not the bogeyman. If we want to participate with seven other member states in some sort of fisheries co-operation we should not have to put it to the people in a referendum. The Government is elected and paid to take these decisions and to account to this House. We cannot have referendums on such issues, as one of the amendments suggests. Another amendment which proposes to delete subsection 8º would delete the proposal to come back to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  It is extraordinary.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  It is an extraordinary suggestion to make.

Mr. Brown makes the following points regarding enhanced co-operation:

Under enhanced co-operation a number of EU member states – less than the full membership of the Union – may co-operate more closely in certain areas of activity on the basis of rules laid down in the treaties. The Amsterdam treaty in 1997 set down general rules and conditions for enhanced co-operation. These provisions were never used but there was a growing recognition that, in an enlarged Union, situations might arise where a number of member states might wish to co-operate in a policy area where they had a common interest and where others did not. It was considered essential that any such initiative should take place [430]inside, rather than outside, the structures of the European Union and its institutions. For these reasons, the rules governing enhanced co-operation were re-examined in the discussions which led to the Nice treaty and amended provisions were included in the text of the treaty.

The Nice treaty sets out these amended rules for accommodating diversity in an enlarged EU. The most important of these are as follows:

Any initiative for enhanced co-operation must involve a minimum of eight member states but must be open to any others which wish to join at a later stage. The initiative must have the aim of promoting and furthering the objectives and interests of the Union and must not be exclusive or divisive. It must respect the treaties and the institutional framework of the Union. It must also respect the existing body of EU rules and laws, and must not infringe on areas within the Union's exclusive competence – such as the Common Agricultural Policy. Enhanced co-operation cannot operate to the detriment of the political or economic rights of other member states. Enhanced co-operation may not apply to military or defence matters. Before any initiative can be authorised it must be established that its objectives cannot be attained within a reasonable period by working within the existing treaty provisions.

The decision to allow an initiative to proceed will be made in the Council by qualified majority vote but with a right of veto for individual member states in the general area of common foreign and security policy.

Could anything be more surrounded by proper checks and balances? Nothing in that would lead to some of the outcomes which have been suggested.

Tony Brown further states in the document he wrote for the IEA:

In a union of 27 member states under the enhanced co-operation rules, an initiative by any eight would require the support of at least another six to produce a majority under the qualified majority voting system. That means it would require the support of at least 14 of the 27 member states because of the way qualified majority voting will work afterwards.

All of this must be taken into account in the arguments being made.

The proposed constitutional amendment makes specific provision for possible Irish participation in enhanced co-operation initiatives should we so choose at some stage in the future. I have outlined examples of enhanced co-operation such as the Social Charter, EMU and Schengen. Under enhanced co-operation it will be necessary to use the institutions of the Union, for example the Parliament and the Commission. Commissioners take an oath of office and their job is to protect and uphold the treaties of the Union. Pursuing [431]enhanced co-operation through the institutions of the Union, even if we are not involved, is a guarantee that our best interests will be served. There is nothing to stop three, five, six or eight members coming to arrangements themselves. That is what happened in the case of the recognition of the former Yugoslavia. It is worth debating this issue. The Deputies who tabled these amendments have done a service by bringing the issue to the floor.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Thank you.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  However, I hope they will recognise that they are not the only ones doing a service in this House. Other Members must point out the reality of what is contained in the treaties and how the system works.

I find it difficult to see why subsection 8º should be deleted. It states that the State may exercise the options and discretions provided for under Articles 1.6, 1.9, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 and 2.1 of the treaty, referred to in subsection 7º of this section but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas. That is a perfectly reasonable safeguard. Deputy Higgins's amendment seeks the deletion of only some of those sections so that we could only participate with the prior approval of a referendum. I do not see how that arises since we do not have the right to exercise discretion in the area of common foreign and security policy. It could be something as innocuous as fisheries, sport or an environmental matter. Some member states might wish to move ahead with a particular initiative in these areas and if we did not want to participate the issue would have to go to a referendum. I do not understand the logic of these conclusions and I do not support these amendments.

I am glad that there are checks and balances in regard to enhanced co-operation. They are not there only because the Irish Government wants them. The British, German, Italian and French Governments also want them. They too are afraid that, without checks and balances, other members could run away with the kitty. It is not simply a group of larger member states deciding to pursue enhanced co-operation so that they can further their own ends. I am indebted to Tony Brown for spelling out that for any initiative to proceed not only would at least eight members be required but, under the operation of QMV in an enlarged Union, at least 14 of the 27 members would have to agree. There are sufficient checks and balances and I particularly welcome the involvement of the institutions of the European Union as that is our best guarantee, particularly in regard to the role of the Commission.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Of all the debates we have had on the Treaty of Nice, the most difficult one to understand is the extraordinary knee-jerk reaction on the issue of enhanced co-operation. It is [432]difficult to understand what is the bogeyman here because of all the issues involved, this is the one with which we should not have a problem. Tony Brown's analysis is extraordinarily good, incisive and factual. It deals with the issues as opposed to creating myths.

I am at a complete loss about some of the amendments. The overriding point we must bear in mind is that the proposed amendments would seriously disadvantage Ireland. They have no bearing on the place of enhanced co-operation within the body of the laws of the European Community and would prevent Ireland becoming involved in enhanced co-operation at any stage even where it was in the clear and obvious interest of the Irish people to do so. Why would any Irish parliamentarian want to disadvantage Ireland? I cannot understand the logic of this.

The second point touched on in the Brown document was summarised by Deputy Mitchell. Enhanced co-operation is a way of bringing within the general encompass of the Union issues which member states could, in any event, do outside where we would have no say, no rights or involvement. Member states, as sovereign nations, could still make decisions outside enhanced co-operation unless we are going to deny them the opportunity to make decisions in their own right in areas which are not now touched on by the treaties. I do not think anybody on the “No” side wants that; I would be amazed if they did.

I agree with Deputy Joe Higgins's analysis to some extent. Different views were taken outside of any control and this precipitated a set of circumstances which led to a blood-bath. The point the Deputy made increases my mystification at the way the issue of enhanced co-operation is being dealt with in the debate. The Green Party's suggestion is even more astonishing. It argues for the very flexible and variable geometry for which enhanced co-operation provides. The Green Party wants to opt out of European security and defence policy. Fair dues to it, that is a point of view. It does not want to opt out of the whole of Europe, but some sections of it. In these amendments, the Deputies are, therefore, trying to deny Ireland the very thing that enhanced co-operation will offer, namely, the flexibility of which it or any other member state might wish to avail. That does not make any sense.

It is valuable that we are having a debate on enhanced co-operation because it is one of those phrases which people use flexibly as if everyone understands what it means when, of course, the opposite is frequently the case. Enhanced co-operation is simply a device to enable groups of at least eight member states to take forward a project in which all member states do not wish to participate. It will not put a gun to anyone's head. Deputy Mitchell did everyone a considerable service by reminding us, for example, of when the Thatcher regime in the United Kingdom wished to stymie an extremely positive step on the Social Chapter. I refer to the forerunner of enhanced [433]co-operation which allowed those member states which were progressive in the areas of workers' rights, the rights of women, working hours and paternity leave to move forward. Had that flexibility not been available to us, we could only have moved forward at a pace dictated by Mrs. Thatcher.

The idea that enhanced co-operation somehow will allow the big countries to disadvantage their smaller counterparts is patent nonsense. In the case to which I refer, if a degree of flexibility was not available a single big country with its own extreme right wing views could have prohibited, as Tony Brown points out, one of the most progressive moves forward in Europe in recent years and stopped the EU taking steps which have been to the major advantage of working people. As Deputy Mitchell pointed out, there are stringent safeguards to protect the EU and the rights of member states. The relevant issue is that eight plus six, or a total of 14, member states can come together under QMV and this will determine what happens.

It has been stated that enhanced co-operation will somehow create a two-tier Europe. This is an extraordinary item of mythology which has crept into the campaign to date and which must be addressed because it is fundamentally dishonest. In the first instance, it is pure conjecture that all the big countries will have a mutuality of interests and that they will gallop ahead and leave the rest of us behind. Not only is it pure conjecture, it is pure myth. The pace at which we will move under enhanced co-operation will be determined by ourselves. No one can say that Ireland must move at a particular pace. Under enhanced co-operation, there is a flexibility that did not previously exist. The idea that enhanced co-operation could create a two-tier Europe is a baseless myth.

The provisions regarding enhanced co-operation make only the most modest amendments to the arrangements which are already in place and which have already been availed of under the Treaty of Amsterdam. They make it possible, where appropriate, for groups of member states to co-operate on specific issues where they have a sovereign right to do so in any event. Where those member states wish, among themselves, to go forward without doing damage in any way to the other member states they can do so. Again Deputy Mitchell made the point, which is also contained in the Brown paper, that they can do so under the most stringent conditions. It is not the case that they can suddenly decide to stick it to the small countries, quite the opposite.

Enhanced co-operation will not create a two-tier Europe and it will not disadvantage any small state. The enhanced co-operation procedures will do precisely the opposite. It will be significantly to the advantage of small states that that degree of flexibility is present and that the damage which could be done to the interests of a small state which wishes to move forward but cannot do so at a particular time will be overcome.

[434]Enhanced co-operation can only be used as a last resort and, for some reason, that issue has not been dealt with in the debate. It can never be used in respect of security or defence issues. I may have misheard Deputy Higgins – if I did I apologise in advance – but I believe he was straying towards suggesting that it could somehow do so. If I did misinterpret his comments, I hope he will clarify the position later.

For a project to get under way, a QMV of the Council of Ministers and over 71% of the votes – representing at least 62% of the population of the Union – will be required. That is a very high threshold, even if we ignore for a moment the strictures that will be imposed in respect of areas on which member states will not be able to move.

A question has arisen in the general debate on this matter regarding why we need enhanced co-operation at all. The answer should be self-evident to anyone who has had any experience of being involved with a club, a social or community organisation, a trade union or a political party. In a Union of 27 member states, it makes sense to allow the possibility for some flexibility. As someone who has lectured in the area for many years, I must point out that one of the faults of the earlier treaties of the European Union is the degree of inflexibility they contain and the fact that, under their provisions, one found oneself absolutely committed, irrespective of prevailing circumstances, except in extremely limited cases when derogations could be sought.

The idea that a state, of its own free will, can opt in or opt out is an enhancement of the current position. It is not only an enhancement, it is an arrangement which supports sovereign decision-making powers on the part of small states. If we consider the Union as it stands, there is always a degree of moral pressure to move at a certain pace. Enhanced co-operation will mean that a small country like Ireland or any of the new incoming states – it is up to them to speak for themselves – can determine what is in their best interests with regard to how they move forward on a particular issue or whether it is appropriate for them to move forward at all. There is tremendous moral pressure on states, as is the case with individuals, to move at the pace the group wishes to determine. Enhanced co-operation gives us the opportunity, which was previously lacking, to move forward at a pace which does no damage to states.

There is also, as already stated, the exercise of free will. Deputy Joe Higgins stated that a small group of the big member states will be able to rush ahead and leave others behind. In my opinion there is no basis for that argument. In the first instance, the Council would have to approve a project by means of a QMV procedure and, therefore, the larger states cannot merely proceed on their own. The support of a majority of member states is required, so the smaller states will have to be included. Given that 62% of the population of the Union will have to be involved, the smaller states cannot be disenfranchised or [435]placed outside an arrangement. The bottom line is that in the areas in which we would prefer some activity on the part of the bigger states, they would be free to move forward without undergoing the process of enhanced co-operation by exercising existing sovereign arrangements. The problems Deputy Higgins outlined could well occur outside the new arrangement and within the existing EU, as evidenced by the specific historic instance to which he referred.

I wish to refer to a number of specific flaws in the amendments before us. Amendment No. 4 would remove the subsection which enables the State to exercise options or discretions provided for under the Nice treaty in the area of enhanced co-operation. In my view, everyone accepts that this is the intention behind the amendment. Under the current arrangements, we have the option of enhanced co-operation subject to the approval of the Oireachtas. An equivalent provision already exists in relation to the Treaty of Amsterdam. While this does not necessarily prevent Ireland from participating in any enhanced co-operation group, it would remove the certainty of constitutional cover for such participation. It was largely to ensure complete certainty in this area that, on balance, it was felt necessary to put the question of ratification of the Nice treaty to the people in a referendum.

This goes to the heart of the issue because, as Members will recall, we made amendments to Article 29.6º of the Constitution which states that “The State may exercise the options or discretions provided for in Articles 1.11, 2.5 and 2.15 of the Treaty referred to”. The need for a referendum in that regard is due to the existence of that provision in the Constitution. I do not see enhanced co-operation as any threat to this country.

Amendment No. 5 seeks to prevent the State from exercising certain options and discretions provided for in the Treaty of Nice. Deputy Joe Higgins may have intended to include all of the options but, in his amendments, he has only included some of the options. Accordingly, acceptance of his amendments would have the perverse effect of running directly counter to the case he proposes. I appreciate that he is operating very much alone in putting forward these amendments and I suggest that he may have accidentally excluded some material.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I could also do with some additional resources.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I appreciate the Deputy's point and he knows where my sympathies lie. I have been harassing the Minister for Finance on his behalf. Perhaps Deputy Joe Higgins may wish to respond to my point with regard to the unintentional exclusion of certain options. I suggest there is a danger in that regard from his viewpoint. The references he proposed to delete are in Article 1.6 which provides for enhanced co-operation in [436]CFSP, excluding security and defence matters, subject to unanimity; Articles 1.11 and 1.13 which consolidate and revise the provisions applying to enhanced co-operation generally, including conditions which must be met and safeguards which apply; and Article 2.1 which provides the arrangements for enhanced co-operation in regard to Community first pillar matters. If the Deputy looks again at his amendment, he will see that he has omitted a few of the references. The references he proposes to maintain are in Article 1.9 which revises the arrangements for enhanced co-operation in the justice and home affairs area and Article 1.12 under which enhanced co-operation must be the last resort open to all member states.

I now turn to amendment No. 6. The Bill as drafted requires the approval of the Oireachtas for Irish participation in enhanced co-operation groups and the amendment would require approval in a referendum. I see nothing to commend the idea of subjecting the Irish people to one referendum after another, although Deputies who have referred to the position in some other democracies may well have a point. For example, there can be a considerable number of referenda per year in Switzerland or in some states of the USA. We may well be approaching that point and I have no problem in asking the people for their view on important issues.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  How many times?

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  In relation to an issue of fundamental importance, there is nothing wrong with re-thinking a proposition.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I apologise, a Cheann Comhairle. I was responsible for drawing that upon myself. The amendments, if accepted, would place Ireland at a disadvantage as the only member state debarred from ever taking part in enhanced co-operation regardless of the issue, the interest or the advantage to Ireland. I cannot believe it was the Deputy's intention that his amendment should have that effect. As the Government has made clear on many occasions, we are fully satisfied with the safeguards attached to the use of enhanced co-operation. These safeguards are simply consolidated in the Treaty of Nice – there is no new invention. They fully protect the interests of member states, including Ireland.

It is useful to remind ourselves, as Deputy Gay Mitchell has done, of what is involved in those safeguards with regard to enhanced co-operation. First, they can only be used as a last resort. In my personal view, it would be much better that the process of enhanced co-operation should involve the states, outside the context of the EU, making decisions which they have a sovereign right to make in any event. The second safeguard is that enhanced co-operation must respect the treaties [437]and must remain within the limits of the powers of the Union. Third, it must not undermine the Internal Market or economic or social cohesion. I believe Deputy Joe Higgins may have made a dismissive reference to that important safeguard. As I pointed out in my reference to Mrs. Thatcher's effort to move Europe forward beyond the dark ages in terms of industrial relations, everybody accepted enhanced co-operation as positive in that case. Fourth, enhanced co-operation must not constitute a barrier or discrimination in trade between the member states. There is nothing sinister in that but there was a dismissive reference to it earlier in the debate. Free movement of goods and services between member states is a fundamental basis on which Ireland, as a sovereign nation, took a decision to join in 1973. Failure on the part of the EU to prevent that type of discrimination would be a retrograde step. It must involve at least eight member states and it must respect the rights of states which do not wish to participate, an important point.

There is an historical background of 50 years. The fiftieth anniversary of the coming into effect of the Treaty of Paris was 23 July 2002. In that period, including the history of the ECSC, the EEC, the EC or the EU, there is not a single instance in which other member states combined to bully a member state in a manner detrimental to its interests or its rights. There is absolutely no evidence of that ever happening and I challenge those who suggest that the bogeyman is just around the corner to produce evidence of the bogeyman's existence. It is a disservice to the Irish people to completely distort and misrepresent the reality of history. One of the prerequisites of enhanced co-operation is that it must be open to all member states. There cannot be an exclusive club of eight, nine or ten large states getting together to do something in which they prohibit other states from participating if they so wish. If any member state wishes to engage in the enhanced co-operation process, that process is open to them and the project must be approved by the Council of Ministers by a vote representing a minimum of 62% of the population of the Union. Those are very substantial safeguards against the notion which has been put forward time and again that an exclusive cabal of the larger states could come together. That is not possible and the safeguard arrangements prohibit it from happening.

It has been suggested that enhanced co-operation can somehow be used to get around the other treaty requirements on issues of security and defence policy. Enhanced co-operation can never be used in security and defence policy and it is a disservice to the Irish people to suggest otherwise. Enhanced co-operation in the CFSP area is subject to the veto arrangement. Accordingly, we cannot find ourselves disadvantaged or placed offside in that regard. In voting “Yes” in the proposed referendum, the people's consent to Ireland's participation in enhanced co-operation groups will be subject to the important proviso [438]that the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas will be necessary. That arrangement under Article 29.6 was entered into when enhanced co-operation first raised its head. It was one of the contributions of the Labour Party towards putting instruments in place to protect and enhance the interests of the Irish people. That contribution should be handsomely acknowledged in this debate.

The Government believes it would be needlessly complicated and hopelessly impractical to hold a referendum every time we wish to participate in enhanced co-operation, as the Green Party proposal suggests. Even with participation, each time we wanted to participate in enhanced co-operation, we would do so only of our own volition and only when it was in our interest. To hold a referendum on every occasion would be an impossible imposition and we cannot find anything to recommend it in amendment No. 6.

We believe that an expanded Union of 20—

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Deputy Gormley on a point of order. I expect it to be a point of order.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  It is a point of order. We have limited time and I know the Minister of State likes to engage in debate but we cannot do so. The Minister of State has been speaking for half an hour—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is not a point of order and I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. I intend to call Deputy Michael D. Higgins, then Deputy Barry Andrews and then the Deputy.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  We will not have the time—

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  There is nothing truthful in the debate we have had on enhanced co-operation.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  We have not heard a debate.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  There has been a huge amount of bogeyman-ism in it. I sat silently throughout the contribution and that silence and patience were sorely tested when I heard some of the mythology being re-issued. I am simply rebutting the points which are without foundation, baseless and have been put about simply to cause fears among the people. In deference to the Deputy, I will move on because there are two other points I want to deal with.

Within a Community of 27 members, individual states – particularly the ten that are about to join if we vote “Yes”– require the flexibility that enhanced co-operation allows. We all require flexibility from time to time. I am enamoured by the extraordinary dedication I have seen in all ten applicant states to getting a huge volume of Community law enacted and preparing themselves for the requirements of entry. It would be a disservice to those states if somehow enhanced co-operation were not there. It would be in the interests [439]of those states in whom the Deputy professes some interest. It is primarily for those states to decide what suits them but, in my experience and in my discussions with all the states that have applied – including one or two euro-sceptics – they all accept that enhanced co-operation is a prerequisite in their cases.

Deputy Lenihan raised a point about enhanced co-operation and taxation and a great deal has been made of this issue, although not by Deputies in this House. It has been suggested that a group of EU states, through creating an enhanced co-operation group, could somehow coerce Ireland into changing its rate of corporation tax. That is not the case, it cannot happen and it will not happen. The setting of corporation taxes is, and will remain, the preserve of the sovereign governments. It is wrong of people to suggest that anything else is the case. One of the major achievements of the negotiations in Nice was to retain the sovereignty in that area. Any change in the area requires a unanimous vote by the Council of Ministers. Ireland will not support it, so unanimity will be impossible.

There is a major advantage to Ireland in getting some of the smaller states in because they share our views on the sovereignty of taxation. The irony is that, if we vote “No” we will be shutting out our allies on this and other issues. Enhanced co-operation allows a group of states to co-operate on a given project to a stringent set of safeguards and cannot be used in the area of taxation and certainly not to disadvantage any state. We should debate the facts rather than the mythology.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  In deference to the movers of these amendments who also have another group of amendments to be discussed, I will be brief.

I cannot claim to speak with such certainty as other contributors in relation to enhanced co-operation. The manner in which it will be used will inevitably be influenced by the political coloration of Europe at a particular time. Anyone who examines the evolution of the treaties and the different practices that arose within them will notice defining moments in the Community. As one moves from those moments to others, one will see times when, for example, during the debate on the Social Charter, a particular political complexion pertained in Europe. When Europe went to the right, it had particular consequences on the decisions taken. It is entirely wrong to think politics does not matter – that it does not matter whether Europe goes to the right or left. It is crucial. The Trojan horse in Europe may well be Mr. Blair at the moment in relation to a common security policy. His actions are appalling and disgraceful in terms of what he represents, but that is for another day. Long before this, the British attitude to the Social Charter was entirely negative and destructive. It was based on an ideology of a labour market that would have [440]removed from it all restrictions and social protections.

It is appropriate we raise that this afternoon because, long after we have voted on the referendum, the biggest debate – one that is staring us in the face – is that on the future of workers rights within the larger European Union. It will arise among workers within the current Union who are losing under the right wing regimes. In Britain, under a Labour Government, they are losing protection in relation to pensions, social security, job entitlements and a raft of other areas. There will be confrontation in this area.

I cannot operate with the same certainty as some of the other speakers in relation to enhanced co-operation. I cannot say whether it will be used in a malignant or benign way. It is impossible to extract politics from it. I put it to the Minister of State when he uses the phrase “what is in our national interest”, that our national interest is not best served when one examines who has gained most during our best years of economic performance. There is a huge difference between the people who gained most in terms of capital accumulation and the workers who have seen their real wages decrease because of the cost of housing, the journey to work, the extension of working hours and so on.

In my second stage speech yesterday, I pointed out that unskilled workers in the United States between 1973 and 1993 had to work 245 hours more per annum to stay in the same place in relation to their living standards. That view prevails in Europe. It may be that a Europe of the right may attempt to construct a labour market with what they would call flexibility but which would be at the cost of workers' rights. That would be a malignant outcome but it is equally possible that some of the applicant countries are capable of constructing a benign proposal for social co-operation within the treaties and in accordance with the eight or ten treaty-based requirements, given their experience of the adjustment from the Russian economy in the post-1989 period when a Russian Mafia was created with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund, without much of a whimper from us. They offer for example, social protection. It is also possible that people might use enhanced co-operation in a benign fashion to construct regional initiatives in relation to, for example, the Baltic which could involve an environmental project.

I intend to keep to my word and be brief. I have a difficulty with amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6. As I read it as a Legislator, if the Minister accepted those amendments he would have left a constitutional capacity that is in the Amsterdam treaty intact and would have removed the capacity to act on it, which seems extraordinary. If one wanted to pursue the logic of that backwards one should have proposed this amendment to the Amsterdam treaty and opposed enhanced co-operation almost ab initio in that treaty. My [441]memory of the discussion on this point in the Amsterdam treaty is that this did not happen.

We then come to the point which suggests that people who would want to argue in favour of amendment No. 4 would remove section 8 from what is being proposed. Deputy Boyle suggested that it might be inconsistent if it was taken in the spirit of the previous discussion. I will not pursue that, but another point that might be more provocative to him is that it could be suggested that it creates a second-class citizenship for Europe within the European Union. If one was part of a community that accepted a treaty-based relationship to other countries, including the Amsterdam treaty, and one had uniquely removed one's own capacity for enhanced co-operation, one would be at an extraordinary disadvantage regarding either the malignant or benign outcomes. This seems to be creating an incapacity rather than facilitating the matter.

An argument could also be made from the point of view of consistency. I have come to the conclusion that the arguments on sovereignty are not as convincing as previously, as the worst influence on the European Union is not coming through the mediation of nation states or the European Council but from elsewhere. The European Round Table was mentioned earlier. Its attempted influence on the European Commission in regard to international trade talks is more dangerous than anything that happened by way of influence in the Council. The most dramatic influence on Prime Ministers at European Council level might have been, for example, activities by companies such as Monsanto. In the United States attempts were made to lobby the Taoiseach on St. Patrick's Day to vote in a particular way on an issue regarding genetically modified food in the European Union. The influences on the Union are many and it may well be that the Council itself is not the place of greatest danger.

If we are to accept the sovereignty argument, which I have said I do not accept unconditionally, my view is that, to be effective in protecting workers, social movements will have to be constructed on a European basis. Much of the evidence in Ireland both socially and environmentally is that we will probably achieve most in that area. There is an inconsistency in terms of the sovereignty argument. One amendment in this group seeks to disable ourselves, while the others do not go so far as to seek to disable anybody else. It would be more consistent if they did because the treaty based argument in that sense would be that the founding treaties of the European Union envisaged the entire community of Europeans moving together at one pace within a set of principles that would almost never change. From once we accepted the process of treaty changes and accepted that the process of treaty [442]formation has not finished we cannot argue against having different initiatives.

I could give a final benign example. At one stage the Swedes wanted to protect children from television advertising. That unfortunately did not come to fruition. I tried the same here and was supported by some others. If one wanted to do that it would be a good idea in regard to enhanced co-operation. Enhanced co-operation could be used if one wanted to regard films, broadcasting etc. as cultural issues rather than commodities.

I have some sympathy for the people making the case being debated. In asking whether a malignant or benign outcome is more likely in regard to capacity, the history of the Union, particularly in times of right or right of centre governments – we currently have a right of centre market fundamentalist as Minister for Finance – is that the Internal Market has been facilitated at the cost of social cohesion. For example, the Commission has disestablished many forms of regulation and has removed the state from many different areas. People regard this as progress but it is not inevitably so. State monopolies have been broken up to create private, unaccountable, unrelated monopolies. Even conservative economists are now writing about the present position in Europe as one where there is a crisis of regulation post deregulation of state activity. In other words, totally unaccountable, unregulated private entities, such as Kirsch in broadcasting, have emerged and are more dangerous and deleterious in their effects on those who view and consume than the state ever could have been.

The same thing is happening in regard to energy supply and so forth. Many people have a reasonable doubt that the balance of outcomes regarding enhanced co-operation may well be to drive forward forms of market fundamentalism that are anti citizen and so pro market that they will be anti consumer. They will be so unregulated that they will be negative in their consequences. That said, we are not served by the removal of ourselves, as proposed in amendment No. 4, from the capacity to be involved in the debate on enhanced co-operation.

Mr. Andrews: Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  My understanding of enhanced co-operation is the view that was expressed earlier by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Roche, and also by Deputy Gay Mitchell. It is a flexible approach to the various problems that will inevitably be experienced by an enlarged Europe. Deputy Mitchell referred to a number of these. I am not sure if he referred to the euro but that too is an example of enhanced co-operation which has operated well within the European Union.

I was not going to speak on this matter but when I heard Deputy Boyle propose the amendment I felt I had to come and address the House. [443]He uses reckless language to propose his obviously sincere views. He used phrases like blackmail and emotional bullying. He referred to this section as sinister and described enhanced co-operation as meaning many different things but not as we all understand it to mean. Deputy Gormley also adopted this interpretative view in his understanding of peacemaking, describing it in his initial contribution on Second Stage as a euphemism for war.

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  That is what Deputy John Bruton said.

Mr. Andrews: Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Does the Deputy agree with that?

Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  I agree with Deputy Bruton.

Mr. Andrews: Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  I will hardly defend Deputy Bruton.

It shows a deep-seated cynicism towards the language used by the EU, bearing in mind that it is the product of tortuous negotiation over many years and the result of translations through and from many languages, such as German, French, English, Spanish and Italian. Although these words were not arrived at lightly, the nay-sayers claim that the black arts are being performed in Brussels by small cabals of those who wish to undermine the political will of the majority of Europeans.

Deputy Joe Higgins described enlargement as a Trojan horse for enhanced co-operation and said that facilitating such co-operation was the treaty's real purpose. Enhanced co-operation was the last thing I imagined the Opposition would pick up on when I first read the treaty and its various précis. While I do not wish to tell Opposition Members how to approach their task, it is not a good idea to use the blunderbuss against everything. I realise they may have legitimate concerns about one or two aspects of the treaty, but they seem to have decided to oppose it all and to criticise everything, which is an inappropriate way for an Opposition to go about its business. The language used by certain Opposition Members throughout this debate has been reckless.

I am quite convinced that although there are potentially malignant outcomes to enhanced co-operation, as Deputy Michael D. Higgins mentioned, that potential will not be realised. The treaty contains many safeguards, such as the veto that applies to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, or the fact that enhanced co-operation does not apply to defence matters.

Tugadh tuairisc ar a ndearnadh; an Coiste do shuí arís.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.[444]


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