All posts by Pat Carroll

ANN LOUISE GILLIGAN RIP

We mourn with Katherine Zappone the loss of her beautiful wife & life partner Ann Louise Gilligan. Social justice campaigner & lovely person

Ann Louise was a champion for equal opportunity in Education during her time in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra and for the wider Equality agenda in her work with An Cosán and in campaigning so successfully alongside her wife Katherine Zappone in the Marriage Equality referendum.

Throughout her life, Ann Louise always fought for justice and equality. In her passing she leaves behind a wonderful legacy and a distinctive mark on a more equal Ireland.

Our thoughts are with Katherine and her family at this difficult time.

 

 

Leo needs to invigorate a tired and becalmed administration

On my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Dublin West I want to express my congratulations and good wishes to Leo’s family – his parents Miriam and Ashock and his partner Matt. This is a very proud day for their family and a great achievement

The new Taoiseach and I have the honor to represent the most diverse part of Ireland, where 30% of the population is either foreign born or who’s parents were born aboad. Dublin West represents a microcosm of the successes and challenges facing modern Ireland

Global and Irish business leaders such as IBM and Paypal along with major Irish employers such as Dunnes and Keelings provide jobs for thousands of workers in Dublin West.

There is a huge population of young people, families and also a growing older population. Dublin West also faces many Social Challenges alongside economic growth.

The new Taoiseach must hit the ground running.

There are decisions he must make almost immediately, if he is to invigorate a tired and becalmed administration

On the social side he must decide a target date for a referendum on the 8th amendment. Either next April or May before the Pope’s visit to Ireland. Be clear we do not want any more horror stories like yesterday – a young girl detained on mental health reasons. A woman who must make the lonely journey to Britain because her baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities.

I hope the new Taoiseach will opt for a clear programme of tax justice

You must end the scandal of extraordinarily profitable companies paying little or no corporation tax at all.

That’s why I’m advocating a minimum effective corporation tax structure, so that corporations must contribute a fair share and a standing commission on taxation that will address loopholes and flaws in our tax system as they arise

Late last year the Revenue Commissioners advised that the financial services and construction sectors managed to avoid €1.24 billion in taxes in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. We will have the 2015 data shortly; the revenue Commissioners and Minister might confirm when we will have those figures. An extraordinary amount of tax losses have built up in our system. We have accumulated losses in all sectors of over €15 billion, in the financial services sector of over €9 billion and in the construction sector of over €400 million.

I said that this is a tired and becalmed administration

So far we seem to have a

  • Disfunctional Department of Justice & Gardai
  • A health service which 3 FG health ministers including yourself have been unable to reform
  • And a housing situation that notwithstanding huge resources going in since 2014/15 in failing to produce the affordable and social houses that people and families need

One of the first demands of Simon & Leo in the 2011 General Election was “a bonfire of the quangos”

Well let me say now that unless you develop a new state authority to develop social and affordable housing we are going to be faced with a 20 year housing crisis

HSE MUST URGENTLY ENGAGE WITH ADAPT CLIENTS & STAFF

I have been liaising with staff and the community and have met Minister Catherine Byrne directly to discuss the urgency of the situation. The project was set to be restructured but staff were informed last month that the board of management had decided to wind down ADAPT and they were to be made redundant on July 7.

The staff have been treated very badly. There has been a failure by the HSE to consult in detail regarding the decision to close the project. Many workers have decades of experience serving the community providing a holistic service for people dealing with drug or alcohol misuse. They provide social care services, crisis management and intervention, one-to-one support and childcare service for people who are receiving treatment.

Following my meeting with Catherine Byrne the Minister has assured me that she is dealing with the matter at the highest level in the HSE. This is crucial not only for employees but the many families that use the service.

I will continue to pursue the matter with the incoming Taoiseach and call upon him to take an active role in resolving this problem and ensure there are not only new placements for ADAPT clients but that the staff and their union IMPACT receive wholehearted engagement and consultation from the HSE

 

PROTECTING THE LIFFEY VALLEY AND ST CATHERINE’S

Yesterday I raised with Transport Minister the dangers of a road proposal that would impact negatively on the Lucan Demesne and St Catherine’s Park

Deputy Joan Burton:

St. Catherine’s Park, also known as Lucan Demesne, is a very beautiful regional park created in the Liffey valley. It serves three counties. Fingal is the largest part of it, followed by Kildare as well as Lucan in south County Dublin. It is a regional park for three counties. People have become very concerned in recent times as to whether or not a major new road may be built through the park. I have to say that one of my proudest achievements as a Minister in the 1990s, along with then Minister, Michael D. Higgins, was securing funding for the purchase of the lands at St. Catherine’s Park in the Lucan Demesne from the farming family that had made it available for sale. Importantly, it is also in the Liffey valley amenity area, which is a protected area of amenity that is absolutely vital to the enormous populations that live in Dublin 15, from Castleknock out to Mulhuddart and Clonsilla, in Lucan, Palmerstown and north Clondalkin, and in Leixlip and the surrounding areas in Kildare.

Controversy arose recently when it was discovered that an indicative road line in the Fingal county plan showed a major new road cutting through the Liffey valley right on the Dublin-Kildare border. The indicative line clearly shows that the road would basically slice straight through St. Catherine’s Park, affecting the whole of the park, but – I have to be honest – particularly the Kildare side. The reason I want to raise this issue with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, is that I am aware, as I am sure the Minister is in his own constituency, that people like road engineers and planners from time to time put down desire lines, indicative lines and such like on how we might have a major new road or road linkage in a particular spot but are oblivious to the concerns and interests of the local community. In this case, the N3 and the N4 to the west of Dublin might be linked by a road through this indicative line that would basically avoid the M50.

The destruction of this wonderful regional park would be far too high a price to pay. If it was to go through, given the topography of the area with the Liffey located down in a valley with the heights on the south and north sides, it would effectively require another much larger high-level bridge over the Liffey so it would be extraordinarily expensive.

The existing indicative route could not only destroy St. Catherine’s Park, it would bring HGV traffic into the Ongar-Littlepace area in Dublin 15 to the particular detriment of estates with thousands of families, including estates like Beechfield, Blackwood and Littlepace. The Minister could set aside the fears of residents by making a clear statement. I want the Minister to ensure that notwithstanding various plans that may come from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the Liffey valley amenity is preserved. In respect of the capital plan, which is inadequately funded, as the Minister is aware, I had no idea that we could spend ransom sums of money on a huge new bridge over the Liffey at this point. I would like to hear whether the Minister has been briefed on this and whether he is aware of it. I know he is very positive about parks and green spaces as amenities, as am I. I would like to get his assurances on this point.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross):

I thank the Deputy for raising this subject. On the surface, the destruction of amenities is something we must take very seriously. I accept what the Deputy has said, particularly if a park is in danger of being destroyed or divided and if communities are being badly affected. Have I been briefed on this? Today was the first time I knew about this so I have not been briefed on it in any detail but I am aware of it. The Deputy has put a strong case but she might be in the wrong place.

I would like to clarify that link roads are generally regional or local roads and as the Deputy will be aware, the development and maintenance of such roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993, as amended. The selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is, therefore, a matter for the local authority concerned. Nonetheless the possibility that the lives of people in St. Catherine’s Park could be ruined must be taken very seriously if this is a real plan. I know it is only an indicative plan at the moment. It is also a matter for the relevant local authority in its capacity as the planning authority for its area to consider and adopt a development plan. My Department has no function with regard to such matters.

Where road projects are adopted, works are funded from local authorities’ own resources supplemented by State road grants, where applicable. Arising from the arrangements in place relating to local property tax receipts, the four Dublin councils became self-funding for regional and local roads under the main road grant categories from 2015. These grant programmes cover general road maintenance and strengthening, safety improvement and bridge rehabilitation works. Provision was made in the capital plan for the upgrade of roads in the vicinity of Grange Castle Business Park and the Department as providing grant assistance for that strategic scheme. This is, however, the only strategic road project in the Dublin area being grant assisted at present.

The NTA’s transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, GDA, 2016-35 sets out principles for future road development in the GDA. The strategy refers to the future enhancement of orbital movement between the N3 and N4 by widening existing roads and the development of new road links. As I have outlined above, however, implementation of any such measures is a matter for the local authorities concerned.

Even though it is entirely a matter for the local authorities, my division made inquires of Fingal County Council today and got some information that the proposed link between the N3 and N4 has been a specific objective of Fingal’s county development plan since 2005. The road proposal is shown on sheet 13 of the current Fingal development plan 2017-23. A small portion of the road proposal is also indicated in table seven of the current development as road schemes N3 and N4 link Ongar to Barnhill. This would allow for access to zoned residential lands to the south of Hansfield train station on lands known as Barnhill. All road proposals in the county development plan are indicative. The N3-N4 link road is an indicative line on the development plan and no detailed route alignment map with a selection of road between the N4 and the approved road alignment within the zoned lands at Barnhill is available for inspection on the Fingal website.

Deputy Joan Burton:

I thank the Minister for his reply and for taking an interest in this proposal. This is a park of under 200 acres in an area with the most enormous population growth. I invite the Minister to see it because the Liffey runs through it and there are plenty of opportunities for the Royal Canal and the Liffey to be linked via a pedestrian footbridge up at the Royal Canal and to expand a very significant walking, and possibly cycling, route for west Dublin and possibly continue it on the south side. This could eventually link up with the cycle way that is being developed in Dublin Bay via a Liffey route. We should exercise our imagination about the potential of this for people living in very heavily congested areas. This is an enormous amenity that is widely used. Admittedly, when I persuaded the then Government to acquire this land, a proposal supported by Michael D. Higgins, Bertie Ahern and John Bruton, it was with a view to providing an amenity for people. I hear what the Minister is saying, namely, that his Department has no role in regional roads. He referenced the Hansfield development. Hansfield is a special development zone that has been zoned for over ten years which if completed, would provide for another 3,000 houses. Those houses would be very popular with people and I am totally in favour of that. However, the road entry that is required for that does not impact at all on Lucan Demesne or St. Catherine’s Park. It is quite a distance away. It is the question of that route, which would be relatively small and which is needed to access the housing, not then being used as a trojan horse to create a linkage at that point and in St. Catherine’s Park between the N3 and N4. If the council is telling the Minister that it needs the Hansfield access route to be developed, I would say “Yes” in the context of housing but that has nothing to do with that then passing over the Liffey or potentially destroying St. Catherine’s Park. Although Fingal County Council has given the Minister information, what it has given him is not quite fair. I can certainly given the Minister more details. When he sees the detailed map, he will see what I mean.

Deputy Shane Ross:

The only part of the road that is indicated on the current development plan is within the zoned lands at Hansfield-Ongar to serve the existing schools and residential development. A Part 8 procedure for local authority development has also provided for the design of a section of road to cross over the railway line south of this into zoned residential lands at Barnhill. No work has been done on the construction of this section of road to date and no further design or route options further south have been commenced

If it is any comfort to the Deputy, I am sure she will already know that any impact on the Liffey valley and St. Catherine’s Park, to which she referred, would be carefully considered in any design process or route options.

Furthermore, any project of the likely scale required for the proposed road would have to follow the processes required under various EU directives and related Irish legislation, including the environmental impact assessment, EIA, directive and the habitats directive. These environmental assessments must take account of a number of environmental receptors and themes, including landscape, cultural heritage, biodiversity, impact on humans, material assets, air and noise. They must also look at realistic alternative options and set out the preferred option. This will be subject to public consultation in the future. This is all set out in legislation. There has to be an integral and transparent part of any decision-making process for the identification of any proposed new road route and design. As I outlined above, no process has started for this road proposal.

BREXIT PREPARATIONS

As part of Ireland’s preparations for Brexit I questioned the Taoiseach about the recently appointed National Economic and Social Council, (NESC)

Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of times the Cabinet committee on Brexit has met since June 2016. [23018/17]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on Brexit met three times in 2017, namely, on 26 January, 8 March and 26 April. It has met a total of eight times since its first meeting in September 2016. In addition, Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, attended a meeting with a number of members of the committee on 11 May.

On 2 May, the Government published a comprehensive document on Ireland and the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This document sets out the approach of the Government to the forthcoming negotiations, following the successful campaign to have key Irish issues recognised in the EU negotiating position.

Following on from this publication, work is under way to prepare a further paper on economic implications of the Brexit challenge. This will draw on the work to date across Departments, which will be developed to mitigate emerging sectoral challenges. The paper will build on ongoing cross-Government research, analysis and consultations and will reflect the core economic themes of the speech I gave to the Institute of International and European Affairs on 15 February. It will include issues such as sustainable fiscal policies to ensure capacity to absorb and respond to economic shocks, not simply from Brexit. There will be plans for policies to make Irish enterprise more diverse and resilient, to diversify trade and investment patterns and to strengthen competitiveness. It will prioritise policy measures and dedicate resources to protect jobs and businesses in the sectors and regions most affected by Brexit. It will realise economic opportunities arising from Brexit and will help businesses adjust to any new logistical or trade barriers arising. The paper will make a strong case at EU level that Ireland will require support that recognises where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy.

Deputy Joan Burton:   I first acknowledge that the Taoiseach deserves to be congratulated for actually getting the EU – in its various position papers and outlines – to acknowledge the critical issue of Ireland. When will the Taoiseach publish the Brexit paper on economics and trade? In this Chamber we have talked a lot about Northern Ireland in the context of Brexit, and for very understandable reasons. An issue that does not get much attention, however, is the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Republic of Ireland that may be adversely affected by a hard Brexit. The Taoiseach’s friends, the Conservative Party in England, at this very moment is campaigning in the English broadsheets and tabloids and in other media such as radio and social media for a hard Brexit, for leaving the Single Market and for leaving the customs union. It will cause devastation in many sectors of Ireland’s economy over the next three to ten years. The Taoiseach said some nice things about what he might do. The Labour Party has proposed a trade adjustment fund of €250 million. Does the Taoiseach have concrete proposals for addressing the economic and trade issues on Brexit?

There is also the slow seepage out of information that there will be ghost custom posts, maybe 20 km north and south of the Border, with all the implications we understand for Donegal, Derry and the north west of the North of Ireland. It is extraordinary that the Government is so silent on this matter given that Teagasc has recently stated the duties on beef, for example in a WTO situation, will run as high as more than 60%.

 

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 to 14, inclusive, together.

I have appointed a new National Economic and Social Council, NESC. The new council will meet on 24 May and I expect that it will discuss its work programme and working methods at that meeting. It is a matter for the council to agree its own working arrangements.

The council’s remit is to analyse and report on strategic issues for Ireland’s economic, social, environmental and sustainable development. I am keen that the council considers longer-term issues such as housing, broadband, climate change, pensions and long-term funding models in education and health. The NESC, with its track record of engagement and consistent and high quality work on contentious issues, has an important role to play. As the Deputies will be aware, the NESC secretariat continues its work on issues relevant to the programme for Government, including jobless households, social dimensions of the crisis, consumer prices, labour market activation and the funding of higher education.

The new council has a reduced membership of three members each from the nominating sectors, seven independents and six public servants. This is in line with the views of the outgoing members around the need for smaller, more focused plenary sessions and a strong representation from the Government side. I will circulate membership of the council for the benefit of Members which includes people from the business and employer sector, the ICTU, the farming and agriculture sector, the community and voluntary sector, the environmental sector, public servants and independent experts.

Deputy Joan Burton:   Now that the members of the new council have finally been appointed, has it been given instructions on what the priorities are for examinations and studies? The council might be an appropriate body to do some work on Brexit, particularly on the political, social and economic sensitivities arising from the prospect of parallel or shadow customs and border facilities and the race by the Taoiseach’s counterparts in the UK, the Conservative Party, for a hard Brexit. It is odd that there is no indication from the Taoiseach of what the group is likely to prioritise. There are other issues, such as employment, and the council has done work in the past on jobless households. There are issues around health and with regard to both ageing and young populations.

There may be implications for the economy from changes in America’s approach to trade relationships, including with Ireland, and from tax issues between Ireland and the European Commission such as the fallout from the Apple case. These are vital issues but Brexit is the overriding one and I am surprised that, given all the public service brains which will gather in one room tomorrow, the Taoiseach will not commission them to have a serious look at Brexit, particularly in respect of the Border.

 

FUTURE OF OFFICE OF DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE ENFORCEMENT

This week on spoke in the Dail about the performance of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement after catastrophic collapse of the trail of the former CEO of Anglo Irish Bank Sean Fitzpatrick:

 

“This is a low blow to citizens in the country, especially to people who lost their jobs, businesses or homes as a consequence of the goings on in Anglo Irish Bank. It is fair to say that white-collar crime is not taken seriously in this country. I believe the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has never really wanted the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. It has always been something of a holding job rather than a thorough job. Consideration now has to be given, as it was at the time of the murder of Veronica Guerin, to the establishment of a criminal assets bureau for white-collar crime. Nothing less will address the situation. It must be seriously resourced, robust in its attitude and willing to take on all comers in respect of white-collar crime. That is the only way it can address the devastation, loss and cost that such crime means for the rest of society.

 

The basic difference or distinction between gathering evidence for a civil case and gathering evidence for a criminal case appears to be at the heart of what went wrong in this regard, in addition to the shredding of documents. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is part of the permanent Civil Service. Ministers do not have day-to-day contact with officials in a quasi-independent autonomous section of the Department. Did no one in the Department shout stop? My colleague, Deputy Howlin, brought in whistleblowers legislation, which has changed all of that. Where are the people in the Department who have come forward and advised the Minister? I believe that all those involved in this shambles need to seriously consider their positions.

 

By whom will this report be carried out? The Minister should not tell me that it will be by one of the officials in the Department. I do not believe that would be acceptable to anyone in the Dáil. I hope the Minister tells me it will be done by someone who is competent and who has the relevant expertise, maturity and experience. The people who have handled this from the Department’s side appear to have been people who probably were very good but whose experience all related to civil litigation and who seemed to have little or no experience with criminal prosecution. The cost of this to Irish society is severe.

 

I listened to Deputy Pearse Doherty. I recall that Deputy Doherty was one of the people who voted for the bank guarantee. He was proud to do that and he told us what a good fix it was for the people. People are gutted by what has happened with regard to this trial. It would seem now that the legal insiders were aware, by and large, that a second trial would have had little chance of success.

 

I have seen the advertisements against social welfare fraud put on the buses by my successor in the Department of Social Protection. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is listed as one of his supporters in the current discussions within her party. Will the Minister please tell the Minister for Social Protection to save half of the €250,000 that he has put into that campaign and divert it to white-collar crime? Were he to do that, he might actually do the public in Ireland some service”.

GOVERNMENT MUST RESPECT DAIL VOTE TO DELAY AIB SALE

The Labour Party is insistent that yesterday’s vote in the Dail still stands regarding the delaying of selling any stake in the AIB until it is agreed what infrastructure projects should be invested in from the proceeds of the sale.

Party leader Brendan Howlin said last night:

“The sequence of events today in relation to the Labour Party motion delaying the sale of AIB is an extraordinary one.

“All parties were present in the Dáil chamber, and voted one by one on five amendments which had been tabled to our motion. Each of those was defeated in turn. This meant that the final decision was on the original motion, unamended. The Government, caught up in chattering about the Fine Gael leadership, neglected to oppose the motion. As the Dáil record clearly states, “motion put and declared carried”.

“For several hours this afternoon, the Department of Finance sought to claim that there had been no vote, or that matters were unclear. Minister Noonan went so far as to tell the Dáil that there was a dispute over this. But there is no dispute, and it was only when I made public the text of the official Dáil record that this spin came to an end.

“The statement released by Michael Noonan this evening shows worrying contempt for Dáil Éireann. If the Government wants to override a decision of parliament, then they should table a new motion, and seek majority support. Their disregard for the views of parliament amounts to the final nail in the coffin of this do-nothing Dáil.

“The motion put to the House today was agreed, and has the same standing as any decision of Dáil Éireann. For this to be disregarded by the Government is not acceptable, and would be an immensely dangerous precedent.

“I will be taking further legal advice on this matter over the weekend, and will be raising it in the Dáil again next week.”

 

AIB SALE MUST NOW BE POSTPONED

Today in the Dail a Labour Party motion to postpone the sale of AIB shares until the funds raised can be used to invest in vital State infrastructure, has been passed in the Dáil this afternoon.

The planned use of the proceeds from the sale of AIB to pay down debt would reduce our debt levels by little more than 1% of GDP – hardly a meaningful difference to make. Labour’s motion rejected that idea, and instead said that the sale of AIB shares must be postponed until the proceeds can be invested in building homes and hospitals, and schools and public transport.

While the Government made a mess of their plans to oppose the motion, that must not be used to undermine what remains a valid decision taken by Dáil Éireann to pass the Labour Party motion.

The Government must now shelve their plans to begin the sale of AIB shares, and instead focus on seeking changes to the spending rules to allow for much greater investment in badly needed infrastructure. Michael Noonan must now confirm that his statement earlier today that the IPO will proceed is no longer valid.

The Government should look on this as a real opportunity to boost the paltry amount available to Paschal Donohoe to ramp up spending on vital infrastructure, and should direct all of their focus on that rather than seeking to undermine the decision made by Dáil Éireann today.

 

 

 

BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS

Today Michael Barnier is addressing the Dail. A former EU commissioner, Monsieur Barnier is the European Union chief negotiator with the United Kingdom in the forthcoming Brexit negotiation.

Today’s special joint sitting of the Dail and Seanad is to facilitate an exchange of views between Michael Barnier and the Oireachtas. Last night I set out my own concerns about the direction of the European Union:

 

In a week in which Monsieur Macron became President-elect of France, the Oireachtas is due to receive an unusual visitor tomorrow – another Frenchman, Monsieur Barnier, who is the European Union’s and therefore Ireland’s principle negotiator in respect of Brexit. In France, Monsieur Macron seems to have slowed the populist march of the ultra right and the ultra left. At this very unsettled period in political history, there is a remarkable degree of similarity between the ultra right and the ultra left in that there is one thing upon which they agree vehemently, namely, that the EU is a bad thing. I do not know why this is so, except perhaps that with populism goes totalitarianism and totalitarianism probably does not like the idea of 28 countries coming together in a loose association with certain rules. Populism-totalitarianism might just prefer one ruler.

Our own home-grown populists, some of whom are sitting in the Chamber tonight, are enthusiastic supporters of Brexit and have been since the debate began last year in the UK, according to everything I have heard. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of jobs North and South that are dependent on a good outcome for Ireland. Never mind the impact of Brexit on agriculture, tourism, or our general prosperity. Our Brexiteers across the Chamber favour, I think, some kind of post-colonial embrace with the UK outside of the EU. That is the only sense I can make of it. I have heard the various statements in the Dáil from time to time by their different spokespeople and must say they do not make a huge amount of sense. Being very populist, they must feel this stance has a lot of popular appeal. Of course, it lines them up side by side with the view of the American President, Mr. Trump.

Returning to Monsieur Barnier and his speech to the Oireachtas tomorrow, I wonder what it bodes for Ireland, and what kind of questions he is going to be asked and ought to answer. Yesterday, the Taoiseach was at pains to say that we are part of the 27 in terms of the negotiating structure, and of course we are. I do not have a problem with that. He said we have been consistent and clear that Ireland will be negotiating from a position of strength as part of the EU team of 27 member states. We need our own special strand, however, for the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland.

We have a model, as I have stated before, in the Belfast Agreement and in the structure of how parts of that agreement were advanced. Monsieur Barnier has implied that our situation will be at the forefront of his priorities. I accept that. He has made it clear in a number of statements and speeches. Ireland has had the framework of the Belfast Agreement accepted in the statements coming from the EU. The question we have to ask him is whether Ireland will be entirely subsumed into the other 27. Will it advance the precise outcomes upon which I think pretty much everybody, with the exception of our Brexiteers, has agreed? We need the common travel area and free movement between the two islands. For a variety of reasons both commercial and political, and in recognition of the Belfast Agreement, we do not want a hard Border.

We have debated all of this on a number of occasions. We do have to beware that the current Government does not land us in a “troika 2” situation, whereby because we sign up with the 27 we lose our autonomy in respect of those specific issues. As the site of the only land border between the UK and the EU and in terms of our historic linkages with the UK, we must beware of letting others negotiate on our behalf. Notwithstanding what I think will be an insistent, genuine concern about the interests of Ireland on the part of the EU negotiations leader, we need more. We should be clear and thoughtful. We want an orderly approach but there is a risk if we will not talk about the future relationship with the UK until we have signed off on the current one. That is what Monsieur Barnier’s structure is implying to some degree. In that case, the EU may surrender to that section of opinion in which there is a strong, understandable desire to punish Britain by imposing on it a form of economic isolation.

That is why the constant response of the British Prime Minister has been that a hard Brexit is better than no Brexit. Negotiations are difficult enough if two people genuinely sit down to negotiate, never mind one party and 27 others, of which one has precise interests. We cannot go into negotiations if everyone around the table is likely to be a loser. We have to identify what will be a win in this case for people in the North and in the Republic as well as what can be a win for the UK. This will allow us to emerge from the negotiations with the minimum damage conceivable done to our common futures. If we allow that harsher Brexit vision to gain supremacy, then we will suffer even more economically and we will also suffer more in proportion to any other EU country.

This is the point those who will be speaking to Mr. Barnier tomorrow have to lay on the line: no other country from the 27, not even Gibraltar in the context of its relationship with Spain, has as much at stake as Ireland, North and South. We need to convey that clearly tomorrow.

I am unsure whether the dinner took place last week or beforehand but we saw the leaks last week of one of the most disastrous dinners in diplomatic history. Let us imagine if that happened on “Masterchef”. Let us imagine by the end of it people were going for each other with verbal knives as opposed to tasting the soufflés and checking on the soups. What would we think? We saw a debacle in terms of the contact between a high-ranking EU official and the UK Prime Minister. We have to bend our thoughts to how to avoid that. I do not think Mr. Barnier is getting as much as a cup of tea or coffee tomorrow. He is probably getting that in Druid’s Glen with the European People’s Party. Anyway, I strongly suggest that we should focus collectively on how we get the best deal possible.

Without a doubt this is the most difficult issue that has faced this country for a long period.”

 

VERDEMONT FIRE

My thoughts and sympathies are with the residents of Verdemont Coolmine  Blanchardstown who suffered a disastrous fire at their apartments

I want to salute Dublin fire brigade and all the emergency workers and the Fingal co council staff who worked to put out the fire and to assist residents

There will have to be a detailed enquiry into the fire and how it spread so quickly and destroyed and damaged so many apartments and homes.
The minister will have to initiate this as quickly as possible And review Fire safety standards and their enforcement in respect of domestic dwellings