Before the adjournment of the debate I was referring to the survey that was carried out, as reported in an article in the Irish Independent, of 11th March, by three Tokyo merchant banking houses. That survey considered the opportunities which were available in Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland and Ireland was rated highest with 40 per cent of the possible marks, the Netherlands 31 per cent and Belgium 27 per cent. One of the factors which, apparently, influenced the decision was the absence of a language barrier. Also the traditional ties with the United States were regarded as of importance.
However, the facts of this situation, as has been repeatedly emphasised, indicate that after the EEC has been enlarged and Britain and the Six—for the moment leaving aside the two other applicant countries—are one, we will realise that 80 per cent of this country's trade has been with Britain. This alone justifies a positive decision on our part in the sense that to reject the opportunity of membership and to put at risk not only agriculture but employment in a number of existing industries that export to these markets would be an unwarranted decision.
Having said that, I believe it is important that we should at the same time look at the disadvantages. It is a mistake to present this to the electorate as a decision which provides only opportunities of employment. We must also put to them that there are certain disadvantages involved and that it is advisable to consider them and to enumerate them so that it can be clearly understood what the disadvantages are and what action can be taken to minimise, or to offset in certain cases, these disadvantages.
There will be an increase in the cost of living. It is, however, a statistical fact that the increase in the cost of living in the EEC countries in the past three years has been lower than it has been here. There is not much compensation in that—it is still an increase— and it is on this particular aspect that I find the Taoiseach's introductory speech unsatisfactory. The sections in the community who are likely to be hit more than others in increases in the cost of living are pensioners and those others on fixed incomes, apart from the social welfare categories.
On the assumption that EEC membership will result in a saving to the Exchequer here of something between £30 and £36 million annually in respect of agricultural subsidies, it is essential that there should be a firm public commitment to compensate social welfare recipients to the extent to which they will be affected adversely by the increased cost of living. We must go even further. Our social welfare level of payments is in general lower than other European countries. Apart from the social welfare classes, a great number of State pensioners, retired State, semi-State and local authority employees, retired members of the Army, Garda and teachers, find that the cost of living increase over the years has left them, particularly those who have retired for some years, substantially worse off compared with pensioners filling the same positions as they filled but who retired more recently.
There must, therefore, be a firm public commitment not only to increase all social welfare benefits, widows' and orphans' pensions, children's allowances and so on, but pensions of retired State and other public servants. There must also be a commitment to give parity to pensioners who retired some years ago.
One of the issues adverted to in a recent study indicates that in 1970 it was estimated that the disparity between pay and pension increases had approached about 4 per cent. Pending and subsequent pay awards have widened that gap and although some increases were granted in recent Budgets, the aim of bringing up the pensions of earlier retired State employees to parity with fellow pensioners who retired recently and who had filled precisely the same positions, has not been implemented. As well, the cost of living increase indicates that the 4 per cent pension increase granted in 1971 has been eroded very substantially.
In addition, there are in the community a large number of persons who do not qualify under any of these heads, who are neither State pensioners nor former employees of local authorities but who are in comparable circumstances, living on small fixed incomes. They are feeling severely the conditions which are eroding their savings. They, in addition to the social welfare classes and all public pensioners, must be clearly designated as being entitled to a substantial share of the £30 to £36 million that will be saved in respect of agricultural subsidies in the event of EEC membership.
One of the arguments in favour of EEC membership is that it will mean considerable benefits to agriculture. There are arguments from time to time about where the likely benefits will flow most freely. Nobody will dispute that if there is a rise in agricultural prices it will penetrate through the whole agricultural community: it does not matter whether the farm is big, medium or small, the benefit will naturally be there irrespective of size. Naturally the most intensive and the best organised will get the most advantage out of it. That injection of prosperity will react in other ways. There will be industries based on food processing, industries founded or getting their supplies of raw materials from agriculture which will affect the agricultural community and also others indirectly involved, those employed in industries depending for their supplies of raw materials and supplying either the home or export trade. These improved economic conditions, to a great extent, do not benefit pensioners or others on fixed incomes. In fact, the contrary may be the case. It has been estimated, and I think this figure is reasonably accurate, that some food prices will be affected, such as meat and milk. According to the household budget inquiry of 1965-66 only 6 per cent of consumer expenditure was spent on certain food products.
It is a mistake to tie inquiries of this kind too closely in the sense that very often the effect on the individual is different to what it is estimated to be. On the assumption that there is an increase pensioners and others on fixed incomes will naturally be the most affected. Statistical information is available in the Department of Social Welfare, the Department of Finance and other Departments concerned with pensioners, whether social welfare or other categories. The Government should be able to give a reasonably close figure of the sum of money necessary from public sources to compensate on an adequate basis as well as to raise in real terms the pensions of the categories of the people I have mentioned.
A number of surveys have been made, including one published some years ago in the Daily Telegraph, which indicated that this was one of the few countries that had failed to measure up to the general improvements in pensions and in addition had fallen behind in the pattern of pension increase that were then becoming common to a number of European countries, where pensioners who had retired at an earlier age were given parity in respect of pensions with those who retired at a later age.
There are certain other aspects of the European Economic Community that will cause concern. Certain industries will be adversely affected, and I believe this must be recognised. The CIO reports indicate that steps in some cases were taken and in others the dilatory nature of the measures taken to deal with the problem is a cause of concern.
The other aspect of the White Paper which I believe is unsatisfactory and which has caused concern is that in regard to fisheries. I agree with the criticism expressed by Deputy Keating. It is a mistake to suggest, as has been suggested on page 47 of the White Paper at paragraph 5.33 on fisheries:
As a member of the Council we will be in a position to ensure that our national interests in the fishery sector will be provided for by appropriate arrangements including the maintenance of special limits.
I do not believe that is a correct representation of the facts. I believe this is a unanimous decision. Although we have power to argue about it, the Council have the right to take a decision and it is a unanimous one. There is concern in regard to the fishery aspect of the agreement. I speak as a representative of a constituency that has in it a harbour, which has one of the largest fish landings in the country and which has grown considerably over the years as a result of developments there and schemes designed to improve the harbour and landing facilities at Dún Laoghaire. There is concern because in the fishing areas the alternative employment available is very limited.
It is true that many of our fishermen are part-time fishermen, but the terms of the fishery arrangement indicate that a sufficiently strong case was not put up and was not argued to its logical conclusion. This is one aspect of the negotiations in which I believe the Norwegians were right. We should have gone along with them in the battle they put up to get an agreement. It was said here to representatives of the different political parties, when the Norwegian delegation was over here, that they had to put the question of fisheries as a question of principle, that whether they would recommend the arrangement hinged on whether they would get satisfactory terms.
Fisheries do not rank to the same extent in this country. Nevertheless, I believe that the agreement in respect of fisheries is not satisfactory. Mr. Froschmeier, who was on the recent RTE programme, confirmed in a reply he gave that the decisions of the Council in this regard are unanimous decisions. To suggest here that we have a voice in influencing decisions does not accurately represent the position.
The other aspect of the terms negotiated which I believe is unsatisfactory is that in connection with dumping. This is an area in which there is concern because of the size of the market, because of our proximity to a highly industrialised country like Britain and because of past experience with Britsh competitors but also with other competitors. The terms in respect of dumping are less satisfactory than they should have been. In the event of accession further discussions will be necessary.
The other matters that have been the subject of comment here are ones more of detail than of substance. I want to refer to an aspect which of course has emotional overtones, that is the question of sovereignty. It sounds tremendous to suggest that we are abandoning sovereignty, that we are giving away something we have that we should not relinquish. Everybody believes in the independence of the country. It is one of the fundamental tenets of the party I represent that we believe in the reality and substance of independence. One of the realities of independence that is valuable is the right of the electorate to decide an issue of this sort. This right was secured for the people to exercise through the ballot boxes whether they wish to adhere to an arrangement of this sort or to remain outside.
Any emotional suggestions that we have some sort of immense power of a military or naval character or that somebody outside will impose their will on us is of course largely illusory. In any organisation that we join, whether it is the old League of Nations, the ILO, the United Nations, or the World Health Organisation, any international body presupposes that those who join it are prepared to abide by the terms of the treaty or other rules of the organisation concerned. It is true in this particular case—and this is one of the reasons for the referendum—that certain decisions made by the Community have application within the member countries. The terms of our Constitution, which vests the complete authority for making laws in the Oireachtas —in other words, in the Dáil and Seanad—give the final decision on the constitutionality or otherwise of legislation to the Supreme Court here. It is necessary because of these Articles, which have been quoted here on many occasions in other debates, for the country to decide by referendum on certain amendments included in the legislation passing through the House. That legislation will involve, if it is enacted, that the necessary changes will be made in order to allow the terms of the Rome Treaty to operate. To that extent an outside body, of which we will be members, will have the right to take certain decisions. Provided we accept the terms of membership we will go along with those decisions.
If a member country objects to something because it considers it is contrary to its essential interests—and it is entitled to oppose it—the unanimity rule almost invariably operates. We can always opt out if we want to. On the one hand it is testing credulity too far to suggest that we are handing ourselves over, lock, stock and barrel, to some outside authority and then to say we have done that in perpetuity. If we decide that it is not in our interests, we can always leave the Community. Many of us, irrespective of party, when discussing this with politicians from other countries, and with people of every political persuasion whether Christian democrats, liberals, socialists, labour supporters or supporters of no particular party, found that they all expressed the view that EEC membership would mean a substantial improvement in the standard of living. Even the Italian community admitted that their standard of living has improved. Recent figures indicate that the growth of the EEC has not been as spectacular as it was in earlier years. That may be a temporary phenomenon or it may indicate a general decline in expansion. Having reviewed this as critically as it is possible to do —and none of us regards the terms negotiated as perfect—none of us wants to suggest that there will not be difficulties. There will be difficulties for certain industries and for pensioners on fixed incomes and for certain categories of people involved in certain types of production. The substantial balance of our trade—and this is a significant fact which has been overlooked—is with Britain and the EEC. One of the factors to which I wanted to refer was that 65 per cent of our total exports go to the British market. Britain relies for about 5 per cent of her total exports on the Irish market. Almost 50 per cent of our exports are agricultural products. In 1969 the exports of agricultural goods as a percentage of total exports in Austria was 4.1 per cent; Finland, 3.2 per cent; Sweden, 2.4 per cent and Switzerland, 2.9 per cent.
It is, therefore, obvious that our interest in actual membership as distinct from a trade agreement is far greater than that of these countries. Eighty per cent of our exports go to Britain and the EEC. Less than 2 per cent of their total exports come to us. It is obvious from the economic facts of our trade with Britain and the EEC that it is substantially in our interest as of now to join the EEC. Some of the alternatives which have been suggested do not hold water. The eastern European countries have been mentioned. Neither Japan nor such countries buy in any sizeable quantity from us.
There was some talk recently of opening diplomatic relations with Russia. I put down a question and it was shown that the imbalance of trade between Ireland and Russia was phenomenal. The same is true in regard to other countries. In fact, the countries with which we trade to any sizeable extent are Britain and the EEC. The only other country with which we have significant trade is the United States.
I want to conclude on a point which I made earlier. This is an important decision. It is important for the public that the facts should be put clearly before them. There is, because of the present very serious situation in Northern Ireland, an air of unreality about this debate. It is vital in present circumstances to make it clear in this House beyond question that there is only one sovereign authority in this country. The Government have an obligation to make this clear. Attacks on the Garda, Army or institutions of this State will be resisted, no matter who instigates them or from what quarter they come. This House is the only legitimate authority. It speaks, acts and is responsible to the people. The people can change the Government; they can change any of us; they can change any of the parties. No one outside this House has authority to speak or act for them. That must be clearly emphasised and not merely in speeches or comments or broadcasts. It must be seen to be operated in practice by resisting with whatever resources are necessary attacks on the institutions of this State so that we can carry conviction to those who have negotiated with this country, those who are prepared to accept this country as a member of the EEC, and above all, to those outside either the Community or Britain who are anxious, willing and concerned to invest here to provide employment, that we intend to preserve, no matter what the cost, the fabric of this State and our society. In doing that we are showing we are prepared to play a part as a member of the EEC, recognising that we have an interest in Europe as part of it, that politically we are part of Europe and anxious to see Europe coming together and that the aims and objectives of the Community coincide generally with our aims and objectives: We wish to see achieved the wider objectives of the European Community—the maintenance of peace, the increasing of prosperity, the elemination of social injustices and the more effective protection of the environment. These are all matters in which we as a people have as much interest as anybody else in Europe.
In many cases these objectives transcend national barriers and the views and aspirations of political parties. Most of them are common to all parties and every country. We are anxious to play our part in achieving these aims and objectives. We recognise that we are a small country on the edge of Europe and as regards the EEC we shall be on the periphery and in many ways less involved than other countries but because of our history and because of our present beliefs and the views and attitudes we value and consider basic to our way of life, we believe in the enlargement of the Community and that it is a decision that must be taken by the people.
We believe there are opportunities and advantages in it which we should exploit; that there are disadvantages that we shall have to minimise, problems we shall have to overcome and resolve and ease in respect of certain categories in the community but, looking at the general situation and viewing the opportunities and advantages of membership, recognising that there are no realistic workable alternatives, we believe it is in the national interest to adhere to the EEC. We recognise that it is a decision that must be taken by a free, independent people. Having put the facts before them, we believe they will make the right decision and whatever it is, it will be a decision taken freely by the people and we will defend their right to make it and to decide it freely without hindrance from anybody.