Single European Act — Neutrality and Protocol No. 30: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann reaffirms Ireland's position of neutrality outside military alliances, and notes with satisfaction that the provisions in Title III of the Single European Act relating to the co-operation of the High Contracting Parties (that is, the Twelve member states of the European Community) on the political and economic aspects of security and the closer co-ordination of their positions in this area do not affect Ireland's position of neutrality outside military alliances.
That Dáil Éireann further notes and welcomes the provisions of Article 23 of the Single European Act on Economic and Social Cohesion, which enhances and strengthens the commitment of the Community to the achievement of the objectives set out in Protocol No. 30 on Ireland appended to the Treaty of Accession of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom to the European Communities.
—(Minister for Foreign Affairs.)

Before we adjourned for lunch I had been dealing with the question of the provisions in the Single European Act relating to research and technology, commenting that there seemed to be a consensus on all sides of the House — judging from Deputy Wilson's interventions in support of Deputy Manning — about the importance of these provisions and the extent to which Europe has lost ground against its competitors. I want to take up there and say that I am conscious of the fact that this is alimited debate, that there are a number of Members who want to contribute, so I shall endeavour to keep my remarks as brief as possible. I shall try not to be diverted into argument with previous speakers but rather adhere as tightly as possible to my thoughts.

There is a consensus that the Community has failed to keep pace in the development and export of advanced technology. The international trade figures and the statistics of market penetration are an ample and painful reminder of that failure. But the failure of the Community in this area has implications far beyond the figures and the statistics. It has implications for the levels of our unemployment, for the livelihood of our people and — without being theatrical about it — has the clearest implications in the longer term for the future of our children. It is not and should not be thought of as being an optional extra. It is an imperative. It is imperative that the Community be fully equipped to compete effectively in this area where it has lost considerable ground, most specifically to the United States and to Japan in recent years. In some respects this represents the greatest challenge facing the Community in the years ahead. But is by no means an insurmountable one. It is a challenge to the very potential of the Community. If the Community can harness the strengths of the individual member states in the areas of research and technology then there is no reason on earth it could not compete effectively with its major rivals and indeed surpass them. Deputy Wilson reminded us that it is not so long ago since Europe appeared to be about to enjoy a lead. We are not at any natural disadvantage. We have the educational facilities, the innovative tradition, the committed workforce, what we need is a coherent and comprehensive Community policy in this area.

The provisions of the Single European Act on research and technology are designed to enable the Community to develop such a policy, to overcome the failures of the past and to meet successfully the challenges of the future which I have described. In so doing, of course, they will also provide significant opportunities for Irish businessmen to participate in large-scale and advanced projects for which we could not ourselves hope to have the resources. As with the other provisions of the Single European Act, they represent in this vital area a logical response to the clearly perceived needs of the Community in the years ahead.

The provisions of the Single European Act on cohesion stem from the disappointing experience of the Community to date in its attempts to reduce the disparities in the level of development between its various regions. In the overview of our membership the Minister gave in introducing this debate yesterday he referred to the failure to see emerging coherent regional policy as being one of the real disappointments of the last decade.

The Preamble to the original EC Treaty refers to the aim of reducing the differences existing between the various regions of the Community and the backwardness of the less-favoured regions. But — and this is the crucial but — there is no provision in the body of the Treaty for the achievement of that aim or for the development of a regional policy. Despite the significant benefits we and some other member states have received from the regional and social funds there has been no perceptible narrowing of the regional disparities.

The provisions of the Single European Act in this regard — which bring the objective of reducing regional disparities and the means to achieve that objective firmly within the body of the EC Treaty — are designed precisely to overcome that failure. They are very significant indeed for the future potential development of the Community. Most particularly they are of very considerable potential benefit to this country, we having played such a leading part in pressing for their inclusion. They will greatly strengthen our negotiating position across the whole spectrum of Community policies. Because of this, and since they will in particular enhance the Community's commitment to achieving the objectives of Protocol No. 30 which Ireland appended to our Treaty of Accession, the Government have put forward a motion inviting the Dáil to take specific note of and welcome these provisions as well as at the same time reaffirming our traditional policy of neutrality.

The question of cohesion was, of course, central to the discussions last weekend in London and it figures very prominently in the conclusions from that European Council, again representing a considerable triumph for the arguments we sought to put forward.

There is a whole series of other amendments relating to the courts and other areas which I have not time to go into at this stage, so I come to the other area that has received particular attention, that is the provision in the Single European Act on co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy. This represents a logical development for the Community. In substance its implications have been addressed in great detail in the explanatory documentation and were dealt with in considerable detail in his speech moving the motion by the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday. Co-operation with our partners in the area of foreign policy is an integral element of our membership of the Community. It is natural and desirable, and we should not be in any sense apologetic for the suggestion, that Ireland would want to co-operate within a group which in the 1972 White Paper was described as "democratic states which in spite of their different national characteristics are united in their essential interest".

In recent months and even during the debate in this House the claim has been made that our involvement in foreign policy co-ordination is somehow detrimental to our role in development matters, a bizarre claim, as anyone who takes an interest in these matters would know that our membership of the Community was a spur and an impetus to our decision to adopt a profile in this area and to establish an official development assistance programme. There is nothing in EPC, as is clear from the years in which it has operated, nor is there anything in the Single European Act which has involved any threat to or any constraint on our ability to take independent decisions on foreign policy areas or, more specifically, on the question of development. If one looks at the profile of Ireland in the Community, the question of development assistance figures very prominently. It is no coincidence that when the Presidency of the Council of Foreign Ministers was held by Deputy FitzGerald, later by Deputy O'Kennedy and most recently by Deputy Peter Barry and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, the Lomé Convention came for consideration as a key part of our Presidency work. Again during our last Presidency the Community responded effectively, if belatedly, to the disaster in Africa. Therefore, the question of development is central to our role in the Community and is an important part of our profile. There is nothing whatsoever in the Single European Act which would deflect us from this. In regard to some of those who have expressed concern about the implications for our neutrality, I will paraphrase the well-known quotation and say "methinks they protest too much." Some of those — among whom I list The Workers' Party who appear to be concerned with our neutrality — would aspire to our adopting a position scarcely as neutral as Cuba.

I indicated at the outset of this speech that two basic questions had to be addressed, namely what the Act is and, secondly, the judgmental question, is it in this country's interest? In regard to that first question, I have illustrated how the Act in all of its provisions responds deliberately, moderately and modestly to the real needs of the Community. As far as the second question is concerned, I have indicated how the Act responds to Ireland's needs and concerns. However, it is important that we do not seek to draw a distinction between the interest of the Community as a whole on the one hand and the interests of individual member states, including Ireland, on the other. Such an approach would be altogether misconceived. Of course, Ireland, like all member states, has national interests which are promoted with determination in the Community's decision-making process by the Government. Those national interests were fully protected in the negotiations on the Single European Act, but it is important that we never lose sight of the fact that Ireland's national interest and the interest of each member state lie to a very significant extent in a Community which is functioning efficiently and competing effectively. Therefore, in assessing the Act we should give due weight to the many aspects of the Act from which we expect to derive particular national benefit of course, but we should also give due weight to the advances of the Community because those advances are in turn very much in our interest.

To judge by their arguments, some critics of the Act believe that we should leave the Community and some of them believe we should never have joined in the first place. Others are suspicious of any development in the Community. They seem to approach it in an exclusively negative way, seeing in its institutions and its policies threats expressed or implicit and no opportunities whatever. One cannot but think that behind many of the criticisms made about the Act over recent months lies a very negative approach to the Community as a whole and to its development. We joined the Community not just with a view to the tangible benefits we felt we would derive from it; we were right about that. We acceded to the Community also because we felt that we could contribute to its development and join fully with our partners in the movement towards European unity. We were under no obligation to join the Community. We did not do so with reluctance, we did so with enthusiasm, wholeheartedly and with massive backing from the Irish electorate. The negativism, the suspicion, the enthusiasm for finding in it threats to our interests when no threats whatever exist are incompatible with the approach we took on that occasion which commended itself to the people. More significant, however, is that that kind of negative thinking is a self-destructive approach which Ireland must reject for several reasons.

First, we should reject it because if we are going to remain in the Community — and clearly we must as everyone, including The Workers' Party now accept — we would be mad to remain on the basis that the Community should be allowed to stagnate economically or on the basis that we stay in but that we allow it to fall behind in the development of advanced technology and thus retain its regional disparities. It would be folly to have second-class status in the Community. This point was put very well by the former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, who spear-headed our membership of the Community, when he addressed the Irish Council of the European Movement at a recent reception. There he rejected very specifically the motion of second-class membership. One hopes that approach will carry some weight.

The other reason we should have nothing to do with that kind of negative thinking is that our experience of membership should reaffirm us in our constructive approach to Community business. Certainly there have been disappointments for Ireland. There have been disappointments for the Community in recent years. Indeed, the Act is designed in many ways to respond to some of those disappointments, but there can be no doubt that the economic and political balance sheet of our membership has been overwhelmingly positive. Generally we have been able to promote our interests very successfully in the Community's decision-making process. Those benefits have not been automatic, nor should we assume that they will inevitably continue in the future. They represent the fruit of firm, effective — effective because they were accommodating — and Community-minded negotiating approaches which have been pursued by successive Irish Governments.

I see no reason why we need to have any inferiority complex about our ability to protect our interests through the Community's normal negotiating procedure. As has been explained, the Single European Act does not end the process of unanimity. It extends the circumstances in which majority voting occurs. It must be repeated that the option remains an option in all areas where majority voting applied. As has been said, this country in the past has benefited from those circumstances in which majority voting applied. Most recently one recalls that when we sought devaluation of the green £ we succeeded. Had that procedure required unanimous voting, we would have found ourselves in considerable difficulty. Therefore, why these concerns? Why the fears? Why the sense of insecurity? Why the inferiority complex? Nothing in the way we have handled our Community business justifies such an approach.

The third reason there should be no sense of negativism in our approach is that it would be quite inappropriate for a country such as ours which is such a major net beneficiary. Were we to become involved in obstructing progress in the Community, that is something which our partners, seeing us as major beneficiaries would find difficult to understand. Neither has the case been proved regarding the charges made in relation to our neutrality nor has a prima facie case been proved. It is evident that there is no substance in the charges that have been made in relation to the implications of the Single European Act for our neutrality. The Act simply formalises the process of European political co-operation in which we have been willing and effective participants for more than a decade. Our concerns, and the Community's concerns on the question of procedure have been addressed. The Act presents us with an opportunity. It is not a panacea for all our problems. The extent to which we avail of the opportunities presented will depend on the skills of Governments in the future and on the innovativeness of our farmers, businessmen and scientists.

My first recollection of political involvement was during the campaign for our membership, when I climbed up and down lamp posts in O'Connell Street putting up posters which recorded that the balance favoured entry, so vote yes. The experience of our membership clearly indicated that the balance at the time favoured entry. What we are now provided with is an opportunity to confirm our belief that we were right to throw in our lot with our partners in Europe, an opportunity to reaffirm our belief in the European ideal, and I urge the House to take that step.

There is a great lack of understanding among the general public on the need for and the effects of the Single European Act. This has been compounded by the conflicting views of various organisations, individuals and recognised expert bodies on the possible effects and ramifications of the Act. We are being asked to ratify a new treaty, a new change in the rules and regulations by which the Community will be governed henceforth. There has always been a commitment by Fianna Fáil to Community membership and we recognise many of the benefits that have flowed from our membership, but we also are not prepared to follow slavishly every dictate that comes from the other states. It has to be recognised that there has been a down side to our membership of the Community and now the danger is that the down side is increasing while the benefit side is slipping away. Anybody watching the evolving situation as far as the Common Agricultural Policy is concerned can easily recognise this. It can also be seen in the percentage benefit flow we are getting from the other fronts, such as the regional fund and the social fund. There is widespread concern over the Government's lack of commitment to protect our vital interests at the formulation stage of the Single European Act.

This is the last chance that the Government get to mend their hand and this can be achieved without losing face by the Government, by the simple acceptance of the Fianna Fáil declaration which goes some way to protect our interests and to guarantee the survival of our economy and the continuation of our independent neutral status. There is resentment at the threatening tones that have been taken by the Taoiseach and some of his Ministers to the principal Fianna Fáil position which sees as its goal the questioning in the minutest detail what is proposed in the Single European Act. It is a nonsense to suggest that our position would be undermined if we do not bend the Oireachtas needs to the demands of the other contracting parties. Some exception has also been taken to the wheeling out of named personages from selected organisations and also the involvement of the EC commissioner in trying to generate a public relations exercise to sell the package to the Irish people. Legislation of such fundamental importance should not be treated in this fashion and in fact the closest scrutiny of the legislation is the only satisfactory way of giving the people an opportunity of assessing precisely what the Government have committed us to.

Clearing the legislative hurdle here in Dáil Eireann, with the Government's ramshackle majority, is hardly a true test of the democratic will of the people and their attitude towards the legislation. The Government should have sought unanimity in this fundamental change in law. This would have been in conformity with the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee, which shared the expression of concern that has been uttered by Fianna Fáil in the matter. Surely if the concerns as expressed by the all-party committee had any substance, and if the Government are stable in their belief that there is no need for fear on any count, then it is no burden for the Government to accept the Fianna Fáil declaration. If the Government see it as unnecessary, then its inclusion will be harmless and cause no difficulty in future negotiations.

If the declaration has substance, then it will secure our economic and political position and will be the bulwark against erosion of our neutral status. All sides have a vested interest in protecting our status position in Europe and it would seem a reasonable request by the major Opposition party in the Dáil to ask the Government to take on board a declaration which will allow the legislation to pass into law unchallenged. The major reservations that the Fianna Fáil Party have to the Single European Act can be summarised as follows: we have a reservation concerning the constitutional implications of this legislation; concerning the danger to our economic interests of the widespread adoption of qualified majority voting on the EC Council of Ministers where Ireland will have three out of the 76 votes and where a qualified majority is 54. We have reservations on the outright liberalisation in economic matters based on the abolition of non tariff barriers which need not be taken as guaranteeing prosperity or greater employment prospects here. The effect that the Single European Act will have on the Common Agricultural Policy is also a matter of major reservation for Fianna Fáil. The Commission is already seen to be dismantling the Common Agricultural Policy and majority voting will increase the pressure of the food importing EC countries on the food exporting countries. This can work to the severe disadvantage of our agricultural exports. There is no doubt that large consumer export countries like Britain and Germany will seek to dominate the majority voting in so far as food production and imports are concerned, in their own interests.

We have reservations as well in that there is no stated intention to improve the EC regional policy, which might go some way to cushion the losses that we are bound to suffer through widespread liberalisation and completion of the European market.

The inevitability of the harmonisation of taxes which must lead to increased food costs and reduced revenue potential to the Irish Exchequer is a matter of reservation.

We also have reservations as to the effect on our military neutrality and foreign policy independence. In relation to constitutional implications the Minister for Foreign Affairs displays a remarkable naivete, when he assures the House that there are no hidden snares in the Single European Act, that we have nothing to fear from it and that it represents no diminution of our sovereignty. Among the inherent dangers in the ratification of the Act is the real possibility that it will lead to a conflict with the fundamental rights recognised in Articles 40 to 44 of the Constitution. These rights, notably the right to life of unborn children and the rights of the family based on marriage, are not generally recognised in European law and we have a grave duty to ensure that they are not undermined by the ratification of this Act.

Article 29.4.3 was added to the Constitution in 1972 to permit Ireland's accession to the European Communities, on the basis of Treaties which were limited in scope to the economic sphere and which provided a veto on most important issues. This Article states that no provision of the Constitution invalidates laws enacted or acts done by the State, which are necessitated by the obligations of membership, or prevents laws enacted or acts done by the Community from, having the force of law in the State. The effect of this Article is to give carte blanche to the European Communities, without any restriction by our Constitution and subject only to the limitations imposed by the Treaties, as interpreted by the Communities themselves.

In the absence of any constitutional safeguard, it is vital that we examine very closely the proposed extension of the powers of the Community institutions. The Irish people would not forgive the Members of the Oireachtas if, through an irresponsible haste to ratify this Act, we handed over their constitutional rights to the European Communities without any safeguards.

The primary aim of Title 2 of the Single European Act is to achieve a harmonisation of laws in the member states on a range of economic and social matters. The possibility that this harmonisation would include an obligation to introduce abortion services into this country is specifically referred to in paragraph 2.32 of the Explanatory Guide to the Single European Act, produced by the Government.

The Government believe that this possibility is removed by the inclusion of a particular provision in Article 18 of the Act which allows a member state to apply national provisions on grounds of major needs on the grounds referred to in Article 36 of the EC Treaty. Following a detailed examination of this provision the Fianna Fáil Party are not satisfied that the proposed remedy is at all adequate for the purpose stated by the Government. We also believe that the Irish people would be horrified to realise that the Government would have us rely on a dubious provision in the Single European Act to prevent the introduction of abortion into this country. The people have voted by a large majority on two occasions in the lifetime of this Government to protect such fundamental rights by constitutional provisions. We must respect that wish by ensuring that the Single European Act could never interfere with these rights.

There are several important reasons why we cannot accept the adequacy of the provision in Article 18. First, the permission to apply national provisions would only apply to measures adopted by the Council by qualified majority under Articles 100A and 100B of the EC Treaty as amended. It would not be available to counteract measures enacted under other social policy articles, measures adopted by unanimous decision of the Council or judgments of the European Court of Justice. The national provisions would have to be justified on the grounds referred to in Article 36 of the EC Treaty. This requirement makes the entire provision ambiguous because Article 36 refers only to movement of goods and does not contain the phrase "major needs". Article 13 of the Single European Act specifies that the new provisions are without prejudice to the original Treaties.

There are no restrictions on the free movement of services in Articles 59 to 66 of the EC Treaty. It is highly unlikely that the new provisions would be interpreted as permitting new restrictions on the movement of services when the whole purpose of the Single European Act is to liberalise the movement of services, capital, persons and goods. This provision could certainly not be relied on to restrict medical services in the way the Government suggest.

The specific grounds cited by the Government as a defence to the introduction of abortion services is public morality. While that might seem reasonable in this country we must remember that it is the European Court that will ultimately interpret this provision. It is very doubtful whether it would accept the proposition that abortion permitted in the other EC countries on health grounds is of itself immoral and contrary to the common good. Any national provisions invoked under Article 18 of the Single European Act would be subject to the judgment of the Commission as to whether they constituted an arbitrary discrimination. Once again, from the perspective of European law the prohibition of abortion could well be regarded as an arbitrary discrimination against women since it does not recognise any right to life of the unborn child. We cannot allow such a vital matter to be subject to the decision of a non-elected executive body such as the Commission.

A further problem with the remedy proposed by the Government is that the application of such national provisions which are in effect derogations would be subject to the rule in Article 13 of the Single European Act which says that all such derogations must be of a temporary nature. The declaration in Article 100B of the EC Treaty which is attached to the Single European Act makes it clear that this rule is of general application. On the question of derogation we should not be foolish in our expectations as to what the EC might allow. We have the recent decision of the Court of Justice which struck down our national restrictions on the insurance business in the interests of free movement of services. The fact that these national provisions were there to protect the interests of the consumer or that the Government had attached a platitudinous declaration to the Single European Act were of no avail.

Another major cause of concern in the Single European Act is the inclusion of a statement endorsing the European Convention on Human Rights in the common preamble to the Act. The original treaties contain no references to fundamental rights as such. Since then however the institutions of the European Communities have adopted a policy of regarding the protection of fundamental rights as an essential part of the affairs of the Communities. They have also seen the European Convention on Human Rights as an appropriate standard for such rights. The Commission and the Parliament are promoting the idea of the formal accession of the Communities to the convention. The Commission is on record as opposing the idea of a member state reviewing any Act of the Communities by the standards of the fundamental rights in its own Constitution. Once again, the uniformity of Community law is seen as the only absolute principle.

Our objection to the inclusion of this reference to the European Convention is that it appears to authorise the Court of Justice to apply the terms of the convention as the law of the Community in regard to fundamental rights. This would certainly lead to conflict with the Irish Constitution as there are important differences in the rights recognised in our Constitution from those of the convention. The principal examples would be the natural rights of the family based on marriage with all that that implies and most importantly the right to life of the unborn child. Under Community law the decisions of the Court of Justice take precedence over the national courts in the interpretation of the law. We must make sure that our Supreme Court is given a proper basis on which to hold that the fundamental rights in our Constitution cannot be superseded by any act of the Communities.

It is ironic that the Preamble to the Single European Act refers to a determination "to promote democracy on the basis of the fundamental rights recognised in the Constitutions and laws of member states". In the Irish context it would have precisely the opposite effect. For these reasons we will be proposing on Committee Stage an amendment to section 1 of the Bill to incorporate a provision that nothing in the Single European Act shall authorise in the State any laws or acts which would be repugnant to the fundamental rights of the Irish Constitution. We see this not merely as a defence measure but as a positive contribution to a true European union.

We believe that the values which are inherent in our Constitution are valid for the whole of Europe and that we would be doing a disservice to the Community in the long run if we allowed these values to be eroded. On the grounds for respect for the Constitution and for the basic principles of democracy we call on all Members of the House to support the amendment on Committee Stage of the Bill. The 1972 constitutional amendment unlocked the door to actions of the Communities which can contravene our Constitution. Now, the Single European Act opens that door by giving the Communities the power to interfere in matters affecting our fundamental rights.

The defence mechanism proposed by the Government as they see it in Article 18 is simply not adequate to protect us against this infringement because of the precedence of decisions of the Community over our Constitution. The Single European Act extends the scope of the original Treaties and it also gives the Community new powers, particularly because of the qualified majority now agreed to enforce the powers of the Community. The endorsement of the Convention on Human Rights gives the Communities a basis for applying the standards of the convention to this country and many of those standards are in direct opposition and contrary to the provisions of our Constitution.

The Fianna Fáil amendment in this matter will give a historic opportunity to Dáil Éireann to protect the provisions of the Constitution which had the support of a vast majority of the Irish people and which had been so infatigably endorsed on two occasions in 1983 and 1986. Not to support the amendment would be an action of gross political omission and a direct affront to the Constitution of our country. It is our duty as public representatives to ensure that this measure is examined in an open and objective fashion, with due regard for its economic, social and political implications for this country.

Our adherence to the goal of working towards greater European integration which we signalled in signing the Treaty of Rome in 1972, was based on the enlightened principles of the Treaty of Rome — regional solidarity and balanced expansion of economic growth in the Community.

In the 14 years which have elapsed since our accession to the Community, many benefits have accrued to this country. Membership has contributed to the modernisation of our agriculture, our infrastructure and the development of modern industry.

From the perspective of developing our trade, it was recognised that the creation of a unified market throughout the EC for the production and distribution of goods was potentially a most significant development for this country.

The goal of economic and monetary union, the goal of free trade in goods within a common customs union, and the ending of all technical barriers to trade — all were highly desirable from the perspective of the Irish economy which depends to such an enormous extent on international trade. Some 80 per cent of our industrial output is exported. Our dependence on the imports and exports of goods and services — at 120 per of GNP — is twice the Community average.

Many foreign firms have located here as Ireland is a very desirable location, being part of a customs free common market. Some 850 foreign enterprises employ about 80,000 Irish people. Some 90 per cent of the production of these firms is exported to the member states. For these firms and for indigenous Irish enterprise, the development of a single European market is highly significant for the expansion of output, sales and jobs.

Indeed, while the establishment of a common customs unions was a most important development, we must bemoan the fact that the recession led to the proliferation of protectionist barriers. Effectively, this has retarded moves towards the development of a truly unified market and a common industrial and commercial policy for the Community.

The continuing existence of different national standards and product regulations, delays at frontiers and the plethora of obstacles to the free movement of goods, all contribute to increased costs for Irish exporters, who have to cross two seas to get to markets.

At the European level, no unified home market with a single legal, administrative and regulatory regime exists. We are, therefore, failing to take advantage of a vast market of 320 million people. Unlike the US and the Japanese, who fully exploit the advantages of their huge home markets, resulting in impressive economic performances, Europe's industrial performance has been sluggish. The Community is lethargic, as reflected in its appalling unemployment stastistics.

These trends are reflected even more forcefully in Ireland. Due to the structural weaknesses in the economy, which include the huge expansion in the labour market, the low capitalisation of Irish enterprise, a low level of R and D, and the relatively under-developed marketing capacity of many firms, certain sectors of the economy over the past decade have been, it must be stated clearly and unambiguously, unprepared for competition. The dilemma this poses for Irish policy makers is heightened by the absence of clear cut policies designed to bridge the gap between the affluent centre and the less-developed periphery of the Community.

For too many firms accustomed for so long to operating in a sheltered environment, exposure to the cold winds of competition in a free trade environment was too rapid. I am not, let me state at once, denying the role of Irish industry to set its house in order, but it would be flying in the face of reality to attempt to deny that the structural disadvantages facing the economy in a highly competitive trading climate have seriously retarded the indigenous industrial and commercial sector. For this sector, conditions have been exacerbated by the failure to respect the principle of regional solidarity in the Treaty of Rome, which calls for a harmonious development of economic activities throughout the member states.

Economic results since our accession, it must be stated bluntly, have been quite disappointing. Production in our manufacturing industry actually grew by roughly half the rate forecast in the 1972 White Paper which was drawn up prior to entry. Growth in industrial production actually failed to match the levels achieved in the sixties. Manufacturing industry in the following decade also failed to achieve the employment targets set in the White Paper. The native sector recorded massive job losses — 40 per cent of jobs in the textile/footwear sector were lost in the decade after we joined the Community; even bigger enterprises suffered with a 30 per cent drop in employment in native firms with over 200 workers, in the metals and engineering, and wood furniture sectors.

It is cruelly clear from our massive unemployment and the steady exodus of people from this country in recent times that Irish industry has not been performing at a level which is sufficient to deal with our grave economic problems.

Economic commentators have pointed to the increased penetration of the Irish markets by manufactured imports. They have repeatedly pointed to the need for job-creating, export-oriented initiatives by native Irish firms, if we are to tackle the problems of high unemployment and the public debt. The need for such initiatives — and the urgency of Government and policy backing for them — is underlined by the fact that foreign investment, while crucial to jobs and exports, has relatively limited spin-off effects for the native economy.

As we discuss the Single European Act, we must be mindful that the development of indigenous industry has been adversely affected by the failure to temper the Community's free market policies with genuine measures aimed at economic convergence between the member states.

It is a bald fact that we in this sovereign Parliament must retain our powers to manage the Irish economy. We have a duty to point out to our partners that, rather than reducing the imbalances between the Community's different regions, the present drift of Community policies is tending to exacerbate regional disparities.

While one welcomes the acknowledgement in the Single European Act of the importance of regional policy, one must point to the views of independent experts who maintain that the revised orientation of the European Regional Development Fund does not amount to a realistic policy for dealing with the economic problems of peripheral areas in the Community, including Ireland.

This is an unpalatable fact which has to be faced. There is a growing imbalance between the less-developed regions and the rest of the Community, which is not addressed adequately in either the Single European Act or in current Community policies. Even the Irish Council for the European Movement which has been enthusiastically lobbying for the Act, bemoans the lack of commitment of resources to fund a realistic policy aimed at economic convergence.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture seem to have closed their eyes to this situation. Have we reached the stage where being "Good Europeans" is tantamount to blind, uncritical acceptance of Community proposals?

We are elected here to represent the interests of the Irish electorate. It is our duty to point to the implications of the Act, politically, economically and socially.

It is deplorable how certain quarters of the Government, intent on railroading this measure through the Dáil, have represented the soundly based reservations of many people, including Fianna Fáil, as being anti-European.

Let us remember also that the present thrust of Community policies, especially in the vital agri-sector, have moved away from recognising Ireland's special position and that we are faced with trends in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy which pose the danger of a rationalisation of the Community's farm policy. This has implications both for our exports and for the development of the food industry.

Government spokesmen have endorsed the Single European Act, with more enthusiasm than prudence. It is imcomprehensible that they have not sought precise clarification on a number of points in relation to the Act. It is absolutely mystifying that our partners in Europe have not been persuaded by the Coalition to acknowledge the very real difficulties facing the Irish economy, in the spirit of Protocol 30 of the Act of Accession. Problems associated with the liberalisation of exchange controls, such as a possible increased flow of funds from the country and higher interest rates, would also need to be assessed for their possible impact on the economy.

In relation to the financial services industry, it is clear that we in Ireland must safeguard and develop our potential in this area. In relation to the insurance industry, the Government must ensure a derogation for Ireland in respect of the draft services directive for non-life insurance, in line with the recommendation of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the EC. This will provide the industry with the necessary breathing space to strengthen its capacity to cope with increased competition which it will inevitably face.

Considerable comment has been made on the necessity for the completion of the internal market and the possible advantages it might have on the economic situation for Ireland. It has to be borne in mind that some 300 new EC laws or directives will come into force between now and 1992 if the Single European Act is ratified. These new laws deal with every area of our economy and much of our social life as well and they will be adopted by the EC Council of Ministers by means of qualified majority voting. While some of these laws will be of advantage to Ireland, one has to be suspicious that some of them might not be to our advantage. The unfortunate aspect of it is that, irrespective of what the Irish people's attitude towards any of these laws might be and irrespective of what the Government's or the Dáil's attitude might be, we will have no say in the matter as, following the passing of the Single European Act, these directives will be automatically and legally binding on Ireland and the people of Ireland. There will, in effect, be an end to the greatest protection that Ireland has had up to this, namely the veto, which, in fact, made it mandatory for many of the EC policy decisions to be unanimous. This is now brought to an end.

There is no reference in the Government's explanatory booklet to the 300 new EC directives and proposals for directives and regulations as they are set out in the Commission's White Paper on the Internal Market, popularly known as the Cockfield report. There has been no consultation with the Irish interests that will be affected by all these new directives. Perhaps there is good reason for no consultation because if the information were available to the interested parties as to how they would be affected by these directives then there is no doubt that there would be very serious objections raised to the conclusion of this Single European Act.

It will be stated, of course, that each of the 300 new laws will have to come up before the Council of Ministers over the next five or six years and each will have to be decided upon individually, but we have to remember that with majority voting and with certain States pushing for their implementation for their own interests it can be clearly seen that many of these directives will be pushed through much more quickly than if each has to be cleared unanimously as heretofore.

The completion of the internal market directives will impinge on every single aspect of the economic life of the country and will deal with such matters as the common broadcasting area, with controls in advertising and the opening up of new information services. This area might have a very serious impact on the standards applied to Irish advertising at this time. There will, of course, be a new EC trade mark which will phase out all our national trade marks and will bring to an end any support that exists for our now national products in our own retail outlets. There will also be a directive on non-Irish building societies and financial institutions which can result in an increased flow of money out of the country. We will also be denied the right to support Irish industry and there will certainly be a phasing out of state aids for industry and national industrial development grants. It is to be clearly understood that public resources will no longer be used to confer "artificial advantage on some firms over others", to quote from the Cockfield report, page 39. The disadvantage to Irish indigenous industry can be clearly seen from the attitude expressed in the Cockfield report.

There will, of course, be many directives dealing with agriculture and food and related matters and also controls on our public transport system and many new directives as well dealing with standards and specifications of goods and services which might not be to our advantage. The decisions that will be taken by majority vote will certainly be influenced by the larger member states and the big multinational firms will be able to press their demands for standards suited to their manufacturing and economic conditions. The result for small indigenous industries unable to keep up could be catastrophic in the area of job losses and company failures.

One of the very disturbing aspects of the Single European Act must be the question of the harmonising of indirect taxes and the obligation that will be placed on member states once they ratify the Single European Act. Lord Cockfield when he visited Dublin in November of this year made it quite clear that all states would have to move towards a common coverage of goods by VAT and excise duties and that this would lead on finally to common rates of indirect tax. Because of the funding arrangements of the EC it is obvious that the high contracting parties would want the VAT situation to cover the same range of goods everywhere throughout the EC.

Ireland has more zero-rated items for VAT than any country. There is no doubt that with the intention of completing the internal market under the Single European Act inevitably and eventually there would be compulsory extension of VAT on food, clothing, energy and transport costs. This would all have to take place before 1992. One can only speculate on the disadvantage this would be to the Irish State and would lead to very serious price increases in sensitive areas.

Another consequence is the reduction of excise duties on Irish goods to the lower average levels of the EC. According to the Minister for Finance this could lose the Irish Government up to £600 million in revenue alone and how the Minister could even contemplate this type of attitude is difficult to understand. The Minister is understood to have said that he "will continue to support such harmonisation as is necessary to establish and operate the internal market of the EC". Unless the declaration as framed by Fianna Fáil is taken on board, then we can expect no favourable treatment or compensation from the other member states. It is absolutely essential that our special position is recognised in a formal way.

The Single European Act must have serious effects on our military neutrality and foreign policy independence. Title III of the new treaty commits us to develop a common foreign policy with States that are all members of NATO. The statement of the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Toole, in recent times on this matter must be of grave concern to many people, but it is only following similar type statements from his colleagues, Deputy John Kelly and the Minister for Education, Deputy Cooney. The Coalition attitude to neutrality is obviously clear now and is stated as being purely a matter of expediency rather than of principle. That position cannot be accepted by Fianna Fáil. Government Ministers who are prepared to make anti-neutrality statements obviously find no difficulty in accepting the new arrangements of the Single European Act. However, it has to be stated that a common policy with other States by which we are bound by treaty cannot be an independent foreign policy. Article 30 (2) of the Treaty requires us to consult with other EC states and to seek a consensus before deciding our final positions on security matters.

Our wish to further policies on disarmament, our peace initiatives taken alone or in conjunction with other independent neutral states, could be easily frustrated by requirements to consult with States whose interest or initiatives might be seen to oppose. We had a very good example of this in 1982 during the Malvinas war and certainly it is a clear indication that occasions can arise when Ireland would wish to pursue a different foreign policy from that being supported by the rest of the Community states.

Article 30 (6) (a) commits Ireland to the principle that "closer co-operation on questions of European security would contribute in an essential way to the development of a European identity in external policy matters". The word "security" as stated in the Act is without any qualification and must be interpreted to include military as well as political and economic aspects of security. The Act continues "they are ready to co-ordinate their positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security". This is the present de facto position of the Irish Government. Following the acceptance of the principle of the desirability of closer co-operation on security without qualification as is stated in the first sentence of Article 30 (6) (a), the second statement can plausibly read to imply that Ireland is not ready, or at least not yet ready to co-ordinate positions on military aspects. However, they will probably be ready sometime in the future. This is accommodated in Article 30 (12) when the foreign policy section will be examined by the EC states in five years' time to see “whether any revision is required”. It may be by that time we will be in a position to undertake the military obligations they would like to place upon us.

Chapter 3 of the Government's explanatory booklet does not mention that the foreign policy section is up for review in five years and that it maybe added to then. Unless the Fianna Fáil declaration is in place there is no way that further involvement in military obligations can be avoided. The Government might choose to give a different interpretation to the particular words of the Act. This is one of the weaknesses of the legislation in that it is full of ambiguity but one thing is sure, that new pressures will be placed on Irish neutrality and on the independence of Irish policy.

Article 30 (6) (b) goes on to commit the State to maintaining "the technological and the industrial conditions necessary for their security". Once again the word "security" is without qualification and must be taken to imply military security. This commits Ireland in effect to be involved, no matter in how small a way in the nuclear military industry as many of the EC States regard the nuclear industry as necessary for their security. Is it any wonder that the nuclear disarmament lobby is extremely concerned about our involvement in this legislation?

It has to be seriously questioned that if the Irish Government in their negotiating processes for the Single European Act really wanted to maintain our strictly neutral status then they could have easily insisted on the inclusion of an essential statement such as "This agreement shall not govern military matters" or "Security for the purpose of Title III shall be taken to mean the political and economic aspects of security only". There would have been no ambiguity in such terminology and indeed that kind of language would have been clearly understood and could not be misinterpreted by any of the high contracting parties or by the institutions of the Community. Quite clearly that would not be pleasing to some of the member States as, for example, the position of United Kingdom thinking in so far as our neutrality is concerned. It was very adequately expressed by the former British Defence Minister, Michael Heseltine, when some years ago he lashed out at Irish neutrality when he was on a visit to Northern Ireland. He stated that the Republic was letting others carry its defence responsibilities and taking advantage of the NATO umbrella. He also stated that there was no way the Irish would be allowed to opt out of involvement in a situation of threat to the United Kingdom or the Community". He went on to say: "They would be invaded if necessary".

Look where he is now.

He was not dismissed because of that.

It is interesting to note that Irish Government's protests at the time were flagrantly ignored by the UK Government. It is quite clear there is no support for our continued stance on neutrality among the contracting parties and that they would be quite pleased to see the Single European Act evolve in a way that would diminish our competence to follow an independent security line.

The matter reported in The Irish Times regarding Mrs. Thatcher's wish that all EC States should be part of NATO must be of great concern to the Taoiseach and the House. This is obviously the intention behind the Single European Act. Great risks are being taken on board by the Government in the name of the people. We want to put the Government on notice that the Fianna Fáil Party will hold the Coalition responsible for all and every diminution of our independent status which which might result from acceptance of the Single European Act. If the road to NATO membership is speeded up in any by this Act or if there is the slightest danger that the Act would make it more difficult to resist the military security demands of Community States, then to deny the inclusion of the Fianna Fáil declaration would be an unpardonable error of political judgement and, unlike other legislation, the error can never be corrected.

The risks to our independent neutral status are too real and great for us not to take exceptional measures to guarantee our status. Better to err on the side of cautiousness than to trust all the future actions of our Community partners to be on the side of the angels. The stakes are high and it is hardly likely that the major powers will pay any attention to our demands if they wish to pursue their own self interests. The only way our independent neutral status can be guaranteed is to have it clearly written in unambiguous terms and included in the body of the Act.

We invite the co-operation of the Government in this matter in our national and constitutional interests. The Fianna Fáil declaration and amendment give adequate protection to our constitutional position. We invite the Government to support this and the amendment we will be putting down to section 1 of the Bill which will guarantee for all time, irrespective of the attitude taken by Community institutions, that our safeguards to the unborn and the family as guaranteed by the Constitution can be permanently maintained.

I cannot hope to emulate the flights of fancy of Deputy Flynn, I will be addressing the House in somewhat more sober and relevant terms.

Before making my contribution to this debate on the Single European Act I propose to report briefly on the meeting of the European Council held in London last Friday and Saturday which I attended with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry.

The Presidency Conclusions are before the House. I do not, therefore, propose to go into the details of everything that was discussed. The main issues at the meeting were: business and jobs; internal market; technology; frontier controls, terrorism, immigration and drugs; cancer and AIDS; Community finance and EPC topics.

At the beginning of our meeting, we agreed unanimously to reappoint Jacques Delors for a second two year term as President of the European Commission.

In our discussions on the economic situation, I expressed concern that progress in implementing the co-operative growth strategy had fallen short of expectations. This strategy entails a combination of supply side measures like completion of the internal market, deregulation and so on and also the maintenance of sufficient demand to increase employment over the medium-term. The strategy involves a contribution from all member states to encourage investment as a basis for higher growth and more jobs in the Community. The rewards of implementing the strategy are high — the Commission estimated last year that unemployment could be reduced by four percentage points over the period to 1990 if the strategy is implemented.

I urged, as will be seen from the conclusions and was successful in getting the European Council first to reaffirm its commitment to the strategy and, secondly, to agree that the Commission should report quarterly to the ECO/FIN Council on progress being made in implementing it. These were useful additions to what had originally been proposed as conclusions.

The usual self-praise.

We also emphasised the importance of Community action on jobs and called on the Social Affairs Council which will be meeting tomorrow to adopt an action programme for employment growth based on the suggestions contained in a paper which we had submitted jointly with the UK and Italy earlier on this year.

I drew attention to the absence of progress on convergence in living standards and was instrumental, with like-minded Heads of Government, in having this recorded in the Presidency Conclusions which also, on my proposal, refer to the importance of reducing interest rates. In this connection the Council also invited the ECO/FIN Council to resume its consideration of the EMS, in order to strengthen the convergence of economic policies and monetary stability in Europe.

I begin to wonder if there was any other Head of State at the meeting.

The Taoiseach must be allowed speak without interruption.

I believe the Dáil is entitled to know what matters we raised, and what aspects of the conclusions arise from pursuing those preoccupations. If I did not do that on behalf of our interests the Deputy would be complaining bitterly.

If we could so easily be misled.

The Fianna Fáil Leader was saying yesterday that we do not take this seriously enough. There is the proof.

As a result of my intervention, together with that of a number of other delegations, the section on social economic cohesion was considerably strengthened and it was given prominence at the beginning of the Presidency Conclusions, which would otherwise not have been the case.

On a point of order, may I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle whether, as interested as we are in what the Taoiseach is saying, it is part of his contribution on the Single European Act, and if it is to be part of the time set aside to discuss the Single European Act?

It is by agreement. The Deputy should come here more often and he would hear what we are saying.

Sorry Taoiseach, but I am addressing the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

That was agreed yesterday on the Order of Business.

It is nice to see the Deputy here but ——

It is something new that the Taoiseach likes to see me here but it will be more so in the next few months, as he knows well.

We are always glad to see the Deputy dropping in but I am sorry he did not inform himself about the business of the House before he came in.

I stressed particularly that while full discussion of cohesion must await the Commission's proposal on the structural funds in accordance with the new Article 130D being introduced into the Rome Treaty by the Single European Act, it was also important that there should be a systematic application of the provision in the new Article 130B of the treaty to the effect that the objective of reducing regional disparities must be taken into account in the implementation of all Community policies, including such areas as State aids and the CAP. This intervention is reflected in the part of the Presidency Conclusions in which the European Council renewed its commitment to the principle of cohesion in the implementation of the internal market and other Community policies and urged the Council to adopt the measures necessary to attain the cohesion objective.

I would also draw the attention of the House to the reference to the President of the Commission visiting EC capitals to report on work currently under way in the Commission on the EC's structural policies and funds, Community finances and the CAP.

In our discussions, we noted the substantial results achieved at the meeting of the Internal Market Council on 1 December. We also gave instruction to the relevant councils to expedite their work, as otherwise the target which we had set of completing the internal market by 1992 is under threat. In this connection it is worth nothing it has been estimated that the completion of the internal market — making the Community a single trading area without internal barriers — could add over 2 per cent to the Community GNP. Ireland, which depends more than most countries on external trade, could benefit greatly from such a development.

In the course of the discussion I said I was disappointed with the limited progress in Community air transport policy under discussion by the Transport Council. In particular, I mentioned that we do not favour controls on capacity sharing which impede competition and enterprise but that realistically we are prepared to accept that progress will have to be gradual, starting at least with a move from a 50/50 to a 60/40 ratio. On market access, where we have been insisting on — the right to pick up and set down passengers from flights between two foreign countries — satisfactory progress on fifth freedom rights I called for this matter to be viewed on a Community perspective and emphasised that this is an essential prerequisite to real competition in air transport. Our concern for progress in the air transport sector is reflected in the Presidency Conclusions.

I drew attention to a problem we have with draft directives on travellers' allowances where the Commission is pressing for a relaxation of our present import limit of 12 litres of beer per person. I explained that an increase in this allowance would aggravate still further the already unacceptable trade diversion as a result of our higher taxes compared with those in Northern Ireland.

I also availed of the opportunity to repeat our concerns on fiscal harmonisation and the impracticability of an undifferentiated harmonisation of indirect taxes which would cost our Exchequer a revenue loss amounting to 4 per cent of our GNP, a loss which would be impossible to concede. The very modest nature of the Presidency Conclusions on this matter reflects the concern I expressed.

On research and technology, we urged the Research Council to reach agreement on the framework programme for Community action which would play an important role in bridging the technological gap between the Community and US and Japan and for the Commission and the Council to make a special effort to secure agreement on standards for mobile radio telephones.

I played an active role in reviving the Commission's proposals on the ERASMUS student mobility programme which, following negative reactions from some member countries at a recent Education Council, had been withdrawn by the Commission. Having persuaded some of those concerned to reconsider their positions, the Commission agreed on my request to resubmit its proposal, and, with strong support from a number of other countries, I secured agreement to the matter being decided on at an early Council meeting.

Under the heading "Safeguarding The Open Society", we had a detailed discussion on how to further intensify our co-operation to combat terrorism, illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

On health matters, we agreed to designate 1989 as European Cancer Information Year and to develop a sustained and concerted information campaign on the prevention, early warning and treatment of cancer. On AIDS, we agreed to co-ordinate national campaigns to improve public awareness and information and asked our Health Ministers to consider what further co-operative measures should be taken for its prevention and treatment and for research.

We had little time for discussion of European political co-operation topics. We agreed to issue a statement on Afghanistan, as the seventh year of Soviet occupation of that country comes to a close. On the Middle East situation, we had a brief discussion in which the importance of giving an impetus to the peace process was emphasised.

At our dinner on the Friday night, discussions took place on aspects of East-West relations in the light of the Reykjavik meeting and the Vienna CSCE follow-up meeting. To the extent that these discussions touched on disarmament proposals under discussion in fora in which Ireland does not participate, I refrained from joining in the discussion in accordance with normal practice in these free-ranging dinner table discussions.

At the conclusion of the Council, I had a separate meeting with the British Prime Minister where we reviewed progress under the Anglo-Irish Agreement and reaffirmed our commitment to the agreement in all its aspects. I also informed the Prime Minister of the unanimous Dáil motion on the closure of Sellafield.

The London Council was a relatively low-key affair. Irish concerns on a number of important areas were accommodated and there were useful exchanges on issues such as unemployment, terrorism and health matters. I believe we made some worthwhile progress in highlighting how the Community can complement actions by national Governments in these areas and thereby enhance the relevance of the Community in our daily lives.

Finally, I should like to place on record here our indebtedness to the British Presidency for their warm hospitality and for their efficiency and effectiveness in the conduct of the Council's meeting and of their Presidency.

I turn now to the broader issues raised by the Single European Act. For Ireland the prospect of membership of the European Community became tangible and real a quarter of a century ago when the Government of the day, led by Mr. Seán Lemass, first applied for membership of the Community. His action took by surprise almost everyone outside the group of politicians and civil servants directly concerned. The reason was simple. When the Rome Treaty was signed Irish industry was in such bad shape that no one believed we could reduce our trade barriers within any normal period of transition. Consequently, free trade was visualised as something that would take 20 years to prepare for, and in most people's minds, this ruled out the possibility of membership as distinct from association. At that time also the Common Agricultural Policy had yet to be established and the potential benefits of membership of a Community with a preferential trading area within which a single agricultural market would exist were, therefore, not easily appreciated.

By 1961 work on the massive task of restructuring protected Irish industry to prepare for free trade and started in earnest, and the Common Agricultural Market was beginning to emerge as a real prospect, likely to come about in the years immediately ahead. It was against this background that Seán Lemass took the bold step of applying for full membership of the Community, and while that application failed with that of Britain when General De Gaulle vetoed British entry in early 1963 the Irish attitude was nevertheless thenceforward firmly established. It was thereafter clear that it was only a matter of time before Ireland, with Britain, would join the Community.

There were well-founded and deepseated economic reasons for this decision. Ireland had suffered, since the mid 19th century at least, from Britains's cheap food policy. In the post-war era this policy had been intensified with the introduction of deficiency payments, which from the late forties until at any rate the mid-sixties overcame any inhibitions which might previously have existed in the neighbouring island with regard to the free import of surpluses of foodstuffs, dumped from every quarter of the globe. Irish agriculture remained, therefore in a totally depressed condition. For historical reasons, our market access was confined to the most unprofitable market in the world. A relationship which, in objective terms, could fairly be described as neo-colonial exploitation existed between Britain and Ireland in so far as agriculture was concerned.

The EC, with its developing Common Agricultural Policy, represented the only conceivable way of escaping from this economic dependence which brought in its train a degree of political dependence, and a continued Anglo-centricity in national attitudes that was damaging psychologically and politically, as well as economically. In this respect, though not in others, political independence had proved something of a chimera in terms of our ability to develop our own economy and its potential for growth.

The economic desirability of ending our dependence on the British market was accompanied by a political and psychological need to move away from this almost exclusive relationship which had narrowed the vision of our people during the first half-century of independence. There were at least some who still recalled the memory of the links with other European countries which had survived to the end of the 18th century, and who saw Ireland not merely in the limited context of Anglo-Irish relations but as a European country which had a possibility of establishing multilateral links with other countries in Europe, links that would free us psychologically from the burden of our history, dominated as it had been by the neighbouring island. Participation in a new Europe, within which the old hatreds that had divided its peoples so bitterly and so lethally, would disappear, and would be replaced with a sense of partnership and a mutual interest vis-à-vis the world outside, thus held a particular attraction for this island, because of its tragic history.

It was in this spirit, and with these considerations in mind, that a number of Irish people joined together in the late fifties to propagate this dream, through the Irish Council of the European Movement. I was chairman of the council during the first four years, when it was starting to open Irish minds to the idea of a European role for this country, and I was fortunate enough also to be Minister for Foreign Affairs during most of the first five years of our membership of the Community. I have had the honour to be Taoiseach during the period when the idea of a further move towards European unity has been gestating, and latterly taking concrete shape.

Looking back on this period of over a quarter of a century of involvement with Ireland's European role, I cannot help feeling that in recent years our focus of attention on Europe has narrowed and our vision has diminished. A sense of defensiveness, totally out of keeping with the buoyant and aggressive spirit with which we entered the Community, has come to inform much of what has been said on the subject of this latest development. It seems to me that there has been a failure on the part of many people, both inside and outside politics, to attempt any serious assessment of where the interests of our country and our people lie, and of how these interests can best be served within the course of the further evolution of the Community of which we have now been a member for 14 years.

For myself, I have approached the challenge of this latest development in the history of the Community in a positive spirit, taking the view that it can open up to us new prospects and possibilities, and that without a doubt we have far more to gain from what is now proposed than we can conceivably lose.

It is on this basis that I have approached the question of amendments of the Rome Treaty at successive meetings of the European Council from Stuttgart onwards and, most particularly, at Fontainebleau when it was given a fresh impetus by the establishment of the Dooge and Adonnino Committees; at Milan where the reports of these committees led to the decision to call an inter-Governmental conference about amendments to the Rome Treaty and the linking of political co-operation with the Community under the umbrella of a Single European Act; and then at Luxembourg, where these amendments and provisions were essentially agreed, and incorporated in a Single European Act.

Where do our vital interests lie in this matter? They lie first of all in the strengthening of the Community, because the failure to strengthen it could very easily produce a degree of disillusionment that could threaten the enormous benefits we currently derive from membership. It lies, secondly, with positive moves to create a genuine internal market which in many areas can bring major benefits to a country that depends for so much of its living standards on the purchase of goods and services from abroad — goods that have to be paid for with exports of goods and services, two-thirds of which now go to member countries in the European Community. It lies, thirdly, with the incorporation into the Rome Treaty, in terms that will ensure significant and practical results, of what is technically called "cohesion" between member states — a concept that we would be more inclined to refer to as "solidarity".

This principle exists already, of course, in the Rome Treaty — but hitherto only in the Preamble, which refers to the need to reduce the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less-favoured regions of the Community. It is true that since we joined the Community significant efforts have been made to give practical effect to these provisions of the Preamble by developing new policies such as the regional policy. Moreover, the Social Fund is being operated in a manner that has greatly favoured countries like ours.

But regional policy has had to be developed without any solid foundation in the actual terms of the treaty itself and the further development of regional and social policies on the scale which will be necessary in order to ensure for countries like ours a completion of the internal market that would not simply lead to more rapid growth in the better-favoured central areas of the Community, requires something more than this. It requires a solid basis in the text of the Rome Treaty itself.

There are, of course, other provisions of the Single European Act which amend the Rome Treaty and which would also be of particular interest to us, such as the development of research and technology policy. This will help to strengthen the capacity of small countries like ourselves in this area, where we are naturally at a disadvantage vis-à-vis larger countries. But it is in the creation of a genuine internal market and in the incorporation in the treaty itself of the principle of economic and social cohesion, or solidarity, that the greatest advances are being made from our point of view.

At the same time in view of persistent — and it has to be said in some cases deliberate — misunderstandings about the working of European political co-operation, we have also had an interest in the transformation of this informal procedure into one incorporated in a treaty that will clearly set out the limits of this process and will make specific what has been the practice ever since this process began in 1972, namely, that the closer co-ordination of the positions of member states through this process is to be confined to political and economic aspects of security without prejudice to certain high contracting parties, namely, the other 11 members of the Community, co-operating more closely in the field of security within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.

From our point of view one of the particularly frustrating aspects of Community membership in the period since we joined the Community, more especially in recent years, has been the manner in which the provisions for unanimous decision-making contained in the treaty with respect to a whole range of decisions affecting the establishment of an internal market have been persistently abused by many member states with a view to preventing the establishment of such a single market. I should make it clear at this point, in view of Deputy Flynn's extraordinary contribution, that I am not talking about the to-called "Luxembourg compromise" under which decisions to be taken by a qualified majority under the treaty are sometimes postponed indefinitely by what is loosely called the use of the "veto". The abuse of this practice has also caused problems, but in so far as the establishment of the internal market is concerned the main difficulty has arisen in the fact that there are so many decisions in this area that under existing treaty provisions are not decisions to be taken by qualified majority voting, but rather decisions requiring unanimity under the treaty.

There are now literally hundreds of proposals designed to remove artificial barriers to trade, to the provision of services, to the taking up and pursuit of activities of self-employed persons, to opening up the medical and pharmaceutical professions in the Community, to removing obstacles in the way of the provision of banking services, to the establishment of common rules that would mean access to the professions. Most particularly, perhaps, there are proposals for the adoption of measures harmonising national laws in relation to standards and laws which at present inhibit the free movement of goods throughout the Community. In the period since the removal of tariff and quota barriers in the sixties it has become abundantly clear that those more obvious impediments to free trade represented only part of the obstacles that certain member states place in the way of the free movement of goods themselves. One of the commonest practices used to inhibit trade in the Community has been the abuse of national standards — some of which, of course, may appear objectively validated by their historical origins, such as the German law on pure beer which dates back to the 16th century but which, in the manner in which they operate under modern conditions, prevent, and in many cases are clearly now designed to prevent, the free movement of goods.

As a trading country we have an interest more than most in the removal of such barriers to trade, and also in tightening up public procurement policies where these continue to be operated in favour of a domestic industries, or in favour of a foreign industry established within a particular state. Our ability to attract new foreign industries to this country can be seriously affected if they find that goods manufactured here are not, in practice, treated elsewhere on exactly equal terms by the public authorities of those countries in their public purchasing arrangements.

Because we depend so heavily on external trade, which provides us with the means to purchase something like 60 per cent of our domestic needs of goods and services, and because two thirds of what we sell is sold to Community countries, we have a much greater interest than most other countries in the creation of a genuine internal market. This is why we have fought so hard to achieve this objective.

As in the case of many other members of the Community there are, of course, some problems for us in particular aspects of the internal market. In respect of these areas where we have genuine problems, we have sought and secured necessary safeguards. One of the most important of these relates to the possible dangers to animal and plant health from the import of live animals and plants. Both Britain and ourselves have, on the one hand, a natural protection from various diseases affecting animals and plants as a result of our insular situation. On the other hand, this natural protection carries with it very definite dangers because both animals and plants in these islands may lack immunity from diseases prevalent on the continent of Europe, so that the effects of the importation of such diseases could be exceptionally damaging.

This problem has been met by providing that the adoption of a harmonisation measure by qualified majority under the new arrangements will not stand in the way of national provisions which are justified on the grounds of major needs as referred to in Article 36 of the EC Treaty, namely the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants, public morality, public policy or public security, the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historical or archaeological value, and the protection of industrial and commercial property, and the same is true in relation to the protection of the natural working environment.

These provisions in respect of these areas in paragraph 36 of the EC Treaty thus cover not only the question of animal or plant health which is of concern to us but a number of other matters, including the area of public morality, about which concern has recently been voiced here despite the fact that at the time the Single European Act was adopted this point was made perfectly clear at our request. I listened with interest and some amazement to the legal disquisition by Deputy Flynn on the subject of public morality. It is difficult to comment on something as complex as the analysis he put forward without having the opportunity to study it but it seemed to contain some extraordinary references and extraordinary theories which do not seem likely to stand up to any legal scrutiny. I was puzzled by many of the things he said, including his reference to Article 13 as being temporary. I do not know what that has got to do with public morality because Article 13 was temporary. It is the Article that deals with the abolition of customs duties on imports which was completed in 1968. What that has to do with public morality in 1986 I cannot imagine. It is difficult to imagine what relevance most of what Deputy Flynn had to say on this subject had to the world we are living in.

Article 36 of the Treaty deals with the question of public morality and it is difficult to see how that issue could have arisen in any event but, knowing the views that some people here have, and the extraordinary fears they can seek to arouse, it seemed to me at the time desirable to take the necessary precautions against a type of campaign that could be mounted. That is why I sought, and secured, this provision even though nobody, except ourselves, could see what on earth it was for or how it could in any circumstances become necessary. However, the provision is there to offer the necessary reassurance to those who need it but there are many people who do not want to be reassured on matters of this kind.

Another area of concern to us it that of fiscal harmonisation which Deputy Flynn mentioned namely the harmonisation of VAT rates or of excise duties. During the course of negotiations, and since, including at last week's European Council Meeting, I have made it absolutely clear that, under present circumstances and for the foreseeable future, fiscal harmonisation would be impracticable between this country and other EC countries because the exceptionally high level of public spending in Ireland in relation to GNP has made it necessary to impose levels of excise duties, in particular, which are very much higher than in many other parts of the Community. Loss of revenue from indirect taxation if these taxes were to be harmonized would be of the order of £650 million, which in view of the present level of our current deficit, and the high level of direct taxes, could not conceivably be accepted in our case. Because of our concerns in relation to this matter, decisions on fiscal harmonisation will not be taken by a qualified majority, but will continue to require unanimity. I have to say that I was puzzled by Deputy Flynn's reference to the inevitability of something which can only be done by unanimity. It is a matter for this, or any subsequent Government, not to give agreement to that unless and until the problem of revenue shortfall can be overcome.

Will the Taoiseach now read the text and the terminology in it and take legal advice on that?

The Deputy should not complain, he is getting more than he bargained for.

I listened carefully to Deputy Flynn and I heard him use the word "inevitability" in this regard. There is nothing inevitable about this because no decision can be taken save by unanimity. The Government will not agree, and I do not suppose a Fianna Fáil Government will agree, to fiscal harmonisation if it involves a loss of £650 million unless the other member countries are willing to provide £650 million.

What does the word "shall" in a legal agreement mean?

The world "shall" is used throughout the Treaty.

Deputy O'Kennedy should cease interrupting; he should be silent.

I have pointed out to other members of the European Council that if they are willing to produce an extra £650 million for the purpose we might not have too much difficulty in accepting this but I do not think it is a realistic prospect.

Apart from these matters, and the sensitivity of the insurance sector in Ireland particularly because of the two recent failures, which have been covered by one of a number of declarations annexed to the Acts by the various countries, we see our interest as being best served by the removal of barriers in all other areas on a basis of qualified majority voting. Nevertheless, should some unforeseen difficulty arise in relation to a matter in respect of which decisions will in future be taken by qualified majority, and should this matter involve a vital national interest, the political arrangement which is described as the Luxembourg compromise, under which, in such a case, a member state can indefinitely postpone a decision by way of veto, will, of course, continue to apply contrary to the statement of Deputy Flynn who once again on that issue has the wrong end of the stick.

While our interests are best served by the creation of an internal market, subject to the qualifications I have just mentioned, it is recognised by our partners that the creation of such a market could in certain ways operate to the greater advantage of the central rather than the peripheral areas of the Community if market forces were left to themselves, and if no provision were made for compensating action to ensure that the peripheral areas not merely keep up with the rest of the Community, but catch up on them. Thus we, together with other similarly-placed member states, have insisted that new measures in relation to the internal market be accompanied by the incorporation into the Treaty, by way of Articles requiring specific action to be taken, of measures designed to reduce disparities between the various regions and the backwardness of the disadvantaged regions. These provisions in relation to cohesion, which, as I have said, is probably more appropriately described in our terms as "solidarity" give the Regional Fund belatedly and for the first time a specific basis in the Treaty, and also provide for the restructuring of the structural funds in a way designed to ensure cohesion. This objective of cohesion is also to be pursued both through the conduct and co-ordination of national policies by member states and — this is of particular importance — by taking cohesion into account in the implementation of the internal market itself and of the common policies.

What is involved here, therefore, is not merely a provision for the re-orientation of the structural funds towards the needs of the more peripheral areas of the Community but also measures to ensure that policies, for example in relation to the provision of State aids in member states, shall be operated in such a way as to favour peripheral countries like ourselves. This provides a much firmer basis than has existed hitherto for Community co-ordination of State aids in such a way as to prevent State aids in the better-placed, more central, countries operating to the detriment of peripheral countries like ourselves, pushing up the level of our State aid for industrial development well beyond what would be necessary if more favourably-placed countries did not provide State aid for these purposes.

A striking feature of the recent European Council was the very strong emphasis placed by the Commission and a large number of member states on the effective implementation of this concept of cohesion, and also the lack of resistance to these proposals from the better-placed member states.

One well-placed observer remarked to me after the meeting that it was obvious the strength of feeling and determination of the member states most closely concerned with this issue of cohesion had made a considerable impact on other member states, who were left in no doubt as to the seriousness of the commitment involved in the incorporation of this new provision in the Rome Treaty.

To sum up the amendments to the Rome Treaty, leaving on one side certain other changes which do not have the same significance for us, it is clear that the major thrust of what has been done by these amendments is beneficial to our interests. It should be clear that in every instance where we have legitimate concerns, these concerns have been met by our partners. It is rarely that a negotiation of this complexity yields results that are so acceptable to a small country like ourselves. I have no hesitation whatever in recommending these amendments to the Dáil and to the Seanad.

The other provisions of the Single European Act relate to the issue of political co-operation, in the sphere of foreign policy. I doubt if there is any area of public policy in respect of which we have witnessed such consistent, ill-informed and misdirected criticism as there has been with respect to political co-operation as it has operated since we joined the Community, and as it is now provided for in the Single European Act. To a quite extraordinary degree these amendments have been marked by the manifestation of a persistent inferiority complex which is one of the most unfortunate inheritances from our difficult past.

Thus, it is noticeable that in all the critical comments that have been made with respect to political co-operation, involving as it does an attempt to secure where possible common positions in respect of foreign policy, the underlying assumption throughout is that any such system of co-ordination must involve our abandoning our principles or ideals or interests in favour of those of other member states. Those who make this assumption and who promulgate the theory that political co-operation means we have to fall in line with the views of our partners, whether we agree with them or not, have persistently failed to present examples of where this has actually happened in the political co-operation process. I cannot myself recall any statement issued by the Twelve or any common position taken up by the Twelve in any other forum on foreign policy issues in respect of which any serious allegation has been made that in the elaboration of that common position we have abandoned a position held nationally.

Yet, there have been very many such statements of common positions adopted, some of them in respect of quite important areas of foreign policy. I think the three most outstanding examples relate to the Middle East, South Africa and Central America. Let me deal with them.

In relation to the Middle East, the position when we joined the Community was that only two member states — France and Italy — then shared our preoccupation with the Palestinian problem. Other member states still regarded it, in 1973, as a refugee problem and did not appreciate its political importance, nor did they see the need for the Palestinians to have their own homeland or state. Over the period of the mid seventies and on to the end of that decade, the position of the six other states then members of the Community, and thus participating in political co-operation, changed significantly so that by 1980 the Community was in a position to adopt at a meeting in Venice a common position on the Middle East which represented effectively the viewpoint which Ireland, France and Italy had held throughout. Others had moved their positions towards ours.

The same has happened in varying degrees also in relation to South Africa and Central America. In the case of South Africa, we have always been strongly committed to an anti-apartheid position. We have consistently refused to have any relationship with South Africa, whether by way of diplomatic relations or the establishment there of any of our State agencies which would promote trade or tourism or industrial development. Earlier this year we took steps on our own account, independently of our partners, to impose a boycott of South African fruit and vegetables.

Other countries, for historical reasons, have had a different perspective on this issue, partly because of traditional investment and trade links with South Africa which have made them unwilling to face up to the issues raised by the question of apartheid. However, during the past two years there has nevertheless been a very significant, although still very incomplete, evolution in the policies of these member states in the direction of the position we have always held. We do not feel that the common position that has been attained within the Twelve yet meets our views. Others have not gone as far as we have done, or are prepared to go, but the shift in policy on South Africa has in this instance, as in the case of the Middle East, been towards the position we have held, and has not at any stage, inhibited us from maintaining our own position, pending a further evolution of that of other member states.

Again, in relation to Central America we have been for many years committed to the belief that the problems of this area can be solved only by peaceful means rather than by force and that they derive primarily from under-development. Some years ago this perception was not universally shared by other member states of the Community. It is so today, and expression has been given to it on a number of occasions through positions taken and statements issued on behalf of the Twelve on a number of occasions since the Stuttgart European Council three years ago when, at the instance of Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, the Community first adopted a common position along these lines.

Thus, the implied assumption that seems to underly so much of the negative thinking, inspired by this spurious inferiority complex that has bedevilled this country for so long, that is, that co-operation in the area of foreign policy means we have to accept the views of other countries, with which we disagree, finds no practical justification in what has actually happened over the years. I feel it is time this was said and said plainly.

There is another point I would like to make and which does not seem to me to have been made previously. The work of political co-operation does not consist solely in drafting texts and statements to be made publicly. Indeed it is arguable that in some cases such texts and statements are less likely to achieve results than other diplomatic action. Issues involving human rights throughout the world are constantly under discussion privately among the 12 member states, and private diplomatic initiatives are being taken all the time on behalf of the Twelve, seeking to bring the most effective kind of pressure — private pressure rather than public pressure — on countries where there are problems with human rights. In many cases where there has been quiet diplomacy of this kind it has yielded results although there are, of course, other cases where it has failed to do so.

Of its very nature this aspect of foreign policy co-ordination amongst the Twelve can never be given publicity in any individual instance, for to do so would be totally counter-productive and the secrecy necessary for successful initiatives of this kind has been extraordinarily well-preserved over the years. I can only comment that from my own knowledge of what is happening in this respect, month by month, and year by year, I believe that Irish participation in this process with other member countries of the Community through the political co-operation process is an extremely valuable exercise and that far, far more has been done to help more people than could ever have been done by us on our own, or indeed by an other single member state acting on its own.

Having-said all this, we all know that foreign policy does not consist solely of pursuing ideals. It involves also the pursuit of a country's interests, and sometimes, at the margin, the two come into conflict. There are times when a prudent concern for important national interests has to be weighed in the balance against the satisfaction that might be derived from public expression of our views on some aspect of foreign relations. There are, of course, times when concern for these interests rightly prevails, more especially because there are relatively few cases where an Irish expression of view on its own would be likely to influence the actions of another country in some distant part of the globe. None of us likes this conflict; none of us likes staying silent about something on which we may have very strong personal views, but sometimes we know that the expression of these views would have no effect for good in the area concerned, while it could have a considerable adverse effect so far as Ireland is concerned. While one cannot like having to face these conflicts, no responsible Government would devote themselves to endorsing sentiments on any and every occasion at the expense of their interests.

This conflict has always existed throughout our history as a State, and more particularly in the League of Nations and the United Nations we have again and again had to face choices between acting prudently or being vocal in support of our ideals. This position has not changed significantly as a result of our membership of the European Community, and, in so far as there may be some additional cases now where we feel the need to exercise prudence, this derives not from the political co-operation process but from our participation in the European Community itself, within which we have necessarily been concerned to establish close relations with other member states with a view to having their goodwill in respect of the many problems that may arise within the Community. The resolution of problems that concern us, and in some instances ones that are of real importance to us, has frequently depended on goodwill of this kind.

Had political co-operation never been invented, I doubt if we would have acted differently in relation to any matter of significance in foreign policy during the last 14 years, and to the extent that we have occasionally felt it unwise to take up positions on certain issues on which we might previously have been more vocal, because of our interest in maintaining good relations with, and the goodwill of, other member states, this has happened rarely, and in relation to issues of relatively minor importance.

Thus to sum it all up my experience of the process of political co-operation since 1973 has been, I have to say, a very positive one. We have seen the foreign policies of other countries evolve in the direction we believe is right. We have not been required, nor have we felt it necessary, to go along with common positions when we were not in agreement with the views of other countries. At the same time the whole process has enabled us both to learn much more about many world issues — the pooling of information within that process of political co-operation itself is of considerable value — and also to contribute our particular viewpoint on many matters, as well as to join with others some of them of much greater weight than ourselves in world affairs with a view to seeking and, in many cases securing, the alleviation of human rights abuses in a wide range of countries.

The Single European Act changes in no way the practice of political co-operation as undertaken since the time we joined the Community and, accordingly, has no implications for neutrality——

The Taoiseach should read the Act in relation to the Commission's role.

I will come to Deputy O'Kennedy's position on neutrality in a moment. The Deputy should not rush me; I have the quotation here. The Act simply puts down in Treaty form the practice that has existed during this period. The present text is based on a Franco-German draft introduced at the Milan Council — a draft which was designed to, and does, take account of our particular preoccupations, by limiting the process of co-ordination of positions on security matters to the political and economic aspects of security and by providing that this shall not impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain of the High Contracting Parties within the framework of the Western European Union and the Atlantic Alliance to neither of which we belong.

For the rest, it commits us to doing what we have been doing since 1973 — namely, to being ready to co-ordinate our positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security and endeavouring to adopt common position on foreign policy matters. It is very useful to have this clearly written down. From that point of view I welcome the text on political co-operation, and its incorporation in the Single European Act. And I hope that when the Act is ratified by the two Houses of the Oireachtas in the near future, we shall see an end to the hysteria and propaganda which have been a sporadic feature of discussions on Irish neutrality since we joined the Community.

Wherever else in the House this criticism may come from or this position be raised from, it certainly should not come from the Fianna Fáil benches. Fianna Fáil have the most advanced position towards involvement of a military kind of any party in this State. They have taken up a position which no other party that I am aware of has taken up. May I quote from what Deputy O'Kennedy said in the House on 23 November 1978 at column 1799 of the Official Report:

I have always made it clear, as I think my predecessor also did, that in the event of political developments occurring in Europe and in the event of a situation arising which one would hope never would arise, the Community of which we were a member were under attack, then obviously we would have to face our obligations.

The Taoiseach should read the whole lot; that is an outrageous distortion.

That does not relate to any future development. I will read it again for the Deputy. The Deputy posited two cases; let us get it straight. Deputy O'Kennedy is entitled to have his position recorded in full and accurately. He posited two cases: one in the event of political developments occurring in Europe, and second, even if they do not occur in Europe, if the Community of which we were a member was under attack, then obviously we would have to face our obligations. So, according to Deputy O'Kennedy, even if there were not an evolution of foreign policy, even in the conditions in which we found ourselves in 1979——

Outrageous, a total distortion.

——if the Community were attacked, we would then have to face our obligations.

This is outrageous——

Order please, Deputy O'Kennedy.


No other party has ever committed itself in that way to a defensive obligation under existing conditions. That is the Fianna Fáil position, it is on record, has been there and has never been contradicted or withdrawn for seven years. It is about time that Fianna Fáil shut up about neutrality. There are other people who may have other views in this House.

The Taoiseach should read the lot of it.

Deputy O'Kennedy invited me to put it on the record of the House.


Acting Chairman

Deputy O'Kennedy will have an opportunity to reply in a few minutes. He should allow the Taoiseach to continue unaided, please.

I am not going to allow the Taoiseach of this nation to distort what I said.

I have read out what the Deputy said on that occasion. Does he want me to repeat it again?

——and the introduction——

Certainly, I will start at the beginning of the whole section by Deputy O'Kennedy——


Acting Chairman

The Taoiseach unaided, please.

——which reads:

If there has been any change in policy it has not been on these benches since my last statement. No such interpretation should be made of my remarks. I have always made it clear, as I think my predecessor also did, that in the event of political developments occurring in Europe and in the event of a situation arising which one would hope never would arise, the Community of which we were a member were under attack, then obviously we would have to face our obligations.

I will read on, where Deputy O'Kennedy had this to say:

Equally, I have made it clear that at no stage in my experience and I believe in my predecessor's experience has this matter been raised.

It has not arisen; the Community has not been attacked. I shall continue yet again when Deputy O'Kennedy had this to say:

The only place I can see it raised as an issue all the time is here by way of suggestion and speculation, that what is not happening is happening.

I agree with the last bit that is what goes on all the time here but, for the rest, the Fianna Fáil position is not shared by any other party in this House.

I think I have said enough to indicate why I believe that it is desirable that the Single European Act be endorsed by this House and by Seanad Éireann. The Government have put down a motion which seems to reflect a consensus in this House on the issues of cohesion and neutrality. The motion reflects most of the wording suggested by the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. This wording was taken up by Fianna Fáil in an amendment to the Government motion which would however, involve appending a double declaration to an instrument of ratification of the Single European Act. This procedure is an unappropriate one, which could, we are advised legally, put in doubt the validity of our ratification, but the sense of what the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Committees has recommended is incorporated in the Government motions in its two parts incorporated in the Government motions in its two parts. That relating to the need for special consideration of the Irish position has been amended slightly to take into account the important provisions on cohesion introduced by the Single European Act. The wording of the motion on neutrality has been slightly amended so as to incorporate the position on this issue which the Fine Gael and Labour Parties adopted as part of their Programme for Government. I feel that, as now drafted the two motions together with the Single European Act should command the support of everyone in this House.

This debate should afford this House and our people an opportunity of carrying out a full reappraisal of our membership of the EC in so far as advantages or disadvantages accrue to us. It also affords us an opportunity to have our voice heard as a consistent member of a Community which we joined on specific terms laid down in the Treaty of Rome. We have a voice and that voice must be heard, particularly when we see the failure of the EC to implement its obligations and ideals. In such circumstances we would not alone be doing ourselves a favour but also Europe, by reminding our partners and the peoples of Europe that once this was a Community with high ideals, with a spontaneous response from all the people of Europe, particularly as was stated in the Preamble to the Rome Treaty, that it meant something real and vital to the peoples of Europe, something it does not and has not meant for some time.

This debate affords us an opportunity to have our voice heard in a radical reappraisal of not just what this Community means to us in Ireland but as true Europeans, as the Taoiseach would have us be to ensure that where we see failure to act on the terms and stated aims of the Treaty itself, we should, at least in the interests of Europe, be honest and sufficiently confident to point out those failures to our fellow members, the reasons they have occurred, and to demonstrate to the peoples of Europe that one member state is not going to engage in a facade of progress in the name of a European new Act, particularly where the established Act — the Treaties which bind us all together — is being ignored and not being implemented.

That is what I find most disappointing, not merely with regard to this debate but, I have to say also in the Taoiseach's lifeless, spiritless address to this House. After all, he is the Leader of this nation. It was he who represented us at the European Council. It is he who should be contributing to a new dynamism in Europe with a real sense of purpose. He should be heard not just in his own words on his own achievements when he comes back home as is typical of this and his other speeches. As a representative of a small, independent State with a total and legitimate commitment to this EC and its ideals, he should be constantly reminding the powerful nations particularly, who have repudiated the very ideals of the EC, of that commitment. He above all as Leader of this nation at this time has failed so utterly to remind them of that.

If only on the basis of the lifeless address that we have heard from the Taoiseach today and the complacent element in it particularly in relation to the European Council, it is time the Government and the Taoiseach changed their approach. They will not be castigated, particularly by the smaller member states, for having the courage and confidence to remind the Mrs. Thatchers of this world and others that they have been the problem of the Community. I will give many reasons why they will be respected and admired by the peoples of the EC for at last having a little courage and the conviction to restore to a great Community what was once there, ideals and inspiration, which are lacking at this time. In the Taoiseach's speech are the usual details which are not matters for a Head of Government, such as litres of wine and compositions of this, that and the other. That would be more appropriate to the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Litres of wine? I did not mention wine.

There is so much of that there and the Taoiseach knows it is there. Part of the problem with the EC is that Heads of Government are stated to be occupied with such details when there are major political issues to be faced openly and admitted honestly. I hope I am not being too offensive, Acting Chairman, but reading the portion on the European Council one would be tempted to form the view that the Taoiseach was the one who had everything said and done in the areas covered, that he convinced and persuaded the others and brought them around to his position. There is all of this modesty which is typical of the Taoiseach when reporting in the areas in which he has been engaged such as confidential discussions. His speech is decorated with decorations of himself. Who will be impressed by this? Does he think, when the reality is explored and observed, he has persuaded and brought others around to his position — as is typical of him not just as Taoiseach and member of the EC but as Minister for Foreign Affairs? Does he think that he is winning friends and influencing people in Europe? Does he think that he is inspiring change? For instance, would he like to consult one of the greatest Europeans of my experience, Helmut Schmidt, to see the extent to which the Taoiseach influenced him when he was coming back home and telling us all the time about his great achievements at the European Council, or would he rather think about what that quiet and modest man, Deputy Liam Cosgrave, might have succeeded in doing in persuading Helmut Schmidt to support him? Would he consider the kind of goodwill that Deputy Jack Lynch won in his time by simple, honest diplomacy as distinct from this self proclamation which has been the hallmark of this Taoiseach? Would he consider why it was when I joined the Council of Ministers——

The Deputy stayed too long.

I was there two and a half years, in case the Deputy is not aware of that. I was reminded that since Deputy Garret FitzGerald had left the Council somebody had better undertake the role of getting first to the Press. This kind of approach will not win support among friends who do not want to see the rest of themselves put aside as being brought around by the Taoiseach.

The Deputy had nothing to report for two and a half years.

They are people of status, heads of Government. That is not to say that we have to lie under and kowtow, and they will not be impressed by the self-proclamation that is dotted throughout the Taoiseach's report of the European Council.

Stop attacking the Taoiseach.

The Government can operate through the handlers at home, and we have had here Government by public relations. You can give the impression that discussions with Margaret Thatcher in a corridor are discussions on a bilateral basis but who is being fooled? Certainly Margaret Thatcher is not being fooled and it is time that we stopped being fooled. It is time that the Taoiseach stopped being fooled. Let us have a little honesty and the courage to admit that when they are not real discussions they are not real discussions and not convey the impression, as is so often done here from sources in Government and Press officers here and there, that all of this is being done and all the matters are being raised in close consultation——

I am sorry that the Deputy resents the factual account.


——but we hear no word publicly. I will give one example and then I will come back to the Single European Act. For instance, publicly in this House——

You heard about Maggie and the tea party.

If that is the extent of the Deputy's contribution I will ask him to make it in another place at another time.

Deputy O'Kennedy without interruption.

Another major debate is being conducted here at this time. I am referring to the debate on extradition. I want to make this comment relevant to the point I am making. In introducing that here the Minister for Justice of this Government made no reference whatsoever for the public record in this House of the implications for that convention of Birmingham, Guildford, Annie Maguire or anything else. He had not the courage to state it here for the public record because it was not an issue. What do we hear since from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs? Of course they know about our concern. They have had discussions with us even this day in this House. It is a matter on which they are fully aware of our position, but when it comes to putting it fully and clearly on the record by the Minister responsible they shy back. That lack of conviction is doing us no service and is winning us no respect from those with whom we negotiate.

The Deputy is showing great ignorance about the case——

He is making a great deal of noise regardless of the damage it does. That is a Fianna Fáil attitude.

Regarding our independent position, some other matters arise from the Taoiseach's address and then I will come to some mis-statements of fact and law which suggest clearly that the Taoiseach believes what he wants to believe. First of all in relation to fact, talking in terms of our independent policy I will give one recent example. Political co-operation as it has been practised does not require us to take the same position on all issues. In regard to what the Taoiseach mentioned about the Middle East, let me now be as modest as the Taoiseach is when I say that I played some considerable part in that in 1979 in getting the European partners to adopt another position there.

I acknowledge that. The Deputy built well on what had been done in the previous four years.

I would like to acknowledge much of what the Taoiseach has achieved too and I will come to that in relation to Lomé and other things. When we could in political co-operation at the UN or elsewhere have taken a position which would be demonstrably independent we have failed on some occasions. Let me give the example in relation to the Malvinas where the UN Council wanted to promote negotiations between the UK and the Argentine. Clearly, this was not particularly popular with the UK because negotiations would imply from their point of view — which is understandable — equality of right, of obligation, of control. Other member states of the EC supported that proposal. As far as I know Greece and Spain — at least four member states — supported the proposal for negotiations and what did we do? In a week-kneed, totally spiritless, lifeless position, we abstained. This country that has been characterised by independence in foreign policy abstained because we were afraid we might offend one of the "great powers" of Europe.

I regret that the Taoiseach has left, but for the record in relation to his address I want to make two points of fact and interpretation. The Taoiseach said: "The Single European Act changes in no way the practice of political co-operation ...." Political co-operation did not by right involve the Commission or any member of the Commission. As a concession and simply as an observer the Commission could on occasion sit in on political co-operation proceedings. In time, it became more the practice than the exception that they sat in on the political co-operation process, but they had no role unless called upon to initiate proposals. They were not initiators and on occasions were not even present although I acknowledge that even during the time I was Foreign Minister they would have been present but they certainly had no formal role. The Taoiseach says that the changes do not in any way affect the practice of political co-operation. Will the Taoiseach address himself to Title III where it says at paragraph 3 (b):

The Commission shall be fully associated with the proceedings of Political Co-operation.

In law "shall" means that it is not a matter of option but a matter of obligation. The Commission are now being included as a matter of obligation in the full proceedings of political co-operation. It also says at paragraph 3 (a):

The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and a member of the Commission shall meet at least four times a year within the framework of European Political Co-operation.

That is a new format in respect of the role of the Commission in European political co-operation. It might not be of such major importance if the matters in which the Commission are being involved were matters in which they were never involved before. Article 5 of Title III says:

The Presidency and the Commission, each within its own sphere of competence, shall have special responsibility for ensuring that such consistency is sought and maintained.

The consistency of which we are talking is closer co-operation on questions of European security and matters of that kind. Article 6(a) says:

Closer co-operation on questions of European security would contribute in an essential way to the development of a European identity in external policy matters. They are ready to co-ordinate their positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security.

The Commission have never been involved in that, and the Taoiseach blandly tells us that the Single European Act does not change the practice of political co-operation. Why is the Commission role in this so important? Why do I take up that point, seeing that the Taoiseach apparently has not even read the text which he has agreed? I do this because the Commission initially, in the institutions set up under the Treaty of Rome, was seen as the guardian, the watchdog of the institutional framework of the European Economic Community. The Commission was seen, as distinct from the Council of Ministers, as being the constant European presence and dynamo. The Commission was supposed to be the focal point for European development and progression. When the Commission which has a role exclusively in the social, economic and political area is now being brought into political co-operation in a formal way, it is quite clear that the statement made by the Taoiseach does not pass muster.

We will not be intimidated by comments from the Government that any criticism we make will put our position in the European Community at risk. We have an obligation which we will discharge. What I am saying is based on my experience and on the direction that Europe will follow if Europe is loyal to the principles it claims to honour, as established in the treaties. For that reason I had hoped the Taoiseach would make some reference to the failures of the European Community to be meaningful to the people of Europe in terms of employment, social dignity and justice. In the last decade particularly, the Community has failed its people abysmally. Yet the head of Government of one of the smaller States whose voice should be heard on this issue has said that no such failure has taken place. We should acknowledge that the European countries which stayed outside the EC, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria, not to speak of Switzerland, have been more economically successful and have been much more inspiring and invigorating for their people than have the member states of the European Community, particularly the member states on the periphery of the European Community. Are we not allowed, as good Europeans, to make the observation? Because we are members of the club are we expected to say that everything that is done in the name of the club by the big members is all right with us? Have we a voice that will be heard? The approach we take is that all we have to do is come back from Europe and proclaim that they did this, that or the other and the public will accept it. The public have had a little too much of that to swallow that philosophy.

What have we seen as a result of the CAP which is our only common policy? There is inadequate funding for unemployment and there is a whole range of areas which have not been dealt with. The Single European Act does not advance the cause of Europe at all. It is an attempt to conceal the fact that there has been a dismal failure to honour the commitments enshrined in the treaty. That is the main motivation behind this Act. It is time our voice was heard expressing our reservations. I will quote the treaties, so as to have it recognised that the Community we joined had very specific commitments which any member state who acceded at that time would have been ready to honour. The Preamble to the 1957 Act establishing the European Economic Community which followed the Coal and Steel Community established in 1951 says that the purpose was to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe and it was to achieve this by affirming as the essential objective of their efforts the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples. Some small Europeans, little men of today's generation, when they want to don the mantle of Europeans, pay homage to the founding fathers of the European Community who were respected because what they were doing was real for Europe.

The European response from all the peoples of Europe was vital. It means something to the individual members of the individual member states. The European Community then had a dynamism which it has long since lost. We saw an example of how much it had lost in the direct elections to the European Parliament. I regard that period as the high tide in European democracy and I contrast it with the response of the peoples of Europe to the European Parliament elections where the turn-out was so abysmally low that it demonstrated for most of them it was not relevant, it was not helping, it was not aware, it was not vital and it did not count in their daily lives and problems. They repudiated it by their abstention. That could be called the ebb tide of democracy in Europe and it is of that which we have to remind our partners.

The Community we joined had a sense of purpose and an idealism which meant something to the original founders whom we all respect. The Community we are talking about today, particularly that represented in the lifeless cold address by the Taoiseach, has none of that dynamism or idealism. It is not as if there are no problems to be tackled and crushing burdens to be relieved. We bound ourselves for that reason by a constitutional amendment. We bound in a sacred pledge the people of Ireland to accede to those treaties which had those preambles, provisions and obligations. We are now asked to adopt an Act which amends in almost every paragraph the treaties we acceded to by referendum.

I will give a few examples of where it amends them very significantly. It amends the treaties without a referendum and that is a matter the Government have to consider. If they take it on their responsibility that what they propose to the Irish people does not warrant a referendum and are satisfied on the legal issues so be it, but they should have researched it a little more closely because not only are we not going to have a referendum but we are having a shameful debate in this House. It is shameful in the sense that something which is of vital importance to this nation and to Europe is being pushed through at the end of the Government's ebbing life and at the end of this term. We are all looking to see how much time we have to contribute to this debate. Deputy Blaney, understandably, who has a direct experience in Europe — and I do not mind saying a voice which has been heard and should be heard — has to wonder when will he get his time and when will O'Kennedy shut up. It is ridiculous that we should be confined to this kind of timetable on this important issue when there are so many things that have to be said.

Let me give an example of where there is a very definite change. We do not have to go very far into this Act before we find very definite changes in the treaties. Article 2 states that the European Council shall bring together the heads of state or Government of the member states and the President of the Commission of the European Communities, that they shall be assisted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and by a member of the Commission and that they shall meet at least twice a year. I wonder if the Taoiseach or any member of the Government is aware of the fact that very deliberately the founding fathers of the European Community excluded a European Council from the treaties. There is no reference to a European Council in the treaties we acceded to for the very good and sufficient reason that they had sufficient foresight to know that at that level meeting three times a year as suggested, the big would dominate the small and would, in the glare of summit publicity, try to give the impression when they went back to their own member state that they were the dominant figures. I am sure they are all doing the same today. Some may have some justification. The Taoiseach made his paltry contribution on the same basis.

Having sat at the European Council for two and a half years I can tell this House that, in contrast to the Council of Ministers, it is dominated by the major member states in a way which is detrimental to the development of the European Community. We are told there is no need to have a referendum or debate. That is a very significant change. There was a very good reason why it was not included in the original treaties.

I can give some other examples of where there is a definite replacement of what is in the existing treaties. For instance, paragraph 3 of Article 6 states:

In Article 49 of the EEC Treaty the terms "the Council shall, acting on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee", shall be replaced by "the Council shall, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, in co-operation with the European Parliament and after consulting the Economic and Social Committee".

That is a radical change. I am not going to argue whether in some instances it could operate for good or ill, but I am saying it is a radical change in the existing treaty provisions. A first year law student would see it in the very first section of Chapter I. We are being told that it is not a radical change. The whole section is littered with that kind of radical change.

Paragraph 5 of Article 6 states:

In Article 56 (2) of the EEC Treaty the second sentence shall be replaced by the following:

"After the end of the second stage, however, the Council shall, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and in co-operation with the European parliament, issue directives for the co-ordination of such provisions as, in each Member State, are a matter for regulation or administrative action".

Therefore, it can now be done by directive. If that is not a radical change of the treaties and every single provision in them I woulder what a radical change is. It is the original treaties we acceded to and it is the original treaties the Irish people adopted in the referendum. Article 7 states:

Article 149 of the EEC Treaty shall be replaced by the following provisions:


1. Where in pursuance of this Treaty, a Council acts on a proposal from the Commission, unanimity shall be required for a Act constituting an amendment to that proposal."

I do not want to give many examples because is not the time or the place, unfortunately, even though it should be. This should be a time when we should be able to spend three weeks on this issue if necessary. We could then go through it in a legal and analytical way. Because of the time constraints and in deference to other speakers who have a conviction on this issue and a major contribution to make I cannot take any further time. The Taoiseach might do well to read the provisions with regard to the harmonisation of taxes and read them properly and closely. Article 13 states:

The Community shall adopt measures with the aim of progressively establishing the internal market over a period expiring on 31 December 1992, in accordance with the provisions of this Article and of Articles 8B, 8C, 28, 57 (2), 59, 70 (1), 84, 99, 100A and 100B and without prejudice to the other provisions of this Treaty.

Let us read that again: "The Community shall adopt measures with the aim of progressively establishing the internal market over a period expiring on 31 December 1992. We shall adopt measures to introduce the elements of the internal market before the period expiring on 31 December 1992. In relation to the harmonisation of taxes Article 17 states:

The Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation to the extent that such harmonisation is necessary to ensure the establishment and the functioning of the internal market within the time limit laid down in Article 8A.

Article 8A states that we shall adopt these measures within the period expiring on 31 December 1992. There has to be unanimity regarding the harmonisation of taxes but it must be done by that date. Suppose in 1991 we are holding out because it does not suit us. We are living in an unreal world if we think that in 1992 our partners will not remind us that we signed this Act and adopted it into our law and it specifies that it shall be done before the end of December 1992. If we do not comply we will be repudiating this Act.

It is time that the Taoiseach and his advisers — legal, political or otherwise — read the terms of this Act which is presented to us as being essential to maintain our place in Europe, not to offend our partners and to continue to benefit. We are all fully aware that there are benefits. Why do we need this kind of proclamation? We should have a very detailed analysis of provisions which involve a radical change in legal and constitutional obligations. But this Government say there is no need for a referendum or for informed debate. That is a shame, not just for Ireland and its Parliament but for Europe. I know enough about them to know that some of the smaller countries would expect to hear from us, having regard to our consistent position. They will hear very little now.

I now turn to the Taoiseach's attempt to misrepresent the position I have taken. The purpose of the instruments of the Treaty of Rome are all economic and social and they impose obligations. The development of the European Community was on the basis of achieving equality of living standards among the peoples of the member states. All the policies of the European Community, including the Common Agricultural Policy, the Regional and Social policies, the fisheries policy etc. were to be implemented in that direction. Clearly they have not been.

As recently as ten years ago the stages for political union were stated and restated by the Commission, by Mr. Jenkins when he was president of the Commission, by Leo Tindemanns and many others. The first stage was elimination of regional imbalances in Europe; the second stage was greater or more balanced economic development throughout Europe; the third stage was economic and monetary union; and the fourth stage was greater cohesion leading towards political union. Only on the firm foundation of political union does the whole question of common foreign policy arise. This is what I was saying in that piece which the Taoiseach distorted by taking it out of context. As Seán Lemass said so clearly when we joined, when we get to that stage and we are part of a political union brought about through those economic developments, then our common purpose would also be to play our part wherever it would arise in defence of that union. We are nowhere along that line. I resent that the Taoiseach extracts for distortion something I said, with the purpose of saying that Fianna Fáil were the first who went for security holus-bolus. I resent it because it is not accurate and I will not leave it on the record.

When talking about political cohesion two elements might have been brought to the attention of the member states. The common market which we are strengthening will operate to the benefit and advantage of the major member states because they have the capacity to exploit the market. The Federal Republic of Germany was always supporting the enlargement of the Common Market because they knew they had the capacity to exploit new opportunities in Spain, Portugal and Greece. The same applies to France. It has happened as they expected. Since Spain acceded to the European Community the benefit of growing trade is in the ratio of 5:1 in favour of Germany. Germany has benefited enormously from expanded market because they have the technological and industrial capacity to exploit the market. It is the same in respect of France or Britain, if she had the heart to do it.

The Common Market will always operate to the advantage of the strong. To maintain a balance we must have adequate resources and policies to ensure the cohesion and co-ordination we have talked about. Instead of that, the necessary budget funds are being limited to 1 per cent of VAT. That might rise to 1.4 per cent but everyone knows we need 2 per cent of VAT to fund a meaningful programme. I resent the notion that any country, be it Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany or any other country which contributes, should be proclaimed as paymasters. They gain more from the operation of the Common Market than any of the smaller countries gain from transfer of funding through Community policies. It is time we said that and that we reminded those heads of Government that when they meet they had better recognise their failure to provide adequate funding for a Community that they now want to move into a new stage through a Single European Act. This is a facade to cover their own failure and lack of purpose. We should not allow that facade to be erected without protest, as good Europeans, really committed Europeans. That is what real political cohesion means.

There was, as part of European economic and monetary union, which is meant to be one of the stages for European integration, an essential part — the European Monetary System. I attended the European Council at which the EMS was launched and promoted. Every member state at that time thought it a very good idea, that it was monetary stability and that they knew what it would mean to Ireland, for instance, regarding problems vis-à-vis sterling, what it would mean to give us all an equal break in a stable exchange regulation. Britain has been allowed to stay out as an associate member without even a word of meek protest from any country and particularly from our country. It is inevitably and terribly damaging that sterling is floating outside the European Monetary System. We are devaluing within the EMS all the time and it has no effect, good, bad or indifferent, on our relationship with sterling and we are even afraid to say that. It is time that was said.

This Europe which is presenting a fabrication of a great initiative in the Single European Act has failed to act on its own terms in the European Monetary System. There was a time when the term "just retour” was the most offensive term that one could use to any European, but it has almost become sacrosanct. Britain said that they must get in what they pay out. That has been the real failure of the European Community. It is time that failure was honestly acknowledged.

I remember a time in the early days of 1977 when the Foreign Ministers of the small countries regularly met first for breakfast to take common positions to ensure that the big countries could not dominate the Council of Ministers. Some very important conclusions came from those breakfast meetings because the small countries, by definition, have a much greater European commitment — the Benelux countries, Denmark later and ourselves — than those who want to dominate. Among those particularly are the latest recruits, with ourselves, the British Government. As expressed by their Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, they do not have a commitment to Europe.

There are more than 12 million unemployed in Europe and 12 million have been driven off the land of Europe in less than two decades, 15 years. Still we intend to keep dismantling the Common Agricultural Policy, without in any way trying to find a new role for it in a world chronically short of food. That 12 million people were displaced even before Spain and Portugal joined the Community. And we wonder what is happening to Europe. While the world is starving, here is this Community, which could play such a role, doing nothing. I do not think that good Europeans are timid, silent or acquiescent, or that they just proclaim adherence to principles and proclamations; they speak with guts in Europe, as we would here. God knows, this is a real place, this Dáil; we attack each other, we fight each other, we believe what we say and we say it. Why should we suddenly change our ways when dealing with the European Community?

The Taoiseach, particularly, is flattered by the association with the big names of Europe, who are just men and women like the rest of us when one gets to meet them. They appear together in photographs and on television to be flattered by association with the titles "Guiscard and I", or "Margaret and I", or "Jacques Delors and I". That is not real any more. It is about time we forgot the flattery, got down to basics and looked after the people. They are the real people and they would respect us more if they found that we had guts rather than that we paraded ourselves like peacocks, for what is called in European circles the family photograph with the heads of Government three times a year. That is a laugh now. I hope we have more confidence than to have to dine on that kind of achievement.

Ireland has played a very important role in Europe. The Europeans respect Ireland's special position because it is even to the advantage of Europe in terms of foreign policy. An independent foreign policy such as we have has operated to the advantage of Europe in more ways than one. I can give one or many examples. The Lomé Convention was negotiated three times since we joined the European Community and each time — and this was not accidental — it was negotiated by an Irish Foreign Minister as President of the Office of the Council of Ministers. I can testify to the fact in my own time there that the Irish Presidency, coming as it did after the French Presidency, was about the most fortunate thing that could have happened in terms of negotiating with the Lomé countries. The French, having the history and tradition of colonial involvement and domination, just like the British and the Dutch, did not have the goodwill all round. Some countries have. Perhaps more notably in some former colonies, it must be said. Some former British colonies have not, any more than the British would have had with these people, but we had that goodwill. The convention renegotiated in 1979 was even harder than the launching of the first convention, I do not claim personal credit for that because we had a good team. That would not have been achieved without an Irish contribution and Europe knows it. Why? Because we are independent and those countries can relate more readily to us than to the others on foreign policy. Are we going to apologise now for that? It is something of which we should be proud and Europe has benefited. That is why any compromise with our independence and neutrality will be damaging, not only for us but for Europe. I wish we had the guts and the conviction to state that, instead of trying to imply that it is not for any reason other than to enhance Europe's position.

One important area must be addressed which is in relation to the institutions in the Community, particularly the Commission. The Commission features in this, but in no sense in a radical way. If the Commission is given the new powers here, were the Commission as orginally launched in the Treaties, with the dynamism and purpose and European role that were part and parcel of the early Commission in the days going back to M. Spaak and others, people then would say that there was a strong Commission, but it has not been so. There have been about ten reports in the last seven or eight years on the institutions of the European Community, drawn up at the request of heads of Government generally who want to give the impression, after each meeting, that they are going to launch something great in Europe. They drew up the Fidel Report, the Tindemans Report, the Three Wise Men Report, each time with a glare of publicity about new dynamism. After each report, what happened? The very heads of Government that called for the reports ignored in every detail the conclusions of the reports for which they had called. The best example I can give is in relation to the Commission itself and its constitution.

Each and every one of those reports that I have mentioned very clearly and strongly recommended one particular reform amongst others — that is, that there should be only one member of the Commission from each member state. They made that very clear. That was not acceptable to the big powers of Eurupe; Britain wanted two, France two, Germany two, Italy two, and now Spain wants two. Accordingly, there is a Commission of 17 members. If we were really interested in reform, why not say that there is the most basic reform of all, a Commission of one from each member state, recommended by a consistent number of enlightened Europeans, wise men as they were called?

For that reason I have reservations about the role being given now to the Commission. This Commission, which is being given new powers in political co-operation and elsewhere, is a very different baby from the Commission it should be if these reports were adopted and certainly different from what should be there if it were meaningful to Europe.

I hope my next comment in relation to the Commission will not be misunderstood. A Government must be close to their people and aware of their problems before they can attempt to solve them. They must be aware of their strength and have an empathy with the people but I cannot think of an institution anywhere which is so divorced from the reality of the experience of the people of Europe than the Commission based in the Berlaymont in Brussels. Whatever is said here about the salaries in Brussels is an understatement because it does not take account of the other perquisites including tax breaks and so on. The Europe which is meant to have idealism and commitment certainly pays levels of salaries and allowances which are enormous and some day a journalist will research this aspect of the Community. Salaries in the European Parliament are enormous compared with our salaries. Who benefits from Europe? I accept that Parliament but we should ask ourselves if these people on inflated salaries know anything abut the problems of the Mezzogiorno? A flying visit in a helicopter will not do much for idealism and if one is living in splendid isolated luxury — I use the terms deliberately — one will not be aware of the impatience, anxieties and worries of people who are unemployed throughout the Community. Perhaps it is time to regionalise the Commission.

Some people are naturally attracted to the system and the big salary that goes with it. However, perhaps we should have an office in the Mezzogiorno on a smaller scale if the Commission is to have a real role in Europe. If the anxieties and worries of the people are to be appreciated, perhaps representatives of the Commission staff should hold clinics in the west where they would come face to face with the grinding problems of individuals from whom they are totally isolated.

We should always remember our own language and culture. I use Irish at the European Commission regularly because it enriches Europe. I also use it at the European Parliament and translate it myself. We should always be conscious of the fact that we are trying to enrich Europe because we will not get a Europe for the people unless their culture is taken into account. We should try to get away from this awful, cold, bureaucratic Europe which has evolved since the seventies.

Europe should not be inward looking but this Act does not help in that regard. There is a world outside Europe where injustice is even more obvious than in Europe. The original treaties to which we acceded had a total commitment to that world and in their role in international relations is perfectly and clearly enshrined in them. They were, understandably, the expressions of men of idealism. The original treaties made specific commitments and obligations as part of European development. They wanted an unselfish Europe which was not inward looking, contemplating its own navel and its budget problems. They wanted Europe to become stronger but the Act does not say a word about that. This is sad. I may have expressed my views at some length but they are shared by many people whom I meet in Europe on political and other levels. The claptrap should stop. We must develop a European Community which we can respect.

Deputy O'Kennedy painted a very interesting and attractive picture of the various perquisites which apply in Europe generally and in the European Commission in particular. That, from someone who has spent a considerable time there, is thought-provoking for the rest of us who sit in this humble Parliament.

I welcome the new-found aggression which he feels should be applied by this country in our dealings with Europe. That same theme was epitomised in the speech last evening by the Leader of the Opposition in which he accused the Government of begging bowl politics. From where did most of the inspiration come for begging bowl politics in relation to Europe? I have been a Member of this House for the past four years. It is clear that most of that inspiration came from the other side of the House because, in every crisis there have been calls for derogations for Ireland on one subject or another. These calls seem to culminate in an attitude that this country is a far flung offshore island of Europe, remote from it, but expecting all the benefits at the same time.

This is a timely debate because many people seem to have forgotten that we voted overwhelmingly for the Treaty of Accession in 1972. Despite allegations from various sources over the past few weeks, the people knew what they were doing when they committed us to enter Europe. Deputy O'Kennedy outlined the thoughts of the founding fathers, people like Adenauer and Schuman and, in latter years, Spinelli, whom we had the opportunity of meeting in this House a couple of years ago. The people who saw the need to create the European Community saw it from the point of view of Europe being in need of a strong trading community if its survival was to be ensured. They saw that after two major devastating world wars and they also saw it in times of peace between the wars. They saw it as being absolutely necessary if the people of Europe were to achieve the goal they rightly deserve. The founding fathers very firmly laid the groundwork. Many of the aims they set 30 years ago and more, were not possible to achieve but ultimately they came about. That showed the people who drew up the original ideal of the European Economic Community had the best interests of Europeans at heart.

Next we must ask ourselves if we are committed Europeans. Having regard to the decision of our people in 1972 I say we must be. From time to time various people have suggested we have only limited benefits from Europe, that there are many negative aspects. Let us examine the net benefits to this country over the years. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should go down the road of the begging bowl or that we should adopt that stance at any time, but if we are committed to Europe and if we accept the benefits that come from Europe, somewhere, sometime, some European is likely to ask us if we are really serious especially if we continue to hedge our bets whenever there is a debate like this or when there is any suggestion of committing ourselves more to the European concept. As Deputy O'Kennedy must know the Commission have vast powers which were never used to the detriment of this country and will not be. The general idea of a united Europe must surely be to the benefit of all people.

As I see it, the Single European Act is a natural progression of the original idea and ideal. It is important that we commit ourselves to that ideal because if we do not — and this should be more clearly spelt out, although I have not heard it mentioned once from the opposite side of the House — there are stronger economic powers in Europe which have their certain sway and it is up to the other member states to ensure that their interests are not submerged. Those stronger powers have looked carefully at the commitment of the other states and suggested that if we do not move towards a more united Europe some of those who are more committed to that concept will move and create a two-speed Europe. That has often been suggested over the past number of years in Europe and in this House. It is regrettable that the Opposition speakers do not seem to have had regard to these expressions of opinion which have come from Europe.

I had occasion to visit there on one or two occasions. It was clear what the Europeans were thinking but it was amazing we did not hear much about that in this House or in the various committees dealing with European legislation. I believe we should tell the people the whole story which is that it has been found opportune to move steadily towards a more united Europe, economically and politically. The people who are motivating that move will obviously want to see a commitment from countries such as ourselves, and if we do not move in that direction they might come to the conclusion we are getting cold feet and were not as committed today as we were some years ago. If that is so, are we prepared to accept all that goes with that statement? Are we prepared to accept that if we were to fall into a secondary category, or into a slower speed Europe, we would not have access to the benefits we have at present, those much denigrated benefits.

It is extremely important that we recognise the Single European Act for what it is, a natural progression of the original concept, an obvious movement towards a more united Europe. There is a huge European population with whom it would be much easier to market if there was a single trading bloc. If each country was to trade independently, as was the case before the European Community came into being, we would have the shambles which existed for a number of years, the kind of shambles the European Community tried to replace. If we want to trade as a bloc, we must have the commitment of all States. This leads me back to the question of whether we are as committed to this concept as we were.

A couple of issues are raised automatically when we are expected to make a commitment. First, there is the question of sovereignty. This subject has been adequately dealt with by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I do not propose to go into this now because I am not a constitutional lawyer, and I have no wish to be, but I regard myself as a reasonable person and reasonable people elect Members to this House. I can see no particular threat to our sovereignty under this Act. Whenever we are asked to make a commitment to something which is bigger than ourselves, we immediately resort to parochialism and create a feeling that there is some erosion of our sovereignty on the one hand or on our neutrality on the other.

Neutrality is the second area which arouses great emotion. When this subject is raised it gives politicians, the media and interested groups great scope to make their views known. It can be said, and rightly so, that we should and must maintain a neutral stance. That has been accepted and is generally agreed, but amazingly there have been suggestions that our neutrality is now interfered with by virtue of the Single European Act. That has not been explained to me, and I cannot understand it having regard to the various documents to which we have had access and the various discussions which took place in the joint EC legislative committee, of which I am a member. I cannot understand how our neutrality is being threatened nor can many people outside the community — I mean the Irish community. Over the past 24 hours we have heard a great deal in this House about what the ordinary people are saying but amazingly, what people are asking is: what does neutrality mean? In what way can we be neutral in the future? They are asking how effective a neutral stance will be in the future. There is obviously a very great need for us to recognise the limitations of stances such as that in the future. It is correct to adopt a stance but we should recognise the limitations involved.

Hopefully, it will never happen, but should there be a war how long would any country in the western hemisphere remain neutral? How long and how effective would neutrality be to any European country? It might mean that certain neutral countries would not be primary targets, but they could be secondary targets if there was a thermo-nuclear war, and they might have an extra 20 minutes at most to take some kind of action. For that reason I have to say that while I agree with the adopted stance on neutrality, at the same time a number of people are saying that neutrality is not as big an issue as it was.

The other area that has been mentioned quite a lot is defence and the possibility that, as a result of this Act, we might in some way be drawn into a European defence alignment of one kind or another. That is not likely to happen. There is nothing in the Act to suggest it. There is no indication from the Government that they will ever try to move in that direction. I do not think they would get agreement for it. I am quite sure, and I hope, that the Opposition, having listened to their speeches during the last 24 hours, will think of becoming involved in such an alignment. I do not think we have anything to fear in that area. A lot of talk about defence at this time creates great emotion, attracts a great deal of attention and demands a great deal of attention. There is a threat, whether it be real or theoretical, to our defence and our neutrality as a result of being involved in the Community and as a result of passing this Act. From discussions which have taken place within the joint EC committee, I cannot see from where the threat comes.

There has also been quite an amount of debate on the veto. It was stated that the majority decisions will eventually supersede the unanimous decisions. There have been areas where this has been the case for quite some time and yet our interests have not suffered. I accept that in the past number of years — this is another reason for the introduction of the Single European Act — the European Community has become sluggish. It served its purposes quite well since its inception 20 years ago but it is not as incisive as it was. It has now outlived its usefulness. Hence there is a need to progress further. For instance, we are all aware of the difficulties with the Common Agricultural Policy. We all know the various remedies that have been put forward time and time again to bolster it up. We know the difficulties and the total inability of the Community to dispose of its surpluses during the last number of years. It is ridiculous that countless millions of pounds are being spent each year on storage. Obviously, that cannot be allowed to continue. It is generally accepted.

The ironic part is whenever a discussion takes place on that matter, we all immediately revert to making a special case for Ireland, to making a derogation, a stop gap measure, a piecemeal arrangement. The same happens again and again. That is far from what European integration should be. It is far from achieving the objectives of the European Community. We should address ourselves to that area. We should find ways and means of making the Community more effective and more efficient. We appear to have our interests militated against by virtue of our inability to put forward firm innovative proposals which will bring about a change in the structure. If we can achieve that we will prepare the way for what was originally envisaged by Adenaur, Schuman and others many years ago.

Deputy O'Kennedy mentioned the lack of interest in the European elections. That is a valid point and one to which we should all address ourselves. There has not been a great deal of interest shown in this country in various elections that have taken place.

That will not be so with regard to the next one.

The only thing I can say in response to that is that it will be mutual. In relation to complacency in Europe generally — it should be a warning to all of us — when democratic people show a lack of interest in the democratic process it could mean that that process is showing signs of weakness or that they, the people who vote, are showing a lack of judgment. If one looks back at European history one will readily recognise what happened whenever the democratic processes failed or whenever the public showed scant regard for those democratic processes. It behoves us all to recognise that if there is complacency when it comes to democratically electing people to represent us in Parliament, be it here or in Europe, that should sound a warning bell to each and every one of us who believes in democracy. We should take note of that and try to do what we can to ensure that complacency is removed. We should point out — we need no illustrations — what happened when people became too complacent to exercise their franchise when given the opportunity.

Ireland's attitude to the Single European Act, is very important. It is something that can be worked out further, something which we, with our contributions, can improve in the time ahead. It is an instrument through which we can exert sufficient authority and create whatever is required of a nuisance in Europe to ensure that our views are listened to and are taken seriously. If we do not do that the possibility is that in Europe people will become tired of us. They will recognise us as adopting the piecemeal attitude about which I have already spoken. If that happens they will lose interest in us and that will be sad for Ireland and for the European Community. I will not refer again to the possible alternative. Suffice it to say that the adoption of this Act by the Dáil is a recognition by this House of the decision taken by the people of this country in 1972 when they gave their full authority to us to enter the Community. There have been many red herrings——

Different terms.

——raised repeatedly on the opposite side of the House. In the last four or five hours references have been made on that side of the House that perhaps there might be another referendum.

Deputy John Kelly said that.

If there was another referendum what would be the outcome? If the decision was different from the original one, where would we be directed by the people who suggest this? What would be our role then? Would we continue to try to negotiate within Europe or would we be given permission to get out? We must examine all the implications. In adopting the Single European Act we will be showing our continued commitment to the European Community.

Debate adjourned.