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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 2 Mar 1993

Vol. 427 No. 2

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Meeting with US President.

Jim O'Keeffe


3 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the date of his proposed meeting with US President Clinton; and the agenda for discussion.

Bernard Allen


4 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if he proposes to request a meeting with President Clinton in order to discuss a recent US statement that Washington intends to stop federal agencies awarding contracts to European Community countries.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 4 together.

In reply to a parliamentary question from Deputy Enda Kenny on 10 February, I stated that arrangements were being made for a meeting between President Clinton and myself in Washington on St. Patrick's Day, subject to the President's availability. I also stated that at the meeting I would update the President on the position in relation to the serious situation in Northern Ireland, in relation to the development of investment and trade between Ireland and the United States and other relevant matters that are of interest to our two countries.

I am very pleased to announce that the meeting with President Clinton has now been confirmed for St. Patrick's Day. The agenda for the meeting has not been finalised but I would hope to discuss with the President matters such as those already mentioned as well as the need for concerted action to promote international economic recovery, the Uruguay Round, EC-US relations — which would cover the matter referred to in Deputy Allen's question — European Union, Somalia and other matters of mutual interest.

Now that Prime Minister John Major and the UK Government have had their say in relation to President Clinton's peace envoy proposal, could the Taoiseach enlighten the House as to what his reaction is to that proposal? There have been different views as to whether such a peace envoy should be a mediator or someone with a fact finding role or even an economic role.

We value the concern and the interest shown in relation to Northern Ireland by President Clinton. We believe that constructive interest and support of the United States has the potential to be uniquely helpful. I will be discussing with the President the proposal about a special envoy. In latter days we are reading about the possibility of a fact finding mission but the priority of the Irish and British Governments is to get the talks process resumed so that we can bring them to a successful conclusion. I will be listening to what the President has to say about whether he has in mind a special envoy or a fact finding mission.

Now that it is clear that the Taoiseach has no settled reaction to this proposal let me raise another issue with him. Has he any concrete proposals to put to President Clinton to improve economic links between the United States and Ireland so that we could have a reversal of the recent trend of lost jobs in the major American multinational company in Galway and have some prospect of greater prosperity as a result of improved economic links between our two countries?

The Deputy can be assured that all the issues raised by him will be matters for discussion between the President and myself.

Where are the concrete proposals?

Could the Taoiseach indicate what his views are on President Clinton's announced proposals in regard to the taxation of multinationals operating from the United States and the possible effect that this might have on US investment in Ireland?

That is a totally separate question altogether. The matter of tax legislation has been going on since about 1986 and various aspects of it are still matters for discussion between the revenue administrations. There are certain aspects of that legislation which would certainly be helpful to US investment in Ireland but I am not so sure that they are totally helpful to the US administration either. As far back as when I was Minister for Industry and Commerce and, subsequently, Minister for Finance, those were matters of discussion between the two administrations.

Will the Taoiseach be raising this matter with President Clinton?

All of those matters which are pertinent to better relations between Ireland and the US will be raised.

Does the Taoiseach or any member of the Government, on their visit to the United States, intend to participate in the New York parade or appear on the stand at that parade in view of the statement that the Ancient Order of Hibernians regard this as a Roman Catholic parade and, therefore, denominational and has excluded the participation of gay and lesbian Irish people from the parade? Would the Taoiseach regard it as at least confusing if he should appear in view of the Government's commitment to change the law in Ireland?

We are having here a raising of separate matters worthy of separate questions.

It is connected with the Taoiseach's intended visit to the United States and what he proposes to do there.

It would be as well to put down a question on that one.

I think it is a very important issue with regard to civil rights, a Cheann Comhairle.

Will the Taoiseach have placed on the agenda for his forthcoming meeting with the President of the United States an important matter for people in this State, and young people in particular, that is, the difficulty being experienced by young Irish people in obtaining holiday visas to visit relatives in the USA? I understand that more than 3,000 were refused in the last 12 months. Perhaps the Taoiseach might avail of the opportunity to raise that matter.

There are a lot of distinct matters being raised.

It is a matter of importance. It is asking about the agenda of the meeting. Has the Taoiseach no input into the agenda?

I have already stated quite clearly that all matters pertinent to better relations between Ireland and the US will be raised.

With regard to the Taoiseach's agenda for discussion with the President of America, will he brief himself and perhaps raise the issue of the more than 2,000 American citizens who have applied for and are eligible for Irish citizenship and Irish passports but who have not been able to get them because of the lack of legislation on citizenship, something which has been needed for five years?

This is quite obviously a repetition of a previous question.

This question is no different from any other. It relates to the Taoiseach's agenda and the fact that these matters are being raised is helping him to put them on the agenda.

Thank you for your help.

The Taoiseach will be aware of the signing of the bilateral agreement between this country and the United States in terms of social services and amenities for pensioners here who draw American social security pensions and that this can only be implemented after the Congress has sat for 60 days. Will the Taoiseach raise the matter with the US President to ensure that the agreement is implemented as soon as that deadline has passed so that these thousands of pensioners may qualify for benefits here?

The Deputy can take it that we are as anxious as anybody else to have the matter concluded as soon as possible.