1Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed an inquiry into the Finucane murder with Prime Minister Cameron at his meeting on 15 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10582/12]
1Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed an inquiry into the Finucane murder with Prime Minister Cameron at his meeting on 15 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10582/12]
2Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will provide an update on his call for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane; if any actions have been taken since his visit to Northern Ireland and London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12194/12]
3Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his plans to meet the British Prime Minister David Cameron. [13658/12]
4Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he intends to raise the issue of the Finucane inquiry when he next meets the British Prime Minister. [13659/12]
5Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he intends to raise the issue of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings when he next meets the British Prime Minister. [13660/12]
6Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he intends to raise the issue of the Ballymurphy massacre when he next meets the British Prime Minister. [13661/12]
7Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15097/12]
8Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the issue of the financial transaction tax with David Cameron during their recent meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15098/12]
9Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the Anglo Irish Promissory note and Ireland’s debt burden with David Cameron at their recent meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15099/12]
10Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday 12 March 2012. [15181/12]
11Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the issues he raised with the British Prime Minister David Cameron during their meeting on the 12 March 2012. [15182/12]
12Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the possibility of a UK Finance Commissioner being appointed with Prime Minister Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15194/12]
13Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the areas of common interest in relation to the financial sector that were discussed with Prime Minister Cameron at their recent meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15195/12]
14Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the EU Fiscal Treaty at his recent meeting with Prime Minister Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15196/12]
15Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the particular trade areas of mutual interest that he discussed with Prime Minister Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15197/12]
16Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the cross border issues he discussed with Prime Minister Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15198/12]
17Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the details of the discussions he had with Prime Minister Cameron regarding a financial transaction tax; the actions they will be taking together; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16224/12]
18Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the discussions he had with Prime Minister Cameron about the corporation tax level in Northern Ireland; when it is expected to be lowered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16225/12]
19Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report back on his recent meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on the 15 March 2012. [22691/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 19, inclusive, together. I met Prime Minister Cameron in London on 12 March, which was the first time in many years a Taoiseach visited Britain during St. Patrick's week. The key purpose of our meeting was to discuss the development of British-Irish relations. Following the meeting, we signed and published a joint statement setting out our aims and plans for the next decade. The statement recognises that the relationship between Ireland and Britain is now at a uniquely high level of co-operation. It covers a range of areas of proposed co-operation including on energy policy, trade and business, and boosting competitiveness and productivity in order to accelerate our respective recoveries and lead to growth and job creation. While business and official level links between Britain and Ireland are already strong, the Prime Minister and I also agreed on the merit of a joint study and evaluation of the economic relationship. I intend that the next decade will see an intensive programme of work aimed at reinforcing the British-Irish relationship.
Our joint statement reaffirms the support of both Governments for the full implementation of the Good Friday and related agreements and to seeing Northern Ireland move from peace to reconciliation and prosperity. We are determined to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland are never again blighted by violent conflict. We remain committed co-guarantors of the peace process.
In addition to our joint statement, we discussed a range of other issues over the course of our meeting, including the economy and Europe. On Europe, we are both firm supporters of the Single Market and will continue to consult each other on key EU policy issues. We discussed the most recent European Council and we strongly agree that growth and jobs should remain at the centre of the EU's agenda. We briefly discussed the financial transaction tax idea and I repeated my view that it could only work if introduced on an across-the-board basis internationally. Otherwise, it would create serious competitive distortions.
I updated the Prime Minister on the stability treaty and on the forthcoming referendum. I explained our position regarding our efforts to reduce the costs to the State as a result of promissory notes. I was pleased by his comments in support of our continuing efforts in pursuit of our economic recovery.
During our meeting, I raised the Pat Finucane case again, as I had also done at our previous meeting. We have a different opinion to that of the British Government and I support the Finucane family's quest for a full inquiry. The Finucane family has been granted leave for a judicial review by the High Court in Belfast, which is due to take place this month. We will see what emerges from that.
In addition to a discussion on the Finucane case, I also raised the sensitive and difficult cases of the Ballymurphy families and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings with the Prime Minister.
It seems to have become a consistent pattern of the past year that the Taoiseach tends to group questions on Northern Ireland with entirely unrelated questions. For example, I suggest that questions on the investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane should not be grouped for reply with questions about United Kingdom policies on the stability treaty. Even though parties in this House are committed to the holding of an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, there does not seem to be any movement whatsoever on the part of the Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron.
The Taoiseach in his reply stated there was a difference of opinion between our Government and the British Government. I would suggest it is not a matter of opinion but rather a matter of an international agreement solemnly signed and agreed to by both Governments. Will the Taoiseach agree that no one government has the right to unilaterally resile from an international agreement of that kind and that to do so is a serious matter?
How does the Taoiseach propose to resolve the stalemate separate from judicial reviews as this is an international agreement which both sides signed? Does he envisage any movement on the implementation of that agreement and of people honouring their word?
As regards European matters, the position of the British Government has been to oppose important reforms. It is argued it has moved from an old policy of opting out which characterised the approach of successive British Governments to European issues, towards a policy which is attempting to block issues. I do not believe Europe can work if this sort of approach is maintained. Did the Taoiseach address this issue with the British Prime Minister as regards the evolution of European policy and the role of the British Government, its contribution to the evolution of that policy and the best approach to be adopted?
The UK Independence Party has been attempting again to interfere in Ireland's affairs in its support of the "No" side, as is to be expected. The party also circulated leaflets to every house in the country during the second Lisbon treaty campaign. On this occasion the party has been claiming that a financial transaction tax will be imposed on us. I ask for the Taoiseach's views. The factual position, as I understand, is that there is still a significant and resolute bloc in the Union which is opposed to a financial transaction tax and I would appreciate if the Taoiseach could confirm this.
The Taoiseach referred in his reply to a brief discussion with the British Prime Minister and I am anxious to hear the views of the British Prime Minister on his Government's position on the financial transaction tax.
I assure Deputy Martin I do not object to a change in how we deal with questions to the Taoiseach. The questions asked whether the Finucane murder was raised with the British Prime Minister in meetings with him. It is difficult to separate those questions from questions on the meetings, which is where the matter was raised. If Deputy Martin considers it is more appropriate to raise this matter as a single Northern Ireland issue, I do not object, except to say that-----
They should be dealt with separately from questions on Europe.
-----this matter was raised at meetings with the Prime Minister and this is the reason the questions were grouped.
I answered this question at the press conference in Downing Street. It is a difference of opinion about the fact that an international agreement exists. The British Government has taken the view that a Queen's Counsel should be appointed to review the Finucane papers. For my part and on behalf of the Irish Government, my view is the same as that held by my predecessors, that a full inquiry should be held and this was recommended by Mr. Justice Cory. The agreement was that Mr. Justice Cory's recommendations would be adopted. This is the reason the Smithwick tribunal was established in this jurisdiction. It is a cause of regret to me that the British Government has not followed through in this regard and I believe it should do so. I made that specific point with regard to the Finucane case because it was a specific recommendation of the Cory report. There have been so many other claims landing on my desk about inquiries in other areas but this was part of an international agreement and Mr. Justice Cory made a specific recommendation. The British Government took the decision to appoint a Queen's Counsel who will report later this month. I have explained this to Geraldine Finucane and I have made the same point to political interests in the United States when I had the opportunity to raise it there.
Deputy Martin is correct that the United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP, should stay out of Ireland's affairs. The referendum on 31 May is for the Irish people to decide and the Irish people are well able to make up their minds without any interference from UKIP. As to whether it is associated with the "No" campaign in a formal or informal way, I do not know. However, I can inform the Deputy that there is a significant bloc at the level of European Heads of Government about a financial transaction tax and there will be complete opposition to such a tax from quite a number of countries. I can confirm that this matter was raised in very trenchant terms at the last Council meeting.
I look forward to the meeting on 23 May which will be one of two European summits which will deal with the subjects of growth and investment. When the parameters are discussed at the first meeting, the Heads of Government should then return with an agenda list of propositions which can be dealt with at the June meeting. As President Barroso recently indicated, it will take some time to sort it out and there could be a significant movement by the end of the year which will be followed through. The political will is there to drive it.
I refer to matters such as the Single Market or the digital market which is supposed to be introduced by 2014. That is not long away but there needs to be a major lift in the political driving of these agendas which will have such a significant impact on the economies.
I refer to the Taoiseach's discussions with the British Prime Minister. He referred to a joint study on the economic relationship and on helping Northern Ireland to return to prosperity. Did the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister discuss a recent alarming and depressing report which indicated that one in every two children born and reared in west Belfast will experience poverty? There seems to be a sense that the dividend from the peace process has not reached vulnerable communities in Northern Ireland on both sides of the political divide. This is an issue of concern which should demand the attention of both Governments. It was a shocking statistic published in a recent report on the economic and employment situation and the general poverty in west Belfast and its results are very bleak for children born and reared in west Belfast. I await the Taoiseach's comments and I ask if the two Governments have any agenda to deal with this issue which is experienced by a number of communities across the North.
I refer to the issue of the promissory notes. The Taoiseach stated that he had a brief discussion with the Prime Minister about them. Did the Taoiseach attempt to enlist the support of the Prime Minister for a write-down or a restructuring of them? Did the Taoiseach seek his support for Ireland's position on this important issue? I remind the Taoiseach of the famous commitment of not another red cent to the banks and burning bondholders. That position was moved rather adroitly by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, on the very day the bonds were to be paid when the issue became one of promissory notes. By the time of the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis, the issue was again dealt with in another manner or rather, the can has been kicked down the road and the matter has been postponed.
In his replies to the House on these issues for the past nine to 12 months, the Taoiseach has kept this issue at a technical level and this has been his stock reply. There has been no sense that a fundamental issue to do with the promissory notes has been dealt with at a senior political level between the Government and other Heads of Government. I ask the Taoiseach to outline the nature of his conversation with the British Prime Minister on that issue.
Officials on both sides have been working on the joint studies programme. The question of poverty, unemployment and the future of Northern Ireland's economy was discussed.
One of the conclusions was that the Prime Minister and I agreed there should be a series of visits to various locations in Northern Ireland, both by the Prime Minister and myself as Taoiseach, in regard to community development. The latter is so important given that the political peace is very stable but clearly there are threats there from some dissident groups.
I made the point that work is ongoing in regard to the proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland, and the implications of that. I discussed the question of elements of a shared economy which were raised at the British-Irish Council and the Cross-Border Parliamentary Council. In addition, the question of investment into Northern Ireland arose. When I was in China, I mentioned to the Chinese leaders that a visit would follow from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister with a view to making a case for investment in Northern Ireland.
When I was in the United States I also raised the question of continued investment in community development. In particular, where difficulties arise for young people - particularly young men - they should be encouraged and supported with employment opportunities.
The promissory note question was raised in this House on so many occasions that it became important to inform the Prime Minister of what the Government's strategy was. As Deputy Martin is aware, a payment in excess of €3 billion was dealt with by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan. I explained to the Prime Minister the strategy involved of a re-engineering of the moneys that were borrowed for recapitalisation of the banks which, when added on to the national debt, created difficulties for us. He fully understood that. Britain was first out of the blocks when Ireland had a problem in respect of its loan.
It might be preferable to keep this thing at a leaders' level in respect of the facility that might be extended to Ireland and the beneficial consequences of that for us. However, Deputies on all sides of the House have a right to ask questions about these matters and as the date was coming up shortly after the Ard-Fheis it had to be dealt with, and it was. Clearly, the bigger portion of that problem is still under negotiation and will be the subject of considerable discussion in the time ahead.
I have six questions here and with your indulgence, a Cheann Comhairle, I would like to tease them out in some detail.
Deputy Adams may have noticed that I have allowed two supplementaries. I will do the same for him and for Deputy Boyd Barrett, and will then come back again.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I welcome the fact the Taoiseach has raised some of these high-profile cases of injustice in a very public way, including the Pat Finucane case, the Ballymurphy case, and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I believe, however, that the Taoiseach's meeting with the British Prime Minister on 12 March was a missed opportunity to fundamentally rebalance the relationship between Ireland and Britain, and between the British and Irish Governments.
For a long time, the British Government has been able to dictate the pace on relationships between this island and Britain, but that needs to change. I accept it when the Taoiseach says he is disappointed by the British attitude, for example, on the Pat Finucane case. At the meeting he attended, however, both Governments recommitted to the Good Friday Agreement and related agreements, yet the British Government is in complete and total breach of one of those agreements. What are our diplomatic services doing about this? What are we doing through the Department of Foreign Affairs? What work is going on behind the scenes to try to show the British Government that this is not just a matter of the Taoiseach releasing a press statement or going public about his feelings?
As regards the Ballymurphy case, the Taoiseach will know that those people have been fighting a campaign for the last 40 years. He met them and had his photograph taken with them at an awards ceremony in Belfast, but there was not time for a meeting. When I asked him if he would have a meeting with them he said he would, but that he would wait until he went to Belfast.
The British Secretary of State and the British Government have been most unco-operative with these families. I have accompanied these families to meetings with successive British Secretaries of State and, by the way, it is an open and shut case. These were innocent civilians who were neighbours of mine. Some of them were friends of mine. They were shot by members of the parachute regiment who then went on to do what they did on Bloody Sunday. They then came back to Belfast and did the same in Springhill, on the Shankill Road and in Ardoyne.
These families are willing to travel to Dublin if the Taoiseach can give them an hour of his time. It would be a good act of solidarity and an important part of bringing a renewed focus to their campaign. I can tell the Taoiseach categorically that the British Government has no intention, at this time, of doing what those families are asking.
It is almost a year since there was a big focus on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, yet no progress has been made. I have consistently raised the issue of funding for the Justice for the Forgotten organisation. The campaign group survived on funding it used to get from the Remembrance Commission because its funding from the Department of Justice was withdrawn in July 2009. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Good Friday Agreement made representations to the Taoiseach's office to have that funding restored, but it was not. We are talking about approximately €17,000 at a maximum to keep this campaign group going. It has had to move out of its offices and is currently working out of a portakabin. How seriously is the Government taking this unresolved issue, if that is the case?
I have met with that group probably more than anybody else here, but certainly as often. The British Government - whether it is Tory or Labour - is consistent in promoting the Union, although Labour may have a more benign view of all of this. However, we need to have an Irish Government which just as strongly, diplomatically and positively promotes the whole issue of Irish unity and the people of this island getting rid of partition, though having a cordial union between the people of the island.
I am proud to have represented West Belfast for a long time. People are suffering from the legacy of partition, which will take a long time to undo under the current configuration despite the good work being done by the Executive.
I therefore look to the Taoiseach to give the lead. When he goes to the North, he has seen that he is very welcome in Unionist as well as Nationalist neighbourhoods. People are glad to see him and they were glad to see other taoisigh. A time of change is coming and the Government needs to set the pace of that change, as opposed to letting mandarins in Whitehall do it.
I thank Deputy Adams for that. On the last occasion I had to visit Belfast, I met communities on either side of the divide. I was appreciative of the valiant efforts they are making in respect of young people - young boys and girls - to give them an understanding that they have a life to live and that differences can all be accommodated.
As I said to Deputy Martin, I have a clear view of support for an inquiry in the Finucane case because of the decision of Judge Cory. I met with the Ballymurphy families at the presentation of awards in the Europa Hotel. I spoke to Geraldine Finucane there. I understand that the Ballymurphy families have been seeking an independent, international investigation into the Ballymurphy situation. I also understand that the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, has recently advised them that the British Government does not intend to hold an inquiry into this case.
In regard to meeting the Ballymurphy families, I do not have any difficulty with this. My preference would be to meet them in Belfast and perhaps the next time I can get a chance to go up there, hopefully in June, I might be able to accommodate that. The Deputy will realise I am somewhat tied up for this month with the referendum issues and matters in respect of Europe but I do not have any difficulty in meeting the Ballymurphy families and I told them that.
The matter of Justice for the Forgotten has been raised by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Deputy will be aware that Justice for the Forgotten received funding from the State over the years of about €2.3 million, which now operates under the auspices of PEACE III programme out of The Pat Finucane Centre. I also understand the organisation is looking for additional funding to run an office in Dublin. As we are standing here there is not any line of a Vote in my Department that can accommodate this. While it is difficult to see where this can be accommodated, I want the Deputy to know I am exploring it on the basis of the relatively small amount that is involved.
I thank the Taoiseach for that response. Justice for the Forgotten, to whom I spoke this morning, is unable to get EU funding, unless it shifts its office up to the Border, to north Louth or south Armagh, and that is not feasible. I know people from all sides suffered in the course of the conflict but we must remind ourselves that this Oireachtas sought an inquiry and was critical of the lack of co-operation from the British given that there is a very strong belief that this bombing in the town of Monaghan and here in the city of Dublin was conducted with the collusion, support, assistance and direction of agents of the British Government. That is a huge issue to have been allowed to fester as long as it has festered. I asked the Taoiseach what the Government has done on this issue in terms of the diplomatic services of the Department of Foreign Affairs and so on in trying to get the British to change their mind on their position because otherwise the Taoiseach looks as if he is totally impotent. Effectively, he stands up and says "I disagree, I want this to happen" but it does not happen.
Similarly in terms of funding for Justice for the Forgotten, it shows where the Government's heart is - with such a small amount of money being involved. I welcome what I consider to be a positive statement from the Taoiseach on that.
Again we see where the Government's heart is on another issue. I know the Taoiseach is extremely busy but why should we quibble over location? If these families are prepared to come from Ballymurphy to Dublin, then he should invite them down - let them see that the Government cares. Of course if the Taoiseach is going to be in Belfast before that can happen, that is a different matter. The fact that meeting has not yet taken place is not helpful to the campaign.
At the nub of what I am trying to say in terms of all of this is that we all know the vexed relationship between these two islands and we know we are all in a far better place thanks to the work of many very good people but we need to keep moving it forward. If the Taoiseach were to reflect on what I said earlier, it strikes me that we should not let the British Government set the pace of developing a new relationship. I was in the North at the weekend. This is the fifth year of the Executive. The is the first time since the partition of the island that we have had five years of relative governance; I know it is a unique form of governance and we would want to see it go much deeper and to have more authority on this island. I am a united islander, as I hope the Taoiseach is, but we will not get that unless we have a strategy and we press it and part of pressing it is that the people in the North from each persuasion need to know there is an Irish Government that cares about them and that on issues of justice, no matter who the perpetrator is, the Government will stand fair and square. Just because it happens to be a British Government, that should not in any way bring about any hesitation on the Taoiseach's part. It needs a strategy, a programme and a way of persuading. I cannot see how Mr. Cameron could not be persuaded, if he was getting good advice. As I have said here previously in terms of the Saville inquiry, Tony Blair took away a report for a weekend and that changed his mind on Bloody Sunday. He would tell the Taoiseach that if the Taoiseach were talking to him. The Irish Government played a key role with people in Derry in putting together that report. I do not see why the same thing cannot be done in terms of the three outstanding issues. The Irish Government should compile a detailed report, use the expertise that is there, gather up all the evidence and the information that is possible and then present it to the senior people on the British side so that when the Taoiseach engages with the British Prime Minister it is not a matter of a sort of anaemic statement being made to the effect that "we are committed to the Good Friday Agreement and all the related agreements" but that the Taoiseach can put the proof of that into being by that sort of strategic programmatic approach which the Government can take and the Civil Service has the ability to do given the political direction to do it.
From my personal perspective, I would prefer to meet the Ballymurphy families on their home ground. While one may take on too many meetings what I would like to do is to go to Belfast in June and, as part of whatever I do in Northern Ireland, arrange a meeting with the Ballymurphy families and hear what it is that they have to say.
I did not rely upon diplomatic services or just correspondence in respect of the Pat Finucane case, I raised it directly where it should be raised, in 10 Downing Street face to face with the British Prime Minister. I said the position from our perspective was the Cory decision and recommendation was that there should be an independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. That arose out of an international agreement at Weston Park. The Government of the Republic and the Dáil set up the Smithwick inquiry following the same recommendation. While the British Government has set itself and its face on the de Silva inquiry I have no idea what might emerge from that. As I said to the Deputy, my preference, as I said to the Prime Minister face to face, is that a public inquiry should take place as was recommended. I also said that to Geraldine Finuance when I met her both in Belfast and in the United States where I raised the matter of the public inquiry being conducted in respect of the death of her husband when I met her in Washington. It is not just a case as the Deputy said of anaemic statements; this is a case where we speak on behalf of the Government in respect of a international agreement, as Deputy Martin pointed out, and that should be honoured. That is my view and I communicated that directly to the British Prime Minister. I am not sure what advice he has available to him or the nature of the advice that was given to him about the appointment of a queen's counsel to look at the Finucane papers. He extended the courtesy to me of informing me that the announcement would be made. I am not sure whether there was an assumption that would have been acceptable to the Finucane family at the time of his announcement but clearly it was not, which very clearly leads to the understanding that everybody had that these were two specific instances, two specific recommendations from Judge Cory, and the agreement of both Governments was whatever his recommendation would be it would be followed through and, as I said, I am disappointed that did not happen. For my part, I will continue to raise it where it should be raised with the Prime Minister when I have occasion to meet him.
In respect of the other matter, I would be happy to talk to the Ballymurphy families when I am up there.
May I ask a very short supplementary question?
I will come back to the Deputy. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.
I want to ask the Taoiseach about two particular issues. First, on the financial transaction tax, I was not here for the Taoiseach's outburst about what he described as our fantasy economics.
You had a hard time last week. It was a bad week.
I know. We give straight answers.
Through the Chair.
In the Taoiseach's misrepresentation of our position on the €10 billion in taxes, he fails to add on who would pay those taxes and we argue very clearly that the very wealthy in our society and the sectors of our society in possession of considerable amounts of money should be taxed in a progressive and fair way to prevent cuts and austerity being imposed on working people and the more vulnerable sectors of our society. Contrary to what the Taoiseach constantly claims, there are huge amounts of money at the top of our society which if taxed fairly and progressively could offset the need for brutal attacks and austerity being imposed on working people and the less well-off who have borne the brunt of the austerity agenda pursued by the Government and the masters in Europe.
One area we have highlighted is precisely the financial transaction tax. I find absolutely extraordinary the Taoiseach's trenchant opposition to even a small bit of extra taxation being imposed on the financial sector. It shows the quite perverse economics being pursued by the Government that it is okay to cut fuel allowance for pensioners, domiciliary care allowance for families with disability and child benefit, and to attack lone parents, but we cannot touch the enormous wealth in the hands of speculators and bankers. Even a tiny increase in tax is unthinkable as far as the Government is concerned and it is absolutely perverse.
Let me remind the Taoiseach, when he considers the matter of whether we should support the financial transaction tax, that it was the speculators and bankers who caused the current economic crisis in this country and Europe. Surely it would be fair and sensible to support imposing some extra taxation on this sector to offset the need to attack working people and the less well off and to regulate to some extent the casino capitalism that has been at the heart of wrecking our economy and the wider European economy. Will the Taoiseach please tell me what is fair or rational about his position of opposing the financial transaction tax and standing alone with David Cameron in his opposition to it, particularly when there is now a sea change throughout Europe whereby people are demanding a fair way of dealing with the economic crisis stating clearly that continued austerity and cuts being imposed on the least well off sectors of our society is failing disastrously and we need a new direction if we are to get ourselves out of the current economic crisis?
My next question is on the fiscal treaty and the Taoiseach's discussions with David Cameron and his views on this given what has happened. I have very serious differences at almost every level with the politics of Prime Minister Cameron, but at least the British Prime Minister had the sense not to sign up to the fiscal treaty. Now he is being joined by forces throughout Europe in France, Holland, Greece, Spain and Portugal with huge movements on the street saying enough and that this is madness. The austerity approach is a disastrous failure and is making the situation worse not better and we must abandon this approach in favour of promoting jobs and growth and not continuing down a disastrous road of institutionalised austerity as proposed in the fiscal treaty.
David Cameron had enough sense to recognise how stupid it was to put this level of control over economic policy into the hands of the EU Commission and the European Central Bank, and how detrimental it could be to the British economy and to British citizens to be locked into this type of policy in perpetuity as the treaty proposes. Now people and political leaders throughout Europe are coming to the realisation that the treaty and the approach contained in it of austerity for years to come is a failure and must be abandoned. Why does the Taoiseach continue down this road? Did he speak to David Cameron and ask him why he chose not to support the fiscal treaty? Will he speak to the political parties which won the day in France and Greece and to the burgeoning movement of opposition to the insane logic of the fiscal treaty throughout Europe and ask them why they have a radically different approach from the one that seems to be favoured by him and Angela Merkel?
The Deputy is wrong. He was not here for my remarks about the financial transaction tax when I made it perfectly clear why Ireland would oppose it on the basis of the distortion of competition it would introduce between Dublin, London, Paris and Frankfurt. Unless it applies internationally we will not support it. I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the question of support for the fiscal treaty. I sat beside him at the meeting which went on all night. He gave his reasons for not being able to support it, which had nothing to do with what Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke about.
Would you like to outline them?
Would you mind not interrupting please Deputy?.
The British Prime Minister in charge of his country which uses sterling set out his reasons very clearly.
Deputy Boyd Barrett speaks about winning the day in other countries. What people do in Greece, France or the regional elections in Germany or anywhere else is their business and I do not speak for them and neither does Deputy Boyd Barrett. One can comment on the outcome. The Deputy recognises of course that the problem will not go away and must be dealt with. Deputy Boyd Barrett's proposition, about which he has been speaking for some time, is to tax the wealthy out of existence which means what he wants to do is introduce a measure to close a deficit of €10 billion in one year which, as I stated to Deputy Adams, would give a lethal injection to the Irish economy and kill off any potential investment which would lead to jobs and opportunities throughout the country. I do not accept the Deputy's proposition.
Nor do I say he is a man of straight answers, because in this House I asked him for straight answers about his conduct and that of his colleagues in Galway at the Labour Party convention. Of course he did not see anything, hear anything or know anything, yet he gives straight answers. St. Michael's College did not teach him that I am sure, so I do not know where he is headed in this regard. I reject his proposition completely. If he wants to spell out to the nation during the course of the next three weeks where he proposes to get the €10 billion he speaks about I would like to hear it. Deputy Boyd Barrett's colleague in the corner wants to raise €400 million from legalising cannabis while he wants to tax everybody out of existence at 75% or 80% on €100,000 which would drive every investor out of the country and prevent anyone else from coming in here. His proposition for a "No" vote based on his proposition and that of his colleagues in UKIP and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group would be catastrophic for Ireland.
To be honest I will not even dignify the comments about Galway with much of a response except to say-----
What about UKIP?
You might apologise.
-----I gave a very clear account of what went on and what I saw in Galway-----
You were part of it.
-----and it did not match at all the hysterical hyperbole of those opposed to the protests.
Will the Deputy deal with the questions?
On the question of a financial transaction tax, the Taoiseach has not given an answer that is in any way credible. He describes it as fantasy economics. He thinks that denouncing as a fantasy alternative ways of financing this society that are fairer and more progressive is an adequate explanation. It is not. People want fairness in how this issue is dealt with. The figures were provided in the United Left Alliance's pre-budget submission, in which we outlined where we would get €10 billion. Instead of attacking vulnerable sectors of our society and working people who spend their money in the economy and help to keep it going, we clearly set out how we should tax those with obscene amounts of wealth, who are hoarding it in banks and are not spending it in the economy. Taxing them would not do any damage to our economy. What is damaging our economy is attacking low and middle income earners, allowing the decimation of our small and medium enterprise sector through excessive rates and rents and slashing the income of people who buy in the economy.
Deputy, this is Question Time.
That is destroying our economy. Instead of that, why not impose higher taxes on the bankers and speculators who helped wreck this and the European economy? The Taoiseach says we cannot do that. The alibi that nobody can do it until everybody does it is an alibi for never doing it, and the Taoiseach knows that well. Somebody has to have the political courage-----
Will the Deputy ask his question?
-----to go first. Why will the Taoiseach not have the political courage to do what is fairer and rational, that is, impose a little extra tax on the bankers and speculators, which could generate hundreds of millions of euro for the State, and show leadership in Europe on this issue by joining with the progressive forces in Europe on a fair way to deal with the crisis, instead of constantly attacking low and middle income earners in a way that is unfair and disastrous?
On this fiscal treaty, the Taoiseach did not tell us what reasons Prime Minister David Cameron gave for not supporting the treaty. Is the Taoiseach not even remotely interested in the fact that there is a huge political tidal wave sweeping across Europe that says "No" to the logic of the fiscal treaty and the austerity contained within it? Is he not even remotely inquisitive about the thinking behind that huge sea change in viewpoint on austerity across Europe whereby people are rejecting it? Should that not give him pause to reconsider this austerity treaty?
I am focused on the decision the Irish people must make on 31 May. That decision is on whether to give their authorisation to ratify the fiscal stability treaty. A "Yes" vote will give confidence and continued investment, and will provide the insurance of the permanent availability of the European Stability Mechanism should it ever be required. It means that opportunity for our young people can be grown by decisive action at Government level here and as part of the European growth agenda. Deputy Boyd Barrett will be aware that President Van Rompuy has called a European growth summit for 23 May. I have dealt with some of the issues Deputy Martin raised which will be central to that agenda and which will have an impact on the European Union, the Single Market and the potential for industries here to create further jobs in the export market. That will be of interest to everybody.
Nobody objects to banks being taxed. However, the Deputy does not expect us to agree to something that would put our economy at a competitive disadvantage in respect of a financial transaction tax that would apply in Dublin but might not apply in London. He cannot expect us to do that. I assume he is not serious.
I am deadly serious.
It would put the Irish economy at an enormous disadvantage if such a situation applied. I can confirm, in response to a question from Deputy Martin, that there are serious objections to a financial transaction tax at European level. They have been voiced by a number of European leaders. From that perspective it is not going to happen.
Deputy Boyd Barrett always preaches doom and gloom. I do not believe I have ever heard him, in his short career in this House, make a positive statement.
I am very positive about the French and Greek elections.
The communities in his constituency who do such good work every day, many of them in a voluntary capacity, are not even worthy of recognition from Deputy Boyd Barrett, whom some of them elected him to this House to speak for them. He does not mention the fact that the consumer index of confidence is up for the fourth month, that growth has returned to the Irish economy, albeit on a small scale, for the first time in a number of years or the fact that employment has stabilised and that there are signs of confidence among businesses that matters will improve. They can only improve if we keep our confidence level high and prove it by decisiveness on the part of the Government.
In this case, there is a decision to be made by the Irish people. It has nothing to do with Greece, France or the regional elections in Germany. This is a decision for the Irish people and we are well able to make that decision. I am asking the people to decide very positively that they know where our future lies, that is, in being a strong partner with Europe and having access to all that goes with that. A "Yes" vote guarantees that confidence and that future. A "No" vote will lead us down the road of lack of confidence, strangling investment and the austerity I am quite sure the Deputy would love to see abound in this country. We will change that. With the help and support of the people we will set out a platform for growth, opportunity and investment not for anybody here, but for the next generation. That is important. This is about the bigger picture. What Deputy Boyd Barrett is painting is a society of conflict and aggression. That is not what is needed in Ireland. The Irish people will make their decision on 31 May and I expect it to be overwhelmingly positive.
The Irish financial services sector employs approximately 30,000 people in this country, particularly in Dublin. We do not control the world and one of our first priorities must be to protect employment in the financial services sector, but that is dependent on what happens at international level. In the context of the recent strategy that was published and, indeed, some discussions that were held at Farmleigh, a transaction tax that was unilaterally imposed in a number of eurozone countries and not in the rest or that would not be uniformly applied across the globe would put the financial services sector at a disadvantage and could result in the loss of some of the thousands of jobs currently located in the Irish Financial Services Centre, IFSC. Will the Taoiseach confirm that this is the broad approach that has been adopted with regard to a transaction tax?
Second, with regard to the Ballymurphy issue, I met with the Ballymurphy relatives in Ballymurphy when I was Minister for Foreign Affairs. While it is important to meet them, it is important to do more than that. Obviously I believe the Taoiseach should meet with the relatives but some work should be done in advance of such meetings to try to identify the precise nature of an inquiry. One could hold many different types of inquiry. This issue has not really moved forward over a number of years. It is important not to give people false hope, but to define the issues and perhaps get some type of an initial scoping inquiry together. There must be a common approach agreed by all, particularly the relatives, as to what is the first step to take in moving this agenda forward. One meeting after another does not necessarily move it forward, unless we can put some shape or flesh on the bone in terms of how best to proceed given the difficulties that surround us. We have just discussed the logjam with the Finucane case, which I consider unacceptable. The Ballymurphy issue deserves investigation. It was an appalling event and demands a response. Members must try to put on their thinking caps as to the type of response that could be developed to succeed in achieving progress beyond simply meeting people. I share this thought with the Taoiseach and ask him to comment on it.
As for the promissory note issue, I note in his reply that the Taoiseach stated he informed the British Prime Minister and explained to him the Government's proposals on re-engineering the promissory note. It appears that with all the political discourse on this issue and between the various claims and counter-claims, something is missing in this regard. In the current context, an opportunity should be seized to have a serious political discussion with a view to getting a resolution of this issue, rather than having it kicked down the road at each key milestone associated with the promissory note, elements of which are unacceptable. It was agreed in advance of the creation of the European financial stability facility, EFSF, when the previous Government was obliged to agree certain issues with the European Central Bank. While this was agreed in advance of any European facility, I note we have moved a long way from that position in respect of the EFSF and now potentially the European Stability Mechanism, as well as the call of other countries, including France, that bank debt should be dealt with through the European institutions and not necessarily by the taxpayers of member states. I believe Ireland is owed one in respect of resolution of this issue and given present circumstances, there is a need to raise this matter at a political level in a much more substantive way than has been the case to date. More than simply informing and explaining, so doing should entail actually enlisting the support of other Heads of State to move institutions across Europe on this issue.
On the last matter, Deputy Martin is aware of the position in so far as Britain is concerned. I thought it important to apprise the Prime Minister of the position in so far as Ireland and its negotiations were concerned. Clearly, the question of the dates that are set for the recurrence of the payments is an issue. Suffice it to say, however, the Government is well aware of the scale of the negotiations that must be carried out regarding the other €27 billion involved in this issue. As I stated to Deputy Martin, I already have made plain the Government seeks a lower interest rate over a longer period, which would allow it to deal with its deficit and would make it easier for the State to pay its debts.
It is true the IFSC is an important element of the economy with more than 30,000 people employed. The report I launched last year, which was prepared by the industry itself, indicated the creation of up to 10,000 jobs within five years, some of which would deal with new financial products, such as green finance or the fast-growing Islamic finance sector and so on. As Deputy Martin has pointed out, one would place significant elements of this industry at serious competitive disadvantage were a transaction tax applicable here and not in London. For this reason, the Government has made clear its position in this regard.
In respect of the Ballymurphy case, I note that 40 years have elapsed and questions have been raised over the years in this regard. There is merit in the Deputy's suggestion that perhaps some preparatory work should be done here. The request from the Ballymurphy families to the British Government was for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances of the Ballymurphy incident. However, the Secretary of State, Mr. Paterson, has informed the families it is not the intention of the British Government to carry out or initiate such an inquiry and I take note of that point. Obviously, I will fix an appropriate time to meet the Ballymurphy families when I next go to Belfast. I thank the Deputy for the suggestion.
I wish to tease out some of this issue again with Taoiseach.
We are very short of time. We have just over two minutes.
Tá fhios agam agus deanfaidh mé mo dhícheall. I acknowledge the Taoiseach has raised the issues of Ballymurphy, Pat Finucane and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings with the British Prime Minister, which I appreciate and for which I thank him. However, it has not worked and we are no further on in respect of the aforementioned campaigns. As for the Ballymurphy case, the British Secretary of State did get in touch recently with the relatives regarding Ballymurphy but rejected the notion of an international inquiry. The families do not seek an international inquiry, because they are conscious of the associated costs, but seek an independent international investigation. In the case of Pat Finucane, the British Government concedes there was collusion, with the person who supplied the information, the person who supplied the gun and the person who carried out the shooting all being agents of the British Crown. I will not rehearse the argument again concerning the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Consequently, the reason I gave the example of the report given to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister is the Government here has enough information. The Taoiseach might know more about these issues than does Mr. Cameron. He simply may not know and I commend an approach in which the Taoiseach meets Mr. Cameron again on foot of the latter having received from the Government the detailed reports on all these issues that are available. Teachta Martin is correct that he attended Ballymurphy and walked part of the site there. Was that three years ago?
I am told it was.
I was in Ballymurphy yesterday. These are huge issues in the lives of the people there and the Government could move forward these cases. Were the Taoiseach to adopt the approach of getting from his key civil servants the information in the Government's possession and presenting it to the British Prime Minister, he would have the capacity to persuade him and in so doing bring a huge amount of healing to people who have had a severe injustice perpetrated on them just up the road in west Belfast.
A final supplementary for Deputy Boyd Barrett, to whom only 50 seconds remains.
Why is it always too complicated and why are there always excuses as to the reason one cannot tax the wealthy, the speculators, the bankers and the bondholders, as would a financial transactions tax? Even a rate of 0.1% would raise €500 million, while a rate of 1% would raise €5 billion. The Taoiseach states it is too complex to do that, there are so many excuses for not doing it, every reason under the sun, but it is not too complicated to attack working people and the vulnerable in our society-----
----- which is morally unfair and is proving to be economically disastrous. In his response, does the Taoiseach seriously suggest there simply will be no taxes imposed on the bankers, speculators and so on, whose casino and gambling activities caused the crisis in the first place, but they all will be imposed on working people and the least well-off? Is this the point being made by the Taoiseach?
On the point made by Deputy Adams, I am unsure whether there is much of a difference between an international investigation and an international inquiry. Once one starts an investigation, it turns into an inquiry. I am unsure of the reasons behind the decision of the Secretary of State to inform the families this was not the case and nor am I aware of the extent of the file that exists on the Ballymurphy circumstances in Departments here. Perhaps there may be some additional information the Deputy may have from personal experience of this over the years. However, I will examine this point.
In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett, I did not state it was too complicated. I stated I did not wish to put the Irish economy at a competitive disadvantage. Were a transaction tax applicable in Dublin but not in London, it would put our financial services centre and our position at a competitive disadvantage and-----
So we will never have one.
----- I will not support that. A transaction tax is in operation already in a number of areas in respect of the banks. It is not a question of it being too complicated but that the Government does not wish to place the Irish position at a competitive disadvantage. As I confirmed to Deputy Martin, there are stringent and strong objections to a transaction tax being applied in individual cases.
So it will never happen.
If it does not apply in a global sense, then it would not work were Ireland to have such a disadvantage applied.
I have made this point to the Deputy many times already but the Government did not cut primary social protection rates. It has removed 330,000 people from the universal social charge obligations. Moreover, another 30,000 people benefited from the reversal of the minimum wage rate on foot of negotiations with the troika and a range of exemptions are in place in this regard. However, the answer is employment and this is the reason the Government is focused on the action plan for jobs and on opening up such opportunities, providing retraining, upskilling and a change of direction, as well as on the JobBridge and Pathways to Work programmes and so on, for as many people as possible. As I pointed out earlier, 11,000 additional jobs have resulted in the food and hospitality sector because of the change in the PRSI rate for lower-paid workers, as well as the reduction in the VAT rate in the hospitality sector.
Written Answers follow Adjournment.