1. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to London during the Olympic Games. [37962/12]
Vol. 776 No. 3
1. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to London during the Olympic Games. [37962/12]
2. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on any bilateral meetings he held with political or business leaders during his visit to London during the Olympic Games. [37963/12]
3. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on any recent discussions with British Prime Minister Mr David Cameron. [38951/12]
4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the matters he raised during recent contacts with Prime Minister Cameron. [40257/12]
5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his plans to meet the British Prime Minister David Cameron. [41487/12]
6. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41631/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.
I travelled to London on Friday, 27 July to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Prior to the ceremony, I had the honour to meet Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace where, along with other world leaders and key figures in the sporting realm, I attended a reception. We then travelled on to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony, which was truly a spectacular event.
Earlier in the day I met the Irish Olympic athletes who were based at the Irish camp in St. Mary's College in Twickenham. We were greeted by the Irish team's chef de mission, Olympic silver medalist, Sonia O'Sullivan. I congratulated all the athletes and their back-up teams for their efforts in qualifying and representing Ireland at the Olympics and said that they carried the dreams of the Irish nation with them. I wished them all the best in their respective fields.
During the course of the day, I met the Governor and Republican Party US presidential candidate, Mr. Mitt Romney, at the Embassy of Ireland. The meeting, which was at Governor Romney's request, was an opportunity to discuss the close state of Irish-US relations, Ireland's economic recovery and the development of EU-US trade. I informed him of our preparations for Ireland's upcoming Presidency of the EU.
I returned to London on 12 August to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. I commend the Olympic organising committee on an outstanding job as the games were a huge success. I would like to put on the record of the House my admiration for the efforts of all of those who competed for Ireland and, in particular, my congratulations to those who won medals. I would also like to take this opportunity to repeat once again my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to all those who represented Ireland in the Paralympics. The Government has since hosted receptions in Farmleigh for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, their coaches, families and friends.
The UK Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, invited me to attend an event on "hunger" which he was hosting prior to the closing ceremony. A small group of countries with a high profile in the area of nutrition were invited to participate in this global event, along with representatives of international organisations, the private sector and civil society. The event aimed to raise the level of political commitment to combat the problem and to stimulate the development of new products and services to improve nutritional levels in developing countries. I was invited to contribute on the overall challenge of under-nutrition and had an opportunity to emphasise the priority Ireland will attach to building further political commitment to address hunger and nutrition during our forthcoming Presidency of the EU in 2013. I stated that the eradication of hunger is a cornerstone of Ireland's foreign policy and that we are determined to play our part in putting solutions into practice. I informed the group that Ireland spends 20% of its Irish Aid budget on programmes that directly address hunger and nutrition and that we will continue to meet this target.
Following the global nutrition event, I had a meeting with Mr. Ertharin Cousin of the World Food Programme. I congratulated her on her recent appointment as executive director of the WFP. I reiterated Ireland's priority in eradicating hunger and achieving global food security and said that I looked forward to working with the WFP to deliver the international conference on hunger, nutrition and climate justice during Ireland's EU Presidency.
I have no immediate plans for a meeting with the UK Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron. I do expect, however, to see him at the forthcoming European Council meeting on 18 and 19 October.
Members on this, the Opposition side of the House were taken by the Taoiseach's correction of Deputy Pringle to the effect that austerity rarely works. It is reassuring to hear that austerity rarely works.
I was quoting Professor Stiglitz.
I understand. I do not think the Taoiseach sees the irony of that.
Professor Stiglitz, who is a more eminent person than I am, said it rarely works.
Exactly. The Taoiseach should listen to him.
They were Professor Stiglitz's words, not mine.
He said it is not working now.
I was present when he said it.
Perhaps we could move on with the questions.
I join the Taoiseach in commending our Olympic and Paralympic heroes, who represented our island magnificently. I also thank the Taoiseach for his response.
It strikes me, in terms particularly of the North, the peace process and agreement between the Irish and British Governments, that the Irish Government does not appear to have any real strategy for engagement. I welcome the Taoiseach's recent commitment to meet the Ballymurphy families. However, he may recall that I wrote to him in May suggesting that he follow the example of a former Taoiseach - I am not too sure who held that position at the time - and the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair. The Irish Government of the day, working with people involved in the Bloody Sunday issue-----
The Taoiseach at the time was the former Deputy, Bertie Ahern.
-----put together a report which was presented to Mr. Blair. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, told us afterwards that this played a pivotal part in his change in attitude. I suggested to the Taoiseach in my letter that he ask civil servants to use the expertise available to the Government to draw up comprehensive reports on all accessible information on the Ballymurphy massacre, the Pat Finucane murder and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings in order to make meetings and engagement with the British Government more meaningful. I have not received a satisfactory response to that letter. The first response ignored my suggestion entirely. I commend that approach to the Taoiseach in a sense of fraternity.
I also want to raise with the Taoiseach the cases of Marian Price and Martin Corey. These two citizens are being held without due process. They have no means of having the case against them heard in a system that would pass as a court of their peers.
The Government needs to make representations. They should be released forthwith or they should be charged and go through the normal processes. I would like to see them released. Has the Government made representations on behalf of Marian Price and Martin Corey? If the suggestions I am making are useless then tell me so; it is not an issue. However, if the suggestion has worked in the past and can do so in the future surely the Government should take it on board.
In the absence of Deputy Adams last week I confirmed to Deputy McDonald that I would be happy to meet the Ballymurphy community there or here, whichever is more appropriate.
I appreciate that. Go raibh maith agat.
I do not have any difficulty with it. I will reflect upon the letter sent by Deputy Adams. It is important to have as comprehensive a background to these meetings as is possible. As Deputy Adams is aware, I met Mr. Black, the survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, and the families of the victims. I also intend to meet a group from west Fermanagh who will soon come down with the Minister, Ms Foster. These events are an important opportunity to speak for survivors and next of kin who have lost loved ones.
This morning I raised the issue of Marian Price with the Secretary of State when we met shortly after 8 a.m. It is an issue about which we are concerned and I understand from background information that her health has improved somewhat. It is of interest in respect of her as a person and I took the opportunity to raise the issue this morning.
We also discussed the question of dissident groups and the importance of keeping a focus on community development. The covenant centenary march went off without any great disruption, although there were aspects of sectarianism in some incidents. It is important to keep in perspective that the decade of centenary commemorations will be overseen sensitively and in an understanding and comprehensive way by both Governments and we have a keen interest in this.
For the Deputy's information, we also discussed having a strategy for involvement in working with our colleagues in Northern Ireland. Co-operation can be enhanced in the areas of health, hospital care, education and tourism. We have appointed some personnel to the permanent representation in Brussels as we prepare for the Presidency of the European Union which will be of interest and assistance to our colleagues in Northern Ireland. Work is being done by both Governments on licensing diesel suppliers and the capacity of both Governments, through research which is being done, on putting a marker into diesel which cannot be washed out, which would deal with the extraordinary level of cross-Border activity. I commend the customs service and the Garda for their confiscation in recent days of substantial equipment. This activity does down the local economies of people who go about their business perfectly legitimately.
There is a great deal of cross-Border involvement. The next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council is to be held in Armagh. I hope to build on further involvement in visits to Northern Ireland.
When we signed the strategic partnership agreement with Prime Minister Cameron it was suggested that as is appropriate, I as Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister would visit on an alternate basis to show interest in the work of the Executive and the Assembly and also with regard to communities in Northern Ireland. I have met a number of people in the course of normal business here who have expressed views and proposals which in some cases are worthy of following up. I invite Deputy Adams to put forward his views on which we might follow through. It is not true to say we do not have a strategy, interest or involvement in building on the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement for the betterment of all communities. I hope over a period of time to demonstrate this.
I thank the Taoiseach for his response. I very much welcome his assertion that the Government will continue to improve co-operation across the island on a range of issues. Like the Taoiseach, I join in commending the customs service and the Garda Síochána on the arrests and confiscation of equipment in diesel laundering plants. It always strikes me, including with regard to what happened last night, that those arrested are almost immediately released. Not only are both states denied a tax intake but environmental damage is caused by the huge amount of sludge that is dumped, not least in counties Louth and Monaghan. I have met the PSNI and Garda Síochána on this issue.
There is much in what the Taoiseach said with which I agree. I was in Belfast at the weekend and I very much welcomed that the big parade went off peacefully, apart from a few unsightly sectarian examples. No one was injured or killed and this is something to be glad about in such a charged atmosphere.
I will return to the point I made earlier. I am not convinced, and more importantly the families of Pat Finucane, the Ballymurphy victims and others are not convinced, that the British Government wants to deal with these issues. David Cameron is not responsible for them; he was not there and he may not have even been born. The only way the British Government can be brought to deal with these issues is if the Government gives Mr. Cameron a case which is absolutely and totally undeniable. The Government has the wherewithal to do so because such a case exists. The people of Ballymurphy will co-operate. When Deputy Martin was the Minister for Foreign Affairs he visited the site, walked the ground and met the people. The same thing happened with regard to other instances. The Finucane family has a proven track record on the issue affecting it and those involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings also deserve support.
With respect, what I suggest is logical. The Taoiseach should take some of his very fine civil servants and set them to deal with the information aspect. Then, if the Taoiseach is satisfied the case is made, he should send it to Mr. Cameron so when he next meets him it is on his desk and he cannot dodge it, and it is more than something mentioned at a meeting but is something in which the Government is involved. If the British do not deal with it then the Taoiseach should arm the consular and diplomatic services, our friends in the United States and in the diaspora and other governments which praise the peace process but want to see it brought to completion. They are allies in this task. Once again I commend this approach to the Taoiseach.
This morning I raised the case of Pat Finucane with the Secretary of State and repeated to the Right Honourable Ms Villiers our position following the decision of Judge Cory, appointed after the Weston Park talks, namely, that whatever recommendations he makes will be followed through by both Governments; that I regard it as an international agreement; and that the British Government did not honour its element of it and instead chose a review under Mr. da Silva which was not satisfactory for the Finucane family.
It is not acceptable in the sense that there was a clear agreement between both Governments and this Government set up the Smithwick tribunal arising from the Cory recommendations in so far as this jurisdiction is concerned. That is our view and we will continue that. I would be very happy to read all of the file about Ballymurphy insofar as I can before I meet with the residents. I will refer to it here when I get the opportunity to do that.
I discussed the good news about Derry being the European City of Culture in 2013. This will be an enormous opportunity for Northern Ireland and Derry in particular in addition to the decision about Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. These are great opportunities to project a brand and image of a modern Ireland and a modern city with the international currency that goes with that in terms of Ireland and its people, traditions, culture and music. I hope this will be an outstanding success. The Government and agencies here will work with our colleagues to ensure it becomes a success. I hope that for Derry and Northern Ireland in general, these will be occasions of great memory that will set out a new perspective on the ability and potential of Northern Ireland to develop its economy through international investment arising from the investment by visitors business.
On a brief point of information.
I will come back to the Deputy.
My information is that Marian Price's health has not improved.
I have not read the doctors' reports but I am informed that while Marian Price is in a wheelchair, her mental health has improved.
I have read the doctors' reports.
Her health is a source of concern to everybody. I have not read the doctors' report. I am only commenting on the basis of the information made available to me. Arising from what the Deputy has said, I will have that double-checked.
I thank the Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach said that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, invited him to a conference on nutrition, world hunger and related issues. What new ideas came forward from the British Prime Minister in respect of the alleviation or, preferably, elimination of hunger and malnutrition across the world? What new ideas, if any, did the Taoiseach bring to the conference? Were the results of a major study by a non-governmental organisation called Tax Justice Network, written by James Henry, formerly of McKinsey & Co and an expert on tax havens, that an incredible $21 trillion are salted away by the super-rich global elite in offshore accounts, trusts, etc., relayed there? In view of that stunning information, how does the Taoiseach justify joining with the British Prime Minister in opposing even a modest transaction tax on the vast billions circulating through the world and European financial markets on a daily basis? Even a modest wealth tax on this elite is opposed, which in Europe and elsewhere refuses to invest in the productive economy and is instead facilitated by the ten top private banks, including the likes of Goldman Sachs - the great vampire squid, as it was famously alluded to in an American magazine - sucking up the resources for its services to big business and the super-rich internationally. Is it not very clear that on the basis of this information, emergency action, taxes and levies on these elements of wealth need to be introduced on a European and world basis? Why, for example, will the Taoiseach not lead a move within the European Union in this regard? This morning and just now, he professed a willingness to put on his wellington boots and wade through the toxic sludge to end diesel laundering, which I agree should be ended.
Could we get back to the question about the Taoiseach's discussions with the British Prime Minister?
What is lost here to the taxpayer is wrong but it is peanuts compared to what is happening at the very top of society and usually quite legally precisely because the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister join together to protect the super-rich. Can the Taoiseach give us any insights into his thinking and what new ideas he will produce in respect of the fact that world hunger could be ended if these resources were used instead for the common good rather than for the enrichment of the top 1%?
There are so many opportunities in a global sense to improve the circumstances in which hunger can be eliminated and nutrition developed. It does not just apply to the area mentioned by Deputy Higgins. For example, the Hunger Task Force report of 2008 called on Ireland to prioritise three particular areas. The first was to improve small-holder agricultural productivity in Africa, particularly among women farmers. The second was to target the prevention of maternal and infant under-nutrition and the third was to promote governance and leadership to reduce global hunger at both national and international level. The Deputy is aware of Ireland's long tradition of involving itself in these matters over the years, from the concerts organised by well-known Irish musicians from Bob Geldof to the campaign by U2 for the elimination of debt in the Third World. These people are all part of that programme.
The event took place in Downing Street and included a number of leaders, political personnel and organisational personnel from non-governmental organisations, with particular reference to Africa and North Africa. Contributions were made by these people at the event called by the Prime Minister. One thing that struck me was the impact of nutrition being made available and dealt with for children from birth to two years of age who suffer from stunted growth, which carries through to other families. For example, a British entrepreneur has a foundation dealing with the provision of nutritious foods through peanut butter and such additions. The impact it can make in a few short weeks is extraordinary. There was a good deal of discussion about that and where it could lead. As the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health, Deputy Lynch, pointed out, the Step Up Nutrition or SUN concept is of importance as well.
The Deputy is also aware of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William J. Clinton Foundation and the impact they have made, particularly in Africa with regard to related matters there. Small-holder agricultural productivity, particularly among women farmers in Africa, is of particular interest to Ireland.
Over the years and under a range of Governments, Ireland has become recognised as a country that leads in a sensitive, caring way when dealing with under-nutrition, malnutrition and hunger elimination, both through the practical demonstration of food production standards and the provision of water and facilities. For a small country, we have a disproportionate impact, as has been evident in our involvement in Lesotho and other regions.
The meeting lasted for an hour or an hour and a half and was based in particular on contributions from African personnel. One of those present was the Somalian runner Mo Farah, who received this year Olympic gold medals in both the 5,000 m and 10,000 m. Also present was the former world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie, an ambassador and proponent of the work that is under way. Mo Farah, the Olympic double champion, spoke with great feeling about his homeland and other countries in the region. He referred to the impact of credible, commonsense action to deal with malnutrition and under-nutrition and to the agri-sector in particular.
The proposition made by Ireland, based on its involvement over the years, was recognised by the leaders present at the meeting. We intend to maintain expenditure under our Irish aid programme at 20%. Ireland is the only country in the world to have made and delivered upon such a commitment. This has been the case over the years and it is commendable. The Tánaiste recently announced that it is our intention to maintain expenditure at its current level in dealing with these particular areas.
I commend all those involved in the struggle to improve nutrition and end hunger. They should receive every support. The point I am making to the Taoiseach, however, is that the resources deployed in this regard are a fraction of what could be brought to bear in a concerted way if we had a very different financial system internationally and a different order of priorities. Does the Taoiseach not see any contradiction between his wish to end suffering and the fact that European and other world leaders, among whom he mixes so effortlessly and who slap him on the back as the best of friends, deploy significantly more resources to areas such as armaments production than to the resolution of human problems such as hunger, whose solution is crucial?
The Taoiseach mentioned in his reply two billionaire so-called philanthropists. The poverty-stricken and hungry are dependent on the kindness of people who make billions, using all kinds of tax havens in the process to maximise the profits of their corporations. Does this not strike the Taoiseach as obscene in reality? The wealth these people have created, including the €15 trillion that has been salted away, is created by human labour, by hundreds of millions of people. Should it not be taxed in an emergency fashion through transaction and wealth taxes? With his friend Prime Minister Cameron, why does the Taoiseach not open up a new front in this regard rather than apply the Band-Aid which, unfortunately, will not in any way resolve the crisis of world hunger?
If we had had a very different financial order and competence ourselves over the years, we would be in an even stronger position to deal with elements of this. The Deputy asked me our view on the financial transaction tax. I have answered this in the House on many occasions. We have not supported a financial transaction tax because it would place our financial services centre and, as a consequence, our economy at a disadvantage. Were it to be applied on a global scale, or throughout the European Union, we would have a different perspective. It is not applied globally and, for that reason, Ireland has a very clear view. It will retain such a view during its Presidency. It will run its Presidency as competently as it can but it will not become an advocate of a measure that could place our economy and, as a consequence, our people at a serious disadvantage.
Partly through the programmes adopted by Ireland, the Union and many other countries, the region in question will expand enormously economically in the coming 20 years. Many countries in north Africa are expanding at a rate of 6%, 7% or 8% per year. Clearly, there is enormous potential in this regard. When one speaks to those affected directly by the Irish aid programme and expenditure thereunder, one notes that they value the aid very much. They commend the NGOs and the Irish Aid assistance programme. I am sure they feel this way about other countries also. We continue to keep on that path of development. It is in the interest of Ireland and the African peoples. I am sure the Deputy supports that.
The reply to this batch of questions shows up the Taoiseach's reluctance to engage in any substantive way with EU matters or to embark on a substantive diplomatic initiative. From the replies to questions on the meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, we do not get a sense of any detailed face-to-face discussions on the European Union, for example. Instead, we are hearing accounts of small encounters or encounters exaggerated by the Taoiseach's spin doctors; it seems the real work is left to others.
At the weekend, the Taoiseach made a seemingly strong statement demanding that Germany and other countries keep to his understanding of the June deal. This had more than a hint of The Skibbereen Eagle about it because, in reality, the Taoiseach indicated he had serious bilateral talks with leaders of only one of the three countries implicated in the statements of last week. The Taoiseach met the Chancellor well over a year ago. Since June, there has been no sense of there being any engagement with any leaders on the EU issue and the follow-through from the June meeting.
Did the Taoiseach discuss with Prime Minister Cameron the ongoing eurozone crisis? Did he endeavour to enlist support for Ireland's position on the separation of bank debt from sovereign debt? Did he discuss the European position thereon? He stated last week in the House that he felt his only role is to attend and speak at the summits. It is time to end that policy and have a series of substantive bilateral talks with the countries that matter in respect of following through on the June meeting, including Finland, Holland and Germany. He should keep pushing our case because it has been drifting since June. We know what has happened.
What was Prime Minister Cameron's perspective on the European Union? Was there any sign of change in terms of his having opted out of the important negotiations? Was there any sense of his becoming more involved or coming back within the fold? While we welcome the bilateral funding from the United Kingdom, made available some time ago, we must acknowledge a very important issue arises in terms of the role of the United Kingdom in the unfolding eurozone crisis and the resolution thereof. The United Kingdom could have a significant role to play and could offer significant support for Ireland.
Very little has happened over the past year and a half on any of the issues pertaining to the North that we discuss here week in, week out, be it the Finucane case or the prisoners in Maghaberry. We are receiving the same replies week in, week out, and one does not have any sense of a new initiative.
There is considerable lethargy in the North-South agenda, as I articulated last week.
My central point is on the absence of a substantive EU diplomatic initiative on the Taoiseach's part to press home the key issue facing the country, namely, the separation of banking debt from sovereign debt.
I disagree fundamentally with Deputy Martin when he says that we have a reluctance to engage on any substantive issue about the EU. He is aware that not only did I introduce the opportunity to report to the House before European Council meetings, but also after. The Deputy's question reads: "...asked the Taoiseach the matters he raised during recent contacts with Prime Minister Cameron." I have answered the question for Deputy Adams, who has tabled three questions. Deputies Higgins, Boyd Barrett and Martin each have one question. The last occasion when I met Prime Minister Cameron face to face was as a result of his inviting me to attend Downing Street at a meeting he had called during the course of the Olympic Games to deal with the issue of hunger and under-nutrition in Africa. There was nothing else on the agenda but that. There was no opportunity to raise matters such as Northern Ireland, the EU, the eurozone, financial transaction taxes, the relationship between Ireland and England or sterling versus the euro. That is the situation.
I am quite prepared to have discussions here about the EU as often and as long as Deputy Martin wants. Suffice it to say that every Minister who goes abroad on EU business has a full programme and sees it through fully. The Deputy is aware of the intense level of negotiation that has gone on between Department of Finance officials and others with their counterparts in France, Spain, Germany and so on, the Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The Deputy is aware of the Minister for Finance following through with his counterparts in Paris, Rome and Berlin before he went to the informal meeting in Cyprus. I also reported to the House last week on my own direct meetings with Prime Ministers Samaras, Rajoy and Monti. We fixed a date for a meeting with President Hollande. Tomorrow, I have a meeting with President Barroso of the Commission, President Van Rompuy of the Council and other leaders who are there. These discussions will obviously centre around the eurozone crisis and our priorities for the Presidency, which will reflect dealing with that crisis. As I told Deputy Adams earlier, I discussed a range of issues with Secretary of State Villiers this morning in regard to Northern Ireland.
It seems as if Deputy Martin thinks that I should spend my time travelling around Europe. I am much more interested in results. The last big result was on 29 June when the Council of the Heads of Government decided to break the link between sovereign and bank debt, that Ireland's debt sustainability issue would be looked at and that we would get equal treatment. Commissioner Rehn, who has been very supportive, has said that he would like to see that completed by the end of October. I do not think that is feasible, but what I am interested in, and what the Minister for Finance is taking very skilfully down the line, is getting the best deal for the Irish people and the Irish taxpayer in this regard. I will say that very clearly during the course of face-to-face meetings tomorrow, including with Mr. Barroso, and to the other leaders when I meet them at the next European Council meeting, as I did last week.
Deputy Martin seems to think that we should be travelling all of the time and having meetings. We have a very big team in the permanent representation and Ministers engage directly with officials on a constant basis. I would like to think that we could have a conclusion to this, but it is not that simple, as the Deputy is well aware. The difficulty is compounded by electoral prospects in other countries, which are always part of this mix, as the Deputy is well aware.
The interpretations that can be put on the future of the banking union, whether it should be on a stepped approach for the systemic banks in the first instance or all of the banks together, and other issues are for discussion. They arise from a very clear decision that was made. The statement last weekend merely reiterates the fact that the Heads of Government made a very clear decision and I want to see that followed through and concluded. What it means is that the link would be broken, banks could be recapitalised directly by putting a structure in place to do that, this country's capacity to meet our debt repayments would be reviewed and, in the context of deals for others, Ireland would get equal treatment. That is the decision and that is what I want to see implemented, as I am sure Deputy Martin does. While I am sure that elements - the promissory note and the sustainability of the bank debt - can be very technical and complex, the decision as a foundation is very clear and we want to see that followed through.
The Taoiseach's answer confirmed more or less the points that I made in my question. I would challenge him, as it was not correct to state that he was obliged to stick to the agenda set by Prime Minister Cameron. Setting the agenda for a meeting of the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister has always been a two-way process.
I will deal with that for Deputy Martin.
One can always seek a meeting with the British Prime Minister or to have issues put on the agenda. The idea that the British Prime Minister would dictate the entire agenda is not tenable, particularly given the seriousness of these times.
It was not a bilateral meeting.
It suggests an agenda of exaggerating about small gatherings around large events. They are not substantial bilateral meetings from which anything of consequence emerges. That is the reality and the Taoiseach would be better off stating as much.
Could we have a question, please?
The Taoiseach made a point about Ministers following through on full programmes in Europe. These are meaningless statements.
No. The Ministers attend their meetings.
We had the highest attendance record of all. Do not start with that untruth again.
I was reminding the Deputy of it.
The Taoiseach claimed that I told him he should spend his time going around Europe and all over the place, but in leader to leader terms he is not moving at all. Storm clouds gathered over the June deal during the summer and people are trying to erect obstacles. Just as the Taoiseach does, we want the best deal for the country. Anyone reading any analysis of what is occurring will know that the Finns, the Dutch and the Germans, particularly their finance Ministers, are unhappy and have a different perspective of the path to be taken in terms of sequencing and how the crisis should be resolved. This is clear from the statement that was issued last week.
The Taoiseach mentioned Prime Ministers Samaras and Rajoy, but those discussions were on the edge of the meeting with the Pope. We saw how the Taoiseach's spin doctors spun that. It was to be a private briefing with the Pope.
Could we get back to the topic?
We know what happened. They had to clean up the mess afterwards. The meeting became about a mobile telephone and the Taoiseach texting. That is all that emerged from the meeting. The people behind the Taoiseach's operation in Government Buildings should stop spinning every half meeting as a substantive meeting.
Could we have a question, please? Deputy Boyd Barrett is waiting.
At the outset of the term of office of this Government the Taoiseach stated that he would undertake a substantive diplomatic initiative, yet he has not done so. The challenge in trying to push home a deal that was apparently agreed in June is to meet the Prime Ministers of the countries in question, keep them on side and persuade them of Europe's need for the separation of banking and sovereign debt to be followed through.
I am surprised by the Deputy's line of argument. For his information, the Holy Father did not brief anybody or meet anybody in particular other than the general audience.
I am aware of that. It was the Taoiseach's people who briefed, not the Holy Father's.
I want Deputy Martin to understand that I met with Prime Minister Monti, as did officials and our officials, and had a very good discussion about the eurozone crisis, the situation in so far as Italy is concerned and the relationship between Ireland and Italy. That was a factual meeting that, unlike some that occurred here, was recorded in terms of the notes that were taken. I also did the same with Prime Minister Rajoy.
We know there are implications for Ireland from the decision taken on 29 June, specifically with regard to the banking union. Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy set out his view as to what the liability assessed in respect of Spain would be, and that has since been published. He also set out his views on the European Stability Mechanism, the European Central Bank, his perspective on the Spanish position and the prospects with regard to employment, growth and job opportunities. The same applied in the case of Greek Prime Minister Samaras, who spoke to us at some length about the current position in Greece, the pending assessment of the troika, what the Greek Government proposes to do in respect of the latest programme of reductions in current spending in Greece, and the latest analysis of how the Union might react to this.
The Deputy should tell me if he believes those face-to-face meetings with prime ministers are not worthwhile, as I certainly found them worthwhile, and so did the leaders. The Deputy should not tell me that the prime ministers of Greece, Spain or Italy are not important personalities. Deputy O'Dea might find that funny but it is not funny in the context of the Irish economy or from the perspective of the Irish taxpayer, who is part of the eurozone. What happens in Spain has implications for us in Ireland.
What about the Dutch and Finnish prime ministers?
We will have a clear and straightforward interaction with President Barroso tomorrow with regard to the preparation for our Presidency and our current view on Europe's position. If Deputy Martin feels that having face-to-face meetings with prime ministers is not worthwhile, I disagree with him.
When did I say that? Do not put untruths out there. I never said that.
The Deputy implied it.
These discussions were important as-----
There are other Deputies waiting.
I did not imply it.
-----part of the ongoing conversation and contact between Ministers.
I said the opposite.
It was implied.
The Taoiseach is filibustering.
We have spent 15 minutes on this group of questions.
Whose fault is that? The Taoiseach has been filibustering every answer.
If the Deputy feels that these are not important meetings, I disagree with his judgment.
When did I say that?
I am interested in achieving a conclusion-----
Do not say untruths in the House. The Taoiseach is twisting words.
The Deputy implied it.
-----to the agreement set out by the Heads of Government. If I am twisting words, I would like to hear what the Deputy said.
I want to allow in Deputy Boyd Barrett.
The Taoiseach is twisting words. It is his favourite sort of operation.
What does the Deputy think is discussed at these meetings after the mess the Deputy's party left us in?
I asked a question about meeting the Finnish Prime Minister-----
I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.
-----the Dutch Prime Minister and the German Prime Minister.
We have a country that the Deputy's party left destroyed. What does the Deputy think is discussed?
I would appreciate it if Deputy Martin stopped interrupting. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.
The Minister for Health's supporter.
The former Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, knows all about Deputy Lynch's loyalty and solidarity.
What does the Deputy think is discussed?
Deputy Reilly's number one fan.
The Minister's number one fan.
A Reilly fan.
I ask Deputies to allow in Deputy Boyd Barrett. We have spent 15 minutes on this group of questions. We have strayed from one end of the world to the next when we are talking about a particular meeting.
The Ceann Comhairle should not be looking at this side of the House.
Would you mind your own business for a minute?
I beg your pardon? Do not address me in that manner.
I have called Deputy Boyd Barrett. Thank you.
The Taoiseach has been filibustering for the whole session. He has spent 15 minutes going around the world. It was no one else.
The Deputy has done a fair bit of that.
He will not answer a question.
Deputy Martin has had the practice.
I will pass over the irony of Fianna Fáil lecturing anyone about leadership, seeing as it led us to the most disastrous economic decision any Government has ever taken in this State with the blanket guarantee for the banks and the ensuing catastrophic consequences. Perhaps Fianna Fáil should take a lesson in irony before lecturing anyone.
The Deputy would know all about leadership.
You have had your 15 years.
You are a one-trick pony, a fraud.
Deputies should address remarks through the Chair.
Do not be upset with that.
We do not need help from Deputy Durkan.
I apologise, a Cheann Comhairle.
The Deputy's party spoofed for 15 years and look where that landed us.
A spoofer extraordinaire.
Setting aside the question of the euro crisis, the meeting with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was on the question of world hunger and on the occasion of the Olympics and Paralympics. Perhaps that should have been an opportunity to ask slightly broader and deeper questions about the priorities in the world and how well governments are dealing with the issues facing humanity. The Taoiseach would probably agree that big international events like that allow us to think about what is happening in the world and for humanity.
The import of Deputy Higgins's question is whether the Taoiseach, Prime Minister Cameron and the others attending the summit questioned why we have such an extent of hunger in the world, when the hunger is evident in a world of plenty. We do not have hunger today as we did 300 years ago because there is not enough food in the world. The irony is that millions of people are starving and go hungry when there is more food in the world than the world's population could possibly eat. Therefore, leaders like the Taoiseach, Prime Minister Cameron and other European leaders must consider the issue of the fair and civilised distribution of food, wealth and resources in our society. Our economic system is failing disastrously in that regard and moving in precisely the opposite direction. Rather than moving to greater equality and better distribution, it is moving the other way.
Could we have a question?
The differential between those at the top and those at the bottom is growing wider every year, including in this country, where the top 10% of people have 14 times the income of those at the bottom. It is in that context that the financial transaction tax arises. It was proposed specifically to deal with the impact of globalisation and the unequal distribution of wealth, including world poverty.
The Taoiseach has met Prime Minister Cameron, the major objector to a financial transaction tax in Europe, so why did he not challenge him on the issue? Why does the Taoiseach not publicly challenge Prime Minister Cameron and offer leadership and example by stating that it is a moral and humanitarian imperative for Ireland and Britain, Europe as a whole and the world to impose some kind of tax on the enormous wealth of financial and multinational corporations? They have all the wealth while millions of people in the world starve and go hungry. Why has the Taoiseach not offered leadership on that issue rather than simply using excuses such as that Britain's objections mean we cannot do it or we must wait for others to act?
The Deputy is blaming Britain but it is not the only objector to a financial transaction tax. There are reports clearly indicating a loss of up to 15,000 jobs in the European Union if a financial transaction tax were imposed. That is a matter of opinion. There are other countries in Europe with a very strong objection to a financial transaction tax. We object to this on the basis of it being discriminatory, and if it had a severe impact on our economy, it could be disastrous. If it were applied in a global sense, we could have a very different perspective. Our membership of the European Union and eurozone allows in some cases for those who want to pursue the area of enhanced co-operation to do so. We have indicated that clearly while arguing the issue at European Council meetings.
At the meeting in Downing Street during the course of the Olympic Games, which dealt with hunger, under-nutrition and malnutrition, there were contributions from a number of representatives from African non-governmental organisations, as well as African leaders. They reported on the activities ongoing in their individual countries and suggestions for dealing with malnutrition in that sense.
As I said, the Tánaiste, who visited Africa some time ago, outlined Ireland's programme as being the only country in the world where 20% of our foreign aid is focused directly on dealing with the question of malnutrition and hunger elimination. I made the suggestion that because we will hold the Presidency of the European Union until June of next year, and the British Government will hold the presidency of the G8, we should co-operate at both those leadership levels to further pursue proposals to deal with hunger elimination, malnutrition and under-nutrition. I found the conclusions of the meeting in that regard were very satisfactory and we will build on that during the course of our Presidency with our British colleagues who will have the presidency of the G8.
The contribution made by the double Olympic champion, Mo Farah, spoke for itself. As a refugee from Somalia, he noted the appreciation and consequence of the food aid programme, the efforts to eliminate hunger and deal with the malnutrition and under-nutrition were very strong. As Deputy Boyd Barrett is aware, the European Union has the strongest and most comprehensive food aid programme in the world, and Ireland has been an outstanding contributor to many causes over the years. We are at 20% in terms of the spend of our Irish Aid programme on the elimination of hunger, malnutrition and under-nutrition and the Tánaiste has confirmed that we will maintain that.
The Taoiseach has not answered my main question. I accept that Ireland has a reasonably good record in terms of aid for the developing world but my question is on the financial transaction tax and the reason we are not taking a more proactive leadership role and leading by example when it comes to championing the imposition of this modest proposal that was put forward explicitly to respond to the question of world hunger and world poverty and the shocking gap between rich and poor in the world. The Tobin tax was explicitly developed as an idea to deal with this problem.
Could the Deputy put his question?
Why are we not leading from the front in demanding and publicly confronting those leaders, including David Cameron in Britain, who refused to go along with this modest proposal to deal with poverty and inequality across the world? Is it the case that it is because the Taoiseach has as a higher imperative the question of economic competition over everything else? Competition when it is applied to a football match between Mayo and Donegal is fine because the costs are just a few tears for the people of Mayo.
And for the people of Dublin.
More than a few.
But economic competition-----
Deputy, we are over the allocated time. Will you put the question?
-----when it is applied as the highest imperative that overrides everything else, leads to starvation, hunger, inequality, poverty, needless deaths and people dying from diseases from which they should not have to die. The financial transaction tax is an effort to deal with that and we should be the ones who lead by example and proactively argue for its imposition and be willing to bring it in here.
We are leading from the front. As I said, we are the only country in the world which has a 20% spend from our food aid programme directly focused on dealing with the elimination of hunger, malnutrition and under-nutrition. There is no other country in the world which has that level of spend from its overseas development programme and, on behalf of the Government, the Tánaiste has confirmed that we will maintain that. It is a striking figure when one speaks to those people from the African nations who have concerns and have to deal with this on a daily basis.
The Deputy would be the first to come in here if the Government were to be associated with a tax which could prove to be discriminatory were it not applied in a global sense. Ireland has been very clear on this. We do not support a financial transaction tax that would put our economy or our financial services at a distinct disadvantage over others that are close to us, namely, London, Paris, Frankfurt or wherever. Were this to be applied in a global sense, that would be a different matter. I do not speak for other leaders. We talk to them and with them about these issues-----
Does the Taoiseach speak to them?
-----but in so far as that is concerned, we have been very clear about this.
Why does the Taoiseach not demand it and lead the way for a change?
We will continue to focus, as Ireland has always done and has done best, on this area. We are leading the world in so many ways with what we do here.
Will the Taoiseach use our Presidency of the EU to launch a campaign on this?
As I said, the Deputy should listen to the words of those who are the recipients of Ireland's experience-----
It is not enough; it is a fraction of what is needed for God's sake.
-----Ireland's opportunity and Ireland's aid. The figure of 20% in that respect is a leading one in the world at present.