1. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has been in contact with the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre regarding the recent suspension of inquests into their loved ones' deaths. [53791/12]
Vol. 792 No. 1
1. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has been in contact with the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre regarding the recent suspension of inquests into their loved ones' deaths. [53791/12]
2. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has been in contact with the British Prime Minister in relation to the recent decision to suspend the inquests into the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre. [53792/12]
3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach his plans to request a special meeting with Secretary of State Villiers to discuss the Independent Report on the murder of Mr. Finucane; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55216/12]
4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has received many requests from the Justice for the Forgotten Group for a meeting with him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55445/12]
5. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has received a briefing on the report chaired by Sir Desmond de Silva on the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane in 1989; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56522/12]
6. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach his views on whether an independent public inquiry should now be held into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56523/12]
7. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to Prime Minister Cameron about the Sir Desmond de Silva report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56524/12]
8. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will be meeting with the Finucane family regarding the Sir Desmond de Silva report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56525/12]
9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has been in contact with the British Prime Minister in relation to the recent publication of the de Silva report into the murder of human rights solicitor, Pat Finucane. [2324/13]
10. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the contacts he has had with the Finucane Family in relation to the need for a public inquiry into the murder of human rights solicitor, Pat Finucane. [2326/13]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, together.
I have committed to meeting with the Ballymurphy families and fully intend to meet them here in Dublin when the families are ready and a suitable opportunity presents itself. The families have requested another meeting with officials prior to my meeting with them and officials of my Department have been liaising with them to agree a suitable date.
I welcome the announcement by the Northern Ireland coroner to reverse his decision to suspend the new inquests into the Ballymurphy killings.
I have also committed in this House to meet with the Justice for the Forgotten Group. Officials from my Department have been in contact with this group to arrange a preparatory meeting in advance of my meeting with them. This preparatory meeting is due to take place next week.
Turning to the Finucane case, my position remains unchanged and concurs with the all-party support in this House in the form of an agreed motion supporting a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
When the British Government announced their intention to appoint Sir Desmond de Silva to carry out a review of the Finucane murder the decision was criticised by the Finucane family and human rights groups. The Irish Government also voiced its concern at the decision which fell short of the commitment by both governments at Weston Park, and the recommendations of Judge Cory. We also reiterated this position at the time of the publication of the de Silva report.
Both I and the Tánaiste have met Geraldine Finucane and members of her family on a number of occasions to hear their concerns first hand and to reaffirm the long-standing position of the Irish Government on the Finucane case, including its continued support for the family. These concerns have been raised with the British Government on a number of occasions.
I spoke briefly with Prime Minister, David Cameron on the morning the de Silva review was published. I indicated that while I appreciated his efforts to get to the truth of the case, the Government's position remains that a full inquiry should be held. Officials of my Department are in touch with the Finucane family and I intend to meet Geraldine Finucane again when a suitable opportunity arises.
I thank the Taoiseach for his reply and for his very clear commitment to meet with Justice for the Forgotten, the Ballymurphy families and Pat Finucane's family. I know that the Taoiseach is extremely busy but I have been here for two years and over that period I have been asking the Taoiseach to meet with these groups. I respectfully suggest that this needs to be prioritised in the Taoiseach's schedule.
This is the anniversary of the death of Pat Finucane. He was killed 24 years ago today. It is a difficult day for the family. I wrote to the Taoiseach on 13 December because I had been advocating the need for the Government to take the approach that was taken by the Government of the day in respect of the killings in Derry on Bloody Sunday. I advocated that the Government put together a file on these cases, especially the Pat Finucane case because it is my view that the work done back then with Tony Blair had a big effect on the decision to bring in the Saville inquiry. When I wrote to the Taoiseach on 13 December I was able to tell him that the late P.J. McGrory, the human rights lawyer, had spoken to me about a threat to his life before Pat Finucane was killed. This was coming around the UDA, which was putting pressure, and getting pressure from the RUC to kill him and his colleagues, Pat Finucane and Oliver Kelly. P.J. told me that he briefed the Irish Government of the day who said it would raise the matter with the Northern Ireland Office. Within hours of Pat being killed there was an official from the Irish Government in P.J.'s home because obviously the Government was concerned about his security and P.J. told me that the Taoiseach of the day, Charlie Haughey, telephoned him in the course of that visit by the official and said that he would take the matter up with Downing Street.
I asked if the Taoiseach would authorise or request a trawl of the documents in the Departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Justice and Equality and so on related to these matters in order that we could establish whether they had been raised with Downing Street at the time. I only received an acknowledgment of that letter today, two months after submitting my request. Has this trawl been made? Is there an effort to put together a file? Does the Taoiseach have a progress report on these matters? Alternatively, if he thinks it is a bad idea, I hope he will tell me so.
I thank the Deputy for his comments. I have actually been ready for some time to meet the Ballymurphy families. It is welcome that the coroner has reversed the decision to suspend the investigations into the killings. First, we needed to decide whether the meeting should be held in Dublin or the North. It will be held here and I understand the Ballymurphy families are anxious to have another meeting with officials before my meeting with them. I am ready to adjust my schedule to accommodate this.
Regarding the allegation to which the Deputy referred by the late P. J. McCrory who warned one of my predecessors that the lives of Nationalist solicitors were in danger at the time, there is an extensive search of the archived files, but as yet nothing has come to light. There was also a detailed search carried out in my Department. In 1989 the Irish ambassador to London and the senior officials at the secretariat in Maryfield in Belfast dealt directly with the Cabinet Office and the Northern Ireland Office. They would have relayed concerns to the British Government at the time if they had been requested to do so. The Deputy is quite right that 24 years is a long time and memories of the sequence of events around the time of the killing of the late Pat Finucane in 1989 may not be fully reliable, given the intensity of the conflict and activity in Northern Ireland during that awful period. I can give the Deputy a further letter beyond the acknowledgment of what has transpired both in the search of the archives and my Department.
Regarding the Bloody Sunday comparison, we all know there are many groups and victims in the conflict who believe they have not had a fair hearing or justice for the murder of their loved ones and family members. I do not believe in a hierarchy of victims. However, I have often said that if people have information - no more than what the Deputy now says - they should bring it to the attention of the PSNI. I would have thought that if there was still outstanding information in respect of the Smithwick tribunal, established to examine the murders of the RUC officers, Breen and Buchanan, it would be forthcoming also. If there was any information of value in the trawl of the archives and the Taoiseach's Department, it would have been brought to the Deputy's attention. I will bring him up to date on what has been examined.
It is welcome that the Taoiseach has grouped just ten questions on the Northern situation as there were 13 last time. It is important that we have adequate time at Question Time to actively explore the plethora of issues arising in the Northern context that needs to be debated. I thank the Taoiseach for not taking 25 questions from today's list which would have been possible.
It could have been 57.
On the de Silva report, the House must acknowledge the positive approach the UK Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, has taken to it. We must also acknowledge the demand of the Finucane family for a full public inquiry into the matter. Fianna Fáil supports the Taoiseach and the Government in their support for the family in adopting that approach. I am conscious that while Desmond de Silva's report has brought significant new information into the public arena, we have seen from the British side nothing more than an incremental approach to this matter in the past 24 years. Lord Stevens was able to elicit a certain amount of information, as did Judge Cory subsequently.
I am conscious of the UK Prime Minister's statement on the day of publication of the de Silva report: “Sir Desmond's report has now given us the fullest possible account of the murder of Patrick Finucane and the truth about state collusion.” Continued progress in the troubled Six Counties can only be achieved when cases such as this are addressed. We have to accept the Pat Finucane case was one of a number that touched the hearts and minds of people the length and breadth of the country. The spectre of a decent family man who was doing pioneering work as a civil rights and human rights solicitor being slaughtered in front of his wife and family on a Sunday afternoon in the family home is repulsive to every decent Member and it is an issue that is not going to go away. The Taoiseach's approach is the right one and we support him in it.
How can all of us, in particular the Taoiseach, step up the pressure on the British Government to go the necessary final furlong? Did the Taoiseach avail of the opportunity recently to discuss the case with the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers? Did he have the opportunity to discuss it with the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton? When he travels to the United States in March, will he take the opportunity to take it up with the US President, Barack Obama, and the new Secretary of State, John Kerry?
Having mentioned Hillary Clinton, I hope it is not inappropriate, but it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to her for the outstanding service she has given to this country and, in particular, that she gave during the initial stages of the peace process, as well as in consolidating it during her term as US Secretary of State.
I had the great privilege in the past of sitting on the justice committee which considered Judge Henry Barron's work on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and certain other events. What was revealed was not so far removed from the British Government's response to the Finucane case. We see it has been laborious and incremental, with information having to be drawn from it. All of us know in our hearts that there is both intelligence information and documentation available to the British Government on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings that it has failed to produce. I commend the work of Justice for the Forgotten which has been indefatigable in its pursuit of the truth in these heinous crimes that shocked the nation.
With my party leader, I availed of the opportunity to discuss these matters with the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, and the former British ambassador to Ireland, Julian King. It was patently obvious to me from these discussions that the British Government was not willing to release any information it had available on this series of atrocities. Given the genuinely positive new relations on an east-west basis between Britain and Ireland, how do we work together to impress on the British Prime Minister who is a decent man that there is unfinished business in which the truth must be provided in order to complete the process of rehabilitation?
What can all of us do and, in particular, what can the Taoiseach do to advance that particular matter?
As Deputy Adams pointed out, the Pat Finucane case occurred 24 years ago today and is still a vivid scar in the memory and the minds of his family. I do not have a hierarchy of victims but the Finucane case is different in the sense that Judge Cory indicated and gave his view that a full public inquiry should be held. We have stated in the House on many occasions that both Governments, the Irish and British Governments of the day, agreed in advance that whatever Judge Cory recommended would be followed through. He recommended a public inquiry in the case of Mr. Buchanan, arising from which came the Smithwick tribunal. However, the British Government did not follow through in regard to his recommendation for an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Everyone in the House has an agreed position that this should be followed through. That decision stands and I am glad that it stands.
What can Deputy Ó Fearghaíl do about this? I suppose those in his party can continue to discuss the matter with their colleagues and acquaintances, in particular in Britain because this will require a decision of the British Government. If the British Prime Minister were to say "Yes, we are going to have a public inquiry into Finucane", it would fulfil the requirement and commitment entered into internationally arising from the Cory decision to the effect that the Governments would follow his recommendations whatever they were. Short of that I have raised it with him on almost every occasion I have met him. I have had the privilege of raising it with President Obama in the White House and, please God, I will do so again. I have also raised it with American Senators and Congressmen who have an interest in the affairs of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is by no means remiss of Deputy Ó Fearghaíl to mention the legacy of co-operation and assistance given directly by Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State and by her husband, as US President, in subsequent years and through his appointment of George Mitchell as his special delegate to Northern Ireland, which had such a dramatic and powerful impact on bringing about the Good Friday Agreement.
I will continue to raise this with the British Prime Minister, as is my duty. I cannot force the British authorities to release whatever files they have. Who knows how long it will be before that material ever sees the light of day? However, if the British Government were to say it will have a public inquiry arising from the agreement entered into before the Cory judgment then I would welcome it.
I hope to meet Geraldine Finucane again soon and I will try to do so in advance of involvement with the United States. The preparatory meeting for me to meet the Justice for the Forgotten group takes place next week and I will be very happy to engage with them as well. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl is right, as is Deputy Adams and everyone else: on whatever side people lost loved ones or family members and for whatever reason there is a pain that has not been eased and short of Government stating that it will try to find out what happened, that is never dealt with.
Anyway, the Finucane case was a specific case in point whereby 24 years ago the man was murdered. Mr. de Silva has pointed out clearly the analysis of what occurred in several chapters of his report. The fact is that an outstanding commitment was given and entered into by the British Government to hold a public inquiry which has not been followed up on. We followed up on the commitment made by the Irish Government of the day by having the Smithwick tribunal. I hope that the British Government might reflect upon that and perhaps come to a decision that it should follow through on the recommendation of Judge Cory.
A question has been tabled on the G8 summit in Fermanagh. I have been invited to attend by the Prime Minister in my capacity as the Presidency of the European Union, an invitation for which I am grateful. There may be an opportunity to raise the matter there as well. That is where we are. The Government will continue to raise this in the commons and at the meetings we have with our counterparts. I know the Tánaiste has raised it with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Villiers, on several occasions. It comes up at British-Irish and North-South institution meetings. The Ceann Comhairle is responsible for the parliamentary forum, at which there are opportunities for Members to raise these matters as well. I agree with Deputy Ó Fearghaíl that it is an important element of belief in politics. I hope the day will come when this particular commitment can be honoured.
I am trying to make some sense of this. Geraldine Finucane dismissed the de Silva report as a sham, a whitewash and a confidence trick. There is no way any British Government is going to initiate the type of inquiry it is obliged to under the Weston Park agreement. We could still be here in 20, 30 or 40 years' time but they are not going to do it and there is a reason they are not going to do it.
My specific question to the Taoiseach was whether he had been in contact with the British Prime Minister in respect of the recent publication of the de Silva report into the murder of human rights solicitor Pat Finucane. The Taoiseach stated he had been in touch on the morning before the report was published. Why should the British Government take any of this seriously when the Irish Government is not championing the cause? The Irish Government should take a strategic view of this.
It was my great privilege to know Pat Finucane. The Taoiseach referred earlier to a belief in politics. Pat Finucane had a belief in the law. He was a working class Belfast man. He went to the same primary and grammar schools as me, although I did not know him at that time. He educated himself and came to the belief that there was redress for people who were subject to the brutality of British occupation, incarceration or interrogation through the application of the law. By doing that and by using the law to win justice for these people he put himself in the firing line and the British Government conspired to get rid of him, not the current British Government but the British Government of the day. There is ample proof of this and we know the unit of British military intelligence which killed Pat Finucane received 74 awards and honours, including one for the colonel who was in charge at the time, Colonel Kerr. He received an OBE two years after Pat Finucane was killed.
This particular case goes to the core of how the British Government conspired to give information, to arm and to direct counter gangs to get rid of what one of its strategists referred to as unwanted members of the public. That was what the British Government was about in terms of low intensity operations. Pat Finucane was an officer of the court and a human rights lawyer disposed of because his presence did not suit the particular plans of the British Government at that time.
We live in more enlightened times. I do not believe in a hierarchy of victims, it has become something of a cliché. However, I firmly believe that every victim deserves to be dealt with on the basis of equality. In this case, where the subject of an inquiry is the core of an international agreement between two governments, I appeal to the Taoiseach to become a champion and to employ our diplomatic services. Of course we raise the issue on St. Patrick's Day and if we meet the US Administration or the Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry. We do all of that but this needs more. Mr. Cameron needs to know that this is a very significant issue for the Government but he does not know that. He believes that he has the Government in his pocket on this issue. I do not say as much to be offensive or insulting. I appeal to the Taoiseach to make this a priority for the Government and to go at it strategically. In this way he will help to bring about the necessary type of healing process for everyone in the North as we deal with all of these legacy issues.
We have a strategic partnership agreement signed with the British Government but that does not mean one is in another's pockets in any way and I know Deputy Adams did not mean it in that way.
The Irish Government took a clear position. That arose a number of years ago from a motion I tabled while on the opposite side of the House calling for a public inquiry based on Judge Cory's recommendation. That motion was adopted unanimously by the Government of the time. That is the position we took.
When the Prime Minister called me on the morning of the publication of the de Silva report I clearly told him that we disagreed with the decision to have Mr. de Silva go through the million pieces of paper relevant to this and that the decision of the judge as part of the international agreement was what should stand. I also said that on the day. Clearly, if the Finucane family takes the view that the findings of de Silva are in accordance with their wishes, that will be a different prospect, but we have not changed our view.
On how we can become a champion of this, it is a case of continuing not only to raise the issue but also to make it a priority. Of all the cases in Northern Ireland to which we have referred, this is in a different category because it is one of two cases that the judge recommended be subject to a full public inquiry. Both Governments agreed with that recommendation in advance and said they would abide by the judge's ruling. In that sense it is perfectly legitimate for the Irish Government to say - this is an issue of belief and trust in politics, but also of priority - that the British Government should change its decision and go further. In appointing Mr. de Silva to investigate this case, the British Government may have assumed he would come up with evidence beyond "yea" or "nay" that would make the Finucane family happy with the response. That was not the case, however, and another step remains to be taken. Even though it is 24 years later, a public inquiry is still required. That is our stated view and Ministers will articulate it when they have the opportunity to engage with their counterparts in Northern Ireland.
To raise the level, all the parties here can remind their counterparts and colleagues that the Oireachtas has taken an all-party position that the commitment should be honoured. As far as I am concerned, while it is my privilege to do this job I will articulate that position as strongly and cogently as I can at every opportunity.
We appreciate the Taoiseach's commitment in this area, but there is some validity in the points that Deputy Adams raised. We are looking for a clear indication from the Government that it is taking a systematic approach and maintaining constant pressure on the British authorities to achieve progress in the cases of Pat Finucane and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. It is important to cite on the record of the House elements of the statement by the British Prime Minister because they were most profound and shocking in many respects. He stated that while Mr. de Silva "rejects any state conspiracy, he does find quite frankly shocking levels of state collusion." He went on to quote Mr. de Silva's assertion about "an extraordinary state of affairs ... in which both the Army and the RUC Special Branch had prior notice of a series of planned UDA assassinations, yet nothing was done by the RUC to seek to prevent those attacks". Mr. Cameron also noted that Mr. de Silva found that "two agents who were at the time in the pay of the state were involved" and stated: "[M]ost shocking of all, Sir Desmond says that 'on the balance of probabilities ... an RUC officer or officers did propose Patrick Finucane ... as a UDA target when speaking to a loyalist paramilitary.' " The evidence is incontrovertible. There is, however, a lack of logic in the position of the British Prime Minister. He quite rightly made this statement in the House of Commons but he left the equation incomplete. Clearly, the only way the matter can be resolved to everybody's satisfaction is by means of a proper public inquiry.
All of us accept that the peace process cannot be taken for granted. These key cases resonate with people North and South of the Border. Generosity of spirit on the part of all participants needs to be demonstrated if we are to build public confidence that we have passed beyond that awful period of our history and are prepared to be totally honest, frank and humble in our approach. There is a moral imperative for our good friends and neighbours in the British Government to take the final step required to resolve this matter.
I do not disagree with anything Deputy Ó Fearghaíl has said. The apology given by the Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, in respect of Bloody Sunday in Derry came after three decades and in its own way brought closure, tragic though it was, to that issue. The Governments agreed in advance that they would follow the judge's recommendations. It is a moral imperative and a political duty and responsibility that the British Government be seen to live up to its commitment. It has not done that and I have articulated that directly to the Prime Minister on many occasions. While we can have differences of opinion down here, at least the Government followed through on the Smithwick tribunal.
The Deputy is correct that the peace process cannot be taken for granted. There is no room for complacency. I commend the gardaí who in the past week were in a position to come across rocket launchers and other equipment that would otherwise have been destined to create further death and mayhem in Northern Ireland. I also commend the Garda and the PSNI on the co-operation that exists between them. I hope that co-operation brings to justice those who murdered Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, a good man who was given no chance. This is why I conveyed to President van Rompuy at European Council level the necessity, while preparing for the multi-annual financial framework, of continuing the PEACE fund for Northern Ireland, which was supposed to end with the current budget but will now be continued for the next seven years, with €150 million to be invested. This has been raised by Ministers across the spectrum and by the Tánaiste when he spoke to the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers. I am glad that specific element was included in the multi-annual financial framework budgetary discussions which concluded in Brussels at 5 a.m. last week.
In light of the close co-operation that exists between the Garda and the PSNI and the security forces North and South, the strategic agreement and the memorandum of understanding signed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on potential energy sales to the British market, as well as cross-Border issues arising in education, health and transport, it would be a big signal if the British Government stated that it had examined the de Silva report and, speaking in respect of the Prime Minister, acknowledged that these things had happened. It should be possible to establish a structured public inquiry into this specific incident. It is a political commitment that has not been followed through.
I am quite sure Members of the British Government would like to be able to say, see and prove in this regard that the word is honoured also and that the public inquiry be held. We would strongly support that. I do not disagree with the Deputy's view on this and there is no disagreement in the House on the issue.
In so far as the Government is concerned, we are very conscious of the dangers of any complacency about the fragility of the peace process. We had the situation both before and after Christmas in respect of the rioting in Belfast for a variety of reasons. The sinister danger is that the forces of evil and destruction still exist and are still intent on disrupting what has been so hard won by so many people in respect of a conflict where over 3,000 people died. The fact the Garda had to be enabled to confiscate rocket launchers in the past week speaks for itself of the evil intent and mentality of some people and of what they wish to do.
With regard to the Pat Finucane case and his murder 24 years ago, I hope and call on the British Government to reflect on the moral, political and social imperative to follow through on the commitment honourably entered into but not yet delivered on.
11. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he has had with the British Prime Minister in relation to the decision to hold the G8 in County Fermanagh. [53786/12]
12. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the discussions he has had with First Minister Peter Robinson or Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness regarding plans to hold the G8 summit in County Fermanagh. [53787/12]
13. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Taoiseach the benefits to this State of next year's G8 Summit taking place in Enniskillen; the role that he will play; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53908/12]
14. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Taoiseach in view of the announcement made by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who confirmed that the next G8 Summit will be held in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, if he will comment on the impact of the announcement that next year's G8 Summit will take place in Enniskillen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53909/12]
15. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he plans to request any bilaterals with the G8 leaders when they attend the G8 Summit in Fermanagh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55446/12]
16. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he was involved in discussions with the British Prime Minister in relation to Fermanagh being chosen as the host for next year's G8 summit.. [2342/13]
17. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on any discussions he has had with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, regarding the upcoming G8 summit in Fermanagh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4037/13]
18. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the involvement he will have with the upcoming G8 summit in Fermanagh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4039/13]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 18, inclusive, together.
I am pleased that British Prime Minister Cameron has confirmed that this year's G8 summit will be held in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, as this will no doubt give a great boost to the Border region. I was aware that the British Government was considering Fermanagh as a potential venue and was supportive of that proposal.
The G8 summit brings together the leaders of the world’s major industrialised countries, the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom. I expect that I have the opportunity to respond to the invitation of the British Prime Minister to attend the G8 summit, which will take place in June 2013, during the Irish Presidency of the European Union. However, it is very early days yet and the agenda and work programme of the summit have yet to be formally proposed and elaborated. Prime Minister Cameron has indicated that he intends for the summit to focus on advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency in the G8's partnership with less developed and emerging economies.
It is good that the summit is going to Fermanagh. The Taoiseach will know that Peter Canavan, Peter the Great, manages the Fermanagh football team. Fermanagh is also a very beautiful part of the world and people there will welcome the international attention that will be paid to the county. It is significant that the Taoiseach has been invited to the summit in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Union.
I have read the priorities the British Prime Minister has spelled out for the summit. The G8 is made up of the big, powerful and more advanced industrial nations. Therefore, part of our effort must be to get them to focus on the grave economic situation facing millions of people around the world. We talk about economic distress, with some justification, but millions of people are dying of hunger and people are starving in the developing world. I ask that this be part of our focus at the G8.
Notwithstanding its imperfections and its fragility, we have one of the most successful peace processes in the world. The visit of these very powerful leaders to Fermanagh provides us with an opportunity to put issues to them, for example, the situation in the Middle East, an ongoing conflict that has seen failure by the international community to intervene in a positive and progressive way. I have commended the Tánaiste on raising this issue in the past and I see this visit as an opportunity for the Taoiseach and I to raise these issues, particularly in terms of the ongoing situation in Syria and the conflict in the Palestinian Territories and Israel. I urge the Taoiseach to consider the opportunity of this international platform to raise these issues.
Has the Taoiseach got any commitment from the Obama Administration as to whether the President will make a visit "home" when he is only a few miles up the road?
Prime Minister Cameron informed me last year when I was in Britain that it was his intention to consider whether it was suitable to hold the G8 summit at Lough Erne in Fermanagh and he said that he would be privileged to extend an invitation to me, which I, on behalf of the people, am very happy to accept.
I understand there are protocols with regard to foreign leaders at that scale travelling to different countries. However, it would be a wonderful opportunity for President Obama to "restart" his visit, as it was cut short on the last occasion he was here, although he enjoyed his day very much. There is a particular protocol to be followed in that regard. I have invitations to extend to other leaders inviting them to consider dropping in here also and will try to get a fix on the situation in the coming period.
One of the issues we have raised at the European Council meeting, which will be a priority for our Presidency, concerns the question the Deputy raised about the scale of unemployment and the global position in so far as growth, jobs, security and stability are concerned. As holders of the Presidency, we would like to conclude trade agreements with Canada, Japan and a number of other far eastern countries. One of the outstanding issues has been the question of the capacity and potential of free trade between the European Union and the United States, the two greatest economic trading blocks in the world. A high level report was commissioned on this some time ago and this report has been finalised and presented to both the European and American sides.
There are difficulties in so far as how some of the countries look at these issues. However, from the European Council and Presidency point of view, we strongly support this because it has the potential to grow the economies of Europe by an average of approximately 2%, with the possibility of creating 2 million jobs or more in Europe alone. The report has been received by the American Administration and I understand President Obama may refer to it in his address to the nation this evening. I hope he does. As far as the Presidency is concerned, we will run very hard with that mandate to get the platform in place where these discussions can take place. This has implications for us, with Irish firms now employing almost 100,000 people across 50 states. The impact of so many areas of investment either way would be enormous.
In the global perspective, I hope the G8 and the leaders who attend will focus on where we will be in ten, 15 or 20 years. When speaking to people in Davos, the issue of the opening up of Myanmar, the former Burma, arose. It is a country of which we do not have great knowledge, although there were real connections between Ireland and Burma as it was called. That country of 60 million has a huge range of natural resources, yet some 58 million of its people have never had access to communications. That country will move from what might be termed ground zero to cloud computing and cloud access straight away. The scale of the investment there will be enormous. When the G8 informs us that in the next five years, an extra 3 billion people will have access to the Internet, we see the scale and capacity of what is involved.
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Bill Gates and his wife who were here recently representing his foundation. Think of the impact of the elimination of polio.
Only three countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan and India - have yet to beat it. They reckon it will be eliminated globally inside six years. Mr. Gates is interested in malnutrition and the supply of malaria nets. Ireland has been involved in the work of the European Union in this area which has had an impact in dealing with such matters as stunted growth, under-nutrition and malnutrition. We have looked at what we can do. As a visitor to the G8 summit, I intend to refer to such matters in Ireland's interests if I get an opportunity to do so.
It is obvious that the situation in the Middle East will be raised at the summit. The fundamental issue is the central focus on a two-state solution. It is a question of the degree of concentration that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have on this central tenet. That is the base on which peace can be built. People greater than me have spent years trying to bring about a realisation of what might be possible. It is a case of continuing to work very hard on the issue. I will be happy to raise the matter if an opportunity to do so presents itself to me.
This year's G8 summit will be a major event in Ireland. I believe it will be the 39th summit and the first to be held on the island of Ireland. I join others in congratulating Prime Minister Cameron on having the confidence to select Enniskillen and the island of Ireland as the location of the summit. The Taoiseach will recall the last G8 summit which was held at Camp David in the United States. It was an opportunity for the major industrial nations of the world to gather together. This year's summit will serve Ireland very well. We will have an opportunity to showcase Ireland, our environment, young educated people and modern facilities which serve our own needs and those of the developing world. It will be a special occasion for the Taoiseach, not only in his capacity as leader of the Government but also as leader of the European Union. That will be an added bonus for Ireland as we try to showcase our modern society.
The last time we debated this matter in the Dáil I asked the Taoiseach to consider inviting President Obama to this jurisdiction. The Taoiseach will recall the wonderful atmosphere during President Obama's short visit two years ago. The visits of President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II brought benefits to Ireland and we have an opportunity to develop them even further. Given that the leaders of nations in Europe and other parts of the world will be on the island of Ireland, I ask the Taoiseach to consider inviting the leaders of Japan, Germany and France, as well as Prime Minister Cameron, to come here. That would be of great benefit to Ireland and help to promote the G8 summit. I know the Taoiseach will agree with me when I say this state has the capacity to entertain these individuals, showcase the country and deliver on the commitments it makes with regard to industry, the environment, education and the need to fix the economy we inherited from the previous Administration. I ask him to consider how we can showcase Ireland in the context of this summer's G8 summit.
The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, has reminded me that the visit of the G8 leaders will be the most powerful element of The Gathering to come to Ireland in 2013. We hope it will act as a catalyst for further investment in and recognition of the country's beauty, culture, traditions and modernity. I expect to meet Prime Minister Cameron in early March in London. I will congratulate him on his decision to hold the G8 summit in County Fermanagh. Obviously, we will extend an invitation to him, as we always do, to come to this country as often as he can. I do not think a Japanese Prime Minister has ever come to Ireland on a formal visit. I appreciate that certain protocols must be observed when international leaders travel from one country to another. The German Chancellor has been here before, obviously. If the occasion is appropriate, I will certainly be happy to relay our invitations to some of the people mentioned. When I had the opportunity to call President Obama on the occasion of his re-election, I said he, his First Lady, Michelle, and their children would be very welcome to come back to Ireland at any time. I also reminded him that his Vice President, who has relations in the west, was eligible to visit Ireland because the President had been here. That is the protocol. I said that if the Vice President happened to come over, he should throw the sticks in the back of the aeroplane and we might swing at a ball somewhere if we had an opportunity to do so.
To be serious about it, this is a brilliant opportunity for Ireland, as an island entity, to showcase a part of the country that has come through difficult times and is facing the future with a degree of hope and confidence. Our own republic is being recognised internationally as a unit that is serious about its business - the people are working with the Government in a challenging position - and heading in the right direction. The more we help ourselves, the more our colleagues in Europe will assist us in easing our way out of the programme in 2013. We hope this can be the first country to prove that it can happen if people work together. It would be a great finish to the year of The Gathering, the G8 summit and all that comes with these events. The various leaders will be welcome to come here as part of their visit, if they so wish.
I call Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
I will be very brief.
Can I respond to the Taoiseach?
I have to deal with the other Deputies.
If the Deputy wants to come back in, that is fine.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett also has to ask some questions.
I join those who have commended the British Prime Minister on the selection of County Fermanagh as the location for this year's G8 summit. I also commend the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, who was quick on the uptake when he linked the summit with The Gathering. That is a very positive.
He has always been sharp like that.
It is good that the Taoiseach will be at the summit as a guest. Does he envisage that he will seek formal bilateral meetings with other leaders in the course of the summit? Does he think he will have an opportunity to extend formal invitations to them to visit the Republic? In the aftermath of the announcement of this positive development, some media reports unfortunately suggested there were concerns in diplomatic circles about security at the venue to be used. Has the Taoiseach discussed this issue in the run-up to the summit? Will particular arrangements be in place to build on the good relations between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána and ensure there will be no difficulties on the occasion of this important visit?
I can confirm that there is a great deal of security co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI. Unfortunately, we have a great deal of experience of dealing with security issues. The Lough Erne venue is ideal in the sense that it will be possible to secure it very safely. I am quite sure the PSNI and the Garda are working together in that regard. I have not yet seen the agenda for the summit. Obviously, it will be structured by the British Government and the G8. I expect the normal procedure, whereby I will have an opportunity to present to and have discussions with the other leaders, to be followed. If appropriate, I would be very happy to extend formal invitations to them to visit here as a consequence of the G8 summit or subsequent to it. I hope the summit will go off smoothly and focus on the massive opportunity to invest in job creation, create growth and avail of the opportunities in a rapidly changing world. By making clear decisions the leaders of the most industrialised and powerful nations on the globe can affect millions of lives to their benefit. We hope to contribute in some small way to that debate.
The G8 is the embodiment of the gross economic and political inequalities in the world today. These eight countries have 16% of the world's population but 66% of its wealth. The decisions they make affect billions of people around the world who have no right to make an input into these conferences.
That being said, as a result of pressure from the public, people like President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have raised the issue of tax compliance and the failure of multinational corporations across the globe to pay their fair share of taxes. I see it is on the agenda for the G8. I wonder whether the Taoiseach will use this opportunity to clearly show his determination and that of this State to demand that tax compliance is forced on multinationals so that, in this country and across the world, they begin to pay their fair share of the enormous amount of profits they generate back into the states, economies and societies from which they garner those profits.
I ask the Taoiseach to do that and to put to bed the reputation of this country as an offshore tax haven and as one of the countries that is most deeply implicated in the sort of tax avoidance activities that led, for example, the IMF to report at the beginning of this year that the global elite and multinationals now have $18 trillion of profits held offshore through tax avoidance – that is more than the entire US economy. Will the Taoiseach add our weight to that and put to bed our appallingly bad, but I would say justified, reputation for being a haven for multinationals to avoid paying their fair share of tax?
Rather than suggest that G8 leaders play a round of golf in the country, as the Taoiseach suggested, I ask him to perhaps instead invite the G8 leaders to walk in the State’s forests.
Before they are ripped up.
I was thinking that might be a good idea but of course if he was to do that, he would have to decide not to sell them, as he is planning to do. Otherwise, he might have to ask the Chinese President for permission to go for a walk in the State forests and to take the G8 leaders for a walk in them too.
The latter is not part of the question that was on the Order Paper.
I actually said it was the Vice President, not the President. The President would be too busy. It might well be that the Vice President, on his first visit, would wish to have a walk around some of the more challenging golf courses. I think the Deputy would agree with that.
The question of tax is one that has been raised by the Deputy and others. Let us be quite clear about this. This country is not a tax haven for multinationals. There is nothing untoward or in any way hidden in regard to the Irish corporate tax system. It is absolutely transparent right across the spectrum and, as was clarified this morning by a tax expert, it is facilities that exist in other countries that allow corporates to move around their finances. In fact, one could very well say that perhaps there should be a concerted global effort to eliminate scams or tax havens, as they are called. However, in so far as Ireland is concerned, this is an absolutely transparent and accountable location for corporates to do their business. Our tax system is compatible with the very best standards.
The Taoiseach is the only one who believes that.
While we were deemed by some reports in the United States some years ago as being some sort of tax haven, that matter was raised and dealt with by President Obama himself. That is not the case.
The pixie heads have a very bad reputation on this issue.
Our system is crystal clear, accountable and competent. If facilities exist in other countries and other tax systems for moving around elements of tax, that is not for us to deal with. We are very clear, very straight and across the board for everybody.