Ireland and the eurozone: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Thomas Pringle on Tuesday, 21 May 2013:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes statements by leading EU politicians and policy makers that the crisis of the eurozone provides an opportunity to push ahead towards a fiscal and political union;
further notes that:
— EU law making from 2014 will be put on a straight population basis;
— the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has announced that the unelected EU Commission will set out a range of fundamental EU treaty changes by early next year;
— the eurozone has developed a hegemonic economic model;
— the plans for enforcing balanced budgets and draconian fiscal rules on the 17 eurozone countries do nothing to address the sovereign debt and bank solvency crisis;
and
— increasingly the EU is losing legitimacy and authority among ordinary citizens in EU states;
recognises that:
— there has been no proper discussion of the fundamental flaws in the eurozone from an Irish perspective;
— the eurozone exchange rate is generally unsuitable for Ireland's unique pattern of export and import trade both inside and outside the eurozone; and
— the eurozone put us under the control of the European Central Bank; and as a consequence the Government has no economic policy beyond "preserving the euro";
and
calls on the Government to:
— initiate a wide ranging public debate through civil society on the future direction of the European Union; and
— ensure that treaty change includes a process to allow a eurozone member state to voluntarily leave the eurozone.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 3:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"recognises the achievements of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union contributing to stability, jobs and growth;
supports the Government's ongoing work to promote measures which will allow the European Union to respond effectively to the crisis currently facing the Union, particularly those steps which will help break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns;
underlines the importance of measures being prioritised by the Government to foster jobs and competitiveness; and
emphasises the importance of deepening public engagement with the EU and the need to ensure that democratic legitimacy and accountability remain fundamental pillars of the Union.".
- (Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade).

The EU and the euro are in a state of flux. Some would say it is a crisis. From financial crisis and democratic deficit to failing and crippling austerity measures, it is obvious that things must change rapidly for the benefit of the Union and, more important, its citizens. The decision to create a single currency was viewed by many across the political spectrum as an ideological and political decision to accelerate the move towards federalism within the EU. There was not a great deal of debate on the economic and social ramifications of the creation of the euro. There was no popular demand for a single currency and no frank and open discussion with citizens took place on its creation. It was not promoted to serve and benefit average citizens. It was a decision and project supported and promoted by elites for the benefit of elites.

The euro area jobless rate rose to a record level in March, growing over 12%. There are now 19.2 million unemployed people across the eurozone while youth unemployment is at a staggering 24%. The euro has been a factor in creating the crisis in Ireland and Europe. Cheap credit from the ECB facilitated reckless banking and lending and a property bubble that brought the State to its financial knees. We were told our hands were tied in responding to the impending financial crisis as we lacked fiscal autonomy and could not devalue or inflate our own currency. However, the euro is not the sole cause of the financial crisis we face today. Countries outside the EU have also suffered recession and crisis in the last few years. Sinn Féin agrees with many that it would not be in Ireland's interest to leave the euro as we are far too embedded within the European and global financial system to make such a radical move. The euro and EU can still help Ireland to get out of this crisis, but it will require a radical change of policy.

The EU's response to the crisis has been to focus on austerity, the socialisation of private debt and neoliberal economics. This has fuelled the increase in unemployment, poverty, personal indebtedness, homelessness and emigration, as we have witnessed on a daily basis. Instead of austerity, the EU requires an investment programme and a social insurance fund for countries struggling under the current crisis. The European Investment Bank must lead a physical and intellectual infrastructure development programme to improve Europe's competitiveness, create jobs and stimulate growth across Europe. Once employment has been stimulated, Governments will see an upturn in revenue which will inevitably lead to and promote a further lowering in social welfare payments and a decline in national deficits. eurozone countries should not be led down the route of stronger fiscal and monetary union underpinned by austerity, which would commit Governments to a further cycle of deficits. In a truly democratic fiscal union, member states suffering lower economic yields would receive transfers from wealthier economic states. Wealth and supports could be distributed in a more even-handed way but to avail of this member states would have to accept fiscal decisions on taxation and spending being made collectively for the most part.

Serious and meaningful work to transform the EU and shape it in the interests of all its citizens can begin in the upcoming EU budget negotiations. If the proposed budget is cut as suggested, it will be the first time in 56 years that such a thing has happened. The European Parliament rightly opposes the last proposed budget. The EU is facing its worst economic crisis since its creation and 90% of the budget is destined for investment in social and economic programmes in member states. The financial crisis needs investment-led growth not austerity failure.

It is important to remember in this debate that the euro is inherently flawed in its design. I am not talking about the graphics. When Ireland joined the euro, it gained a currency it had no power to inflate or devalue. Intrinsically, that meant we lost sovereignty over our currency due to the flawed design of the euro. However, we must deal with the reality of our situation. All of our debt is denominated in euros which means the euro and Europe still hold the key to solving the current crisis. There are a number of actions which must happen if we are to find a way out of the mire. I will go into greater detail later in my contribution but note for now that such actions must include investment, debt write-down, the fulfilment by the ESM of its role and the ECB becoming a lender of last resort.

While the euro was certainly a contributing cause of the crisis, it was not its sole cause. The United States of America, Britain and Iceland all went into recession at the same time as Ireland and none of those countries is in eurozone. Like Ireland, those countries were hit by a crisis in the financial sector which had a knock-on effect on the finances of the State. Ireland and Europe generally need an investment programme to kickstart the economy. History shows that investment is necessary to get economies back on their feet. After the Second World War, Britain was virtually bankrupt, Germany had been reduced to ruins and large parts of Europe lay in a state of disrepair. European economies were on their knees. As a result, the Marshall plan was formulated and funding was pumped into European economies. Before long, those economies were booming once again. The European Investment Bank must learn the lessons of history to improve GDP across Europe. As GDP grows, debt will automatically decline as measured against it.

A write-down of toxic debt is simply a must if we are to find a way out of the crisis. Last year's austerity treaty attempted to enshrine public bailouts of private debt in law. The Cyprus crisis demonstrated that policy in Europe is only as firm as the latest application for a bailout.

The current policy pursued at European level seems to be haphazard and without joined-up thinking. At the heart of the eurozone crisis is the inability of some member states to repay their debts. Action must be taken in Europe to write down the toxic debt inhibiting economic recovery.

The ESM must fulfil its role to recapitalise the banks so that states do not have to. This was agreed in the June 2012 summit, where it was agreed to separate sovereign debt from banking debt. However, when the crisis in Cyprus hit, the ESM failed to act. If there is to be a functioning euro, the ECB needs to act like a proper central bank. It needs to become the real lender of last resort. There was no lender of last resort for the euro and so international markets began to increase their yield for buying sovereign bonds when the crisis hit. This created a vicious cycle, whereby it became impossible for countries to borrow from the markets, leading them to seek bailouts. We should not make moves to pull out of the euro but we need to recognise the serious flaws the currency has. At a European level, Ireland needs to put pressure on the European authorities to have currency reform. If this was done, it would truly be a major result for the Irish Presidency of the EU, the Irish people and the people of Europe.

I propose to share time with Deputies Dara Murphy, Liam Twomey, Regina Doherty, Gerald Nash, John O'Mahony, Noel Harrington, Robert Dowds and Olivia Mitchell.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this motion. I wish to focus specifically on the proposal that any treaty changes should include a process that allows a eurozone member state to voluntarily leave the eurozone. It is not in Ireland’s interest to exit the eurozone. The country has benefited hugely from membership of the EU and I doubt any Member of the House could stand up and say Ireland has not benefited from full EU membership. In our early years as part of the euro, we benefited significanty in economic terms and we continue to be a net beneficiary of the EU. It would be worth putting time and effort into looking at some of the issues raised and thoroughly researching and analysing the impact so that we can make informed decisions but this motion is sadly lacking in-depth analysis on the impact of leaving the euro. Instead, it is proposing that we can just leave if we want to.

I was working in the international division of a bank when we broke the link with sterling. This was heralded as a great advancement for our country but I subsequently saw at first hand the struggles and difficulties that Ireland faced as a result. Throughout the 1980s, Ireland suffered economic stagnation while most of Europe experienced growth. Our Irish punt was battered by the speculators, interest rates rose over 20% and the country was crippled. The Central Bank had to step in on numerous occasions to prop up the punt at huge cost to the Exchequer.

Small nations such as ours are at the mercy of powerful speculators and their actions can cause significant fluctuations in a currency, bring uncertainty and make doing international business very difficult. Despite its being dead and gone, we all remember the Celtic tiger, from which we all benefited. Our rapid growth initially can be attributed to a boom in exports thanks to the single currency.

The motion is proposing that we go backwards so I want to ask where should we start. Should we return to sterling or go back even further to bartering? The motion is ill-prepared and not at a point of development where it warrants a serious debate. There are no projections or figures to clearly outline the implication of an exit from the euro. For example, what about the physical costs involved in switching back to the old Irish punt? As a member state of the EU, we are obliged to allow free movement of capital throughout Europe. A new currency could well cause panic and most likely speculation that could lead to a run on our banks, with many people wishing to keep their funds in a currency in which they have confidence. Multinationals may view Ireland out of the euro as too high a risk and may decide to move elsewhere. The motion is not properly thought out, with no account taken of the consequences.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate and the three amendments to the motion from the Technical Group. One can see the differing opinions, which are very important, in the amendments from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. Sadly, the Technical Group's differences come out in the motion in that it does not say what it wants to achieve for Ireland or for the euro. Given the mix of people in the Technical Group, it is understandable.

This is an important debate, particularly in respect of democratic legitimacy. We have a directly elected European Parliament and the Heads of Government take proposals from the Commission, which is not elected. The Fine Gael Party and its governing body in the European People's Party believes the President of the Commission should be democratically elected. Sometimes we overstate the degree to which technocrats rule Europe. Proposals still come before the democratically elected Heads of Government. In the case of the multi-annual financial framework, it also comes before the European Parliament. One could not but agree with many of the aspirations in the amendments. Europe and the euro have flaws and failings but we must ask where we would be if we had remained an isolated, small island, with an independent currency, off one of the largest economic blocs on the planet.

Many of the problems in this country over the past five or six years were self-inflicted. To blame Europe and the euro is a step too far. It is correct to say we are now in it and it is equally correct to say the main problem of the euro is caused by the fact it does not have supports such as banking union and a properly functioning central bank. The solution is to improve those institutions and develop our shared currency. It is the currency of the Irish people, just as Ireland cannot step in or out of being a member of Europe. We are part of Europe, the same as everyone else. While the debate and discussion on the future of Europe is welcome, it should be approached from the point of view of how we can improve our currency rather than the overly simplistic view, which is detrimental to the country, the economy and Europe, of simply walking away from a currency that has so much potential.

The motion reads as if the Technical Group has decided to become the Irish version of the Tory party and that Deputy Pringle will be the new Nigel Farage of Irish politics. No other party, not even Sinn Féin, wants to get rid of the euro. Much of what Sinn Féin included in the motion is sensible although some of its members' contributions were way off. An example is considering a new currency. Deflating a currency is a sign of failure and is not something any economy should examine. Eventually, such action catches up with the country.

The motion seems to refer to the speech of President Barroso. His speech on the matter refers to starting and fuelling a democratic debate with the European Parliament, members of national parliaments, governments, academics, and essentially everyone in Europe. He said that a truly European public debate is necessary to underpin the intensified political union that is a key complement to fiscal and economic integration and that Europe's democratic legitimacy and accountability must keep pace with its increased role and power. What he is saying is what the Sinn Féin Members are calling for. He also said the crisis of the euro was not an economic and fiscal crisis in individual countries. It was not the euro itself that was a problem but what happened in each of the countries. The euro remains a strong currency. In Ireland, we had a construction bubble and we were spending beyond our means.

Fuelled by cheap interest rates from the ECB.

The motion tries to blame the euro for what was a crisis in the country that we brought upon ourselves. The motion refers to draconian fiscal rules but every household must learn to within live within its means. That is essentially what we are talking about in much of the crisis talk.

If one reads any of the debates in this House, in the committees and in the public media, one can see that everybody accepts that the first thing we had to do was stabilise our economy and ensure our public spending was controlled. One can spend one's way into bankruptcy and there was no point in this country doing that. Many of the issues the Members refer to in the context of austerity have become part not just of the national discussion here but also the European discussion.

The Members opposite are like the British Tories in some respects in that they are falling into the old habit of blaming Europe for all of their problems. However, many of the issues that must be resolved in this country are home-grown problems. We must dealt with them first. In fact, Europe is becoming increasingly democratic in many respects. Europe has saved us from our worst excesses. Without having had the opportunity of the bailout programme and the changes that are taking place, which we strongly support, we would be in a worse crisis.

This motion is ill-thought out and many of the charges made by its supporters are wrong. In fact, many of the actions they say we should take are the same as those proposed by President Barroso, the person of whom they are so critical.

I am happy to speak to the amendment, which recognises the achievements of the Irish Presidency. There have been many brokered agreements on a wide range of issues, but I will focus on health.

The major success recently was the eHealth Week programme. It was focused on innovative and sustainable health systems for the future. Ireland also hosted the EU-US eHealth Marketplace conference to promote the European e-health agenda. The matchmaking event was designed to encourage collaboration between European and US companies, health providers and other stakeholders involved in the European Connected Health Alliance. It was during this conference that the EU health Ministers agreed a declaration on e-health presented by the Irish Presidency. The declaration is aimed at prioritising the use of ICT in health among member states and to contribute to better, safer, sustainable and innovative health care systems for all European citizens.

An e-health action plan was launched. The development of an e-health ecosystem will result not only in better health outcomes for our citizens but will also bring economic benefits through the development of new technologies and, more importantly, increased employment opportunities. The agreement of this declaration demonstrates our collective commitment to making e-health systems a reality as we continue a process of reform of our health system and the systems across Europe. The objective of an e-health system is to promote private and public sector innovation on a co-operative basis, ensuring a vibrant economy for the deployment of e-health applications.

As part of the declaration we agreed to strengthen co-ordination of all policies relating to e-health; to promoting a system that has dialogue aimed at mutual learning and a sharing of good experiences between industry, academia, patients, citizens and the health services of Europe; to accelerate the implementation of existing and proven devices and processes; to create an innovative market; and to ensure that citizens receive optimum outcomes in a shorter timeframe by delivering on existing priorities.

To conclude, Ireland has used its Presidency to help create dialogue and communication between EU citizens and the EU and its leaders. In doing so, our Presidency has made significant and lasting strides in the drive to help build a healthier Europe.

I am happy to respond to the motion. Specifically, I am glad to have the opportunity to nail some of the myths and distortions that have grown about Europe, generated by a bizarre collection of populists, fantasists and conspiracy theorists across the Continent and in this country. If ever I begin to doubt my position on Europe, I take a quick look around the Continent and listen to those who are most opposed to European participation. In France, there is the obnoxious, far right bile of people such as Jean-Marie Le Pen. In Italy there are the failed remnants of the old Stalinist communists and, closer to home, there is the frankly bizarre pomposity of the UK Independence Party. It never fails to cheer me up that Sinn Féin, for example, appears to see no irony in sharing the delusional, narrow-minded views of little Englanders from Tunbridge Wells.

I firmly believe that Europe has been, and will continue to be, good for Ireland. The notion that we have no say in Europe is ludicrous, particularly now as we draw near the end of a very successful six month Presidency of the European Union. During that time we secured the youth guarantee, which has ring-fenced €6 billion specifically to tackle youth unemployment in some of the worst affected areas of the European Union. We tore up barriers to employment while so-called socialist parties, which tell us they are interested in work, were busy tearing up forms. We also made progress on the development of the digital single market, a crucial area for Ireland in view of the number of high-tech companies located here. This development will dovetail with the roll-out of high speed broadband across the country, which was announced by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, last week.

Trade negotiations continued with Asia and Africa, key emerging markets for the Irish economy and for Irish companies and jobs. We reached agreement on two key components of a banking union package which will help to prevent banking crises in the future. We protected Ireland's interests in terms of the Common Agricultural Policy and fisheries reforms. That is not a bad four and a half months by any stretch of the imagination for a country which, according to some Members of the Opposition, has no say in Europe. There is still another six weeks to achieve more significant measures for the Irish people and the European Union.

Let us not forget that almost every job created in Ireland over the last five years has been a direct result of our role in Europe, be it through multinationals attracted by our membership of the eurozone or the successful exports of our agri-food industry. I am proud of Ireland's participation in Europe, and I am proud of what Ireland brings to Europe. Yes, there are problems sometimes, as we all know, and these problems continue to be addressed. However, Ireland's place is unmistakably at the heart of Europe, as a strong and equal partner with 26 colleague nations. We will not be left on the frozen wastelands of the periphery, politically and in every respect, that is occupied by the UK, the UK Independence Party, Sinn Féin, unfortunately, and some other Independent Members of this House, who would prefer us to have a much more distant relationship with Europe than we currently enjoy and need.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute briefly to this debate. I cannot go into great detail in three minutes but all sides in this debate, particularly the pro-European parties in the House, recognise that there have been strengths and weaknesses in the European model. During the time of growth and plenty here and in Europe during the last decade nobody was calling for the scrapping of the eurozone or the single currency. Now that there is a downturn and a crisis, it is a different story. All of our problems are being blamed on Europe.

It is good to have this debate. By all means we should eliminate the weaknesses of the European model and get rid of the unnecessary regulations. However, we should also build on the strengths and the potential that Europe has delivered and will continue to deliver. Despite the recessions and financial crises, Europe has contributed hugely to the economic development of this country since we joined the then EEC in 1973. There are very romantic memories of Ireland in the pre-EEC days, of maidens dancing at the crossroads and so forth.

That was only in Mayo.

However, it was a much poorer place in terms of infrastructure, industry, farming, markets and exports. Regardless of what test one applies, there have been improvements.

It should also be remembered that our European partners stood by us in the current crisis. We can complain about the strings that were attached and we will all wave a very pleasant goodbye to the troika, but we are in a better place now, despite the crisis, than the position we were in three or four years ago. With regard to the banking union and the need to monitor the budgets of member states, perhaps if we had been more closely monitored from 2000 to 2010, we would not be in the current crisis. In some respects, we should welcome some of that monitoring.

I congratulate the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and all the Ministers who have been active under the Irish Presidency, with the result that Ireland has restored for itself considerable credibility on the international stage.

Looking at the signatories of the motion, one realises those who have been sceptical about the European Union and the eurozone have generally come from the extreme far left or extreme far right. The scepticism remains the same. The signatories makes strange bedfellows. While they can quote statistics and talk about processes, per capita income, etc., they should note that Irish income per capita is the highest, apart from that of Luxembourg. The Deputies opposite have spoken about crisis. We have heard clichés and megaphones and everything that comes with them. If one considers how much we have progressed, and not only in terms of sovereignty, one realises that we have benefited enormously from being part of a strong union and eurozone. The Deputies refer to a crisis but this country was in crisis, just like Greece, Portugal and others. The eurozone is not in crisis. It is strong and the countries that constitute it have the ability to work with a strong currency. Banking union is required to copper-fasten the eurozone's future.

We now have a more democratic Europe. People forget that we have democratically elected MEPs and co-decision-making. The Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy are in trilogue, involving our Minister in the European Council, MEPs and the European Commission. We have benefited.

Like myself, Deputy Pringle, a signatory of the motion, is from a fishing town. He would not be too quick to fly the flag for Europe in towns such as Killybegs or Castletownbere. The benefits are forgotten in the motion. Our towns represent a good microcosm. Before the European Union, most of the exports from our two towns went to Billingsgate and not much farther, and the exporters got nothing for them. They are now going to the Union, for prices that result in a sustainable industry. While it is not perfect, one must realise we are almost three quarters of the way across the river. This motion proposes that we turn back. I fundamentally disagree with that approach. Social and financial legislation and regulation, which we have not had in this country but which we will see coming from the Union, will ensure a stronger, better economy not only for us, but for the Union as a whole. I do not agree with the motion, as tabled.

There is clearly much to improve in the European Union. Although we are slowly moving towards a more democratic set of circumstances, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of banking union, etc. Overall, however, the European Union has been good for Ireland and every other member, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. We need one another. We live in a world in which the individual nation state is much too small to stand on its own, unless it is one such as India. We are far better if we work together. We come from the same cultural background considering our Christian and social heritage. Therefore, there is no reason we should not work together.

I want to use my few minutes to appeal to the people of Britain to wake up and have sense with regard to their attitude to the European Union. The Union is where it is at nowadays. Eight of Britain's ten major trading partners are from the European Union. The only two that are non-EU countries are the United States and China. Although the United States is so much bigger than Germany, it is not really very far ahead of it in terms of Britain's trade with it.

Approximately two weeks ago, with other Members of the Oireachtas I met Members of the British Parliament. They had serious concerns about the direction of Britain. It is really important for both them and us that they hang in and that we use every opportunity to encourage the United Kingdom to stay with us and work with us. It is not in our interest for it to leave the Union, and it is certainly not in its interest. I hope that after the UKIP is exposed as being foolish in terms of politics, the United Kingdom will take stock and realise that its best interests lie with the Union.

I too am pro-European. The European Union is good for us as European citizens. With the protections and benefits it offers us, we are all better off as workers, travellers, women and students. There is almost no area of life that has not benefited from or been enhanced by the rights and privileges that have flown to us from Europe over the years. That is not to mention the improvement in our infrastructure owing to EU funding and the funds that still flow to us to allow banks to open every morning.

However, I am not slavishly blind to the Union's faults, nor am I unaware that the institution is not perfect. I do agree that a debate is needed on what we expect from the Union and what we are willing to give back to it. Further integration will be necessary. We need to bring the public with us.

There is a disconnection and some disaffection with Europe. However, this is at least partly due to us, as politicians. Over the years, it has suited us to blame the Union for every decision we did not like, without making any effort to explain the rationale behind those decisions, either the long-term benefits or the widespread gains that would ultimately accrue. Over the years, we have sent Ministers to Europe to "fight" for us. Even the media uses the expression "fight" as if there were somebody against us. It has suited us at times to have faceless figures of oppression and bureaucracy to blame for our woes when, in fact, the Union is no more than 27 equally flawed and equally angst-ridden countries, all scrambling to do the best they can for their citizens and for us all collectively. The best analogy is the resemblances and suspicion that exist between Dublin and the remaining counties. The tortured and slightly schizophrenic relationship between urban and rural areas in Ireland does not blind us to the fact that we are all part of a single entity that is interdependent and mutually sustaining. It is precisely that love-hate relationship we have with Europe, despite all its warts, that makes us realise we must face up to dealing with those warts. We must be part of the debate and try to mould the Union such that it can meet what are undoubtedly the challenges of the 21st century.

It is true that, in setting up the eurozone, some regime should have been put in place to allow countries to exit. However, to pretend we can now leave the eurozone and go it alone, such that all our problems will be solved, is to forget that we did once go it alone, print our own money and allow our currencies to float. I have very few happy memories of those years. Anybody who lived through those years will realise it is easy now to blame Brussels or Germany for the crushing blow caused by the burden of the link between bank and sovereign debt, but this burden was not placed on us by the Union. We opted for it two full years before the troika ever turned up. We opted for that when we gave the guarantee. Rewriting history and engaging in a xenophobic fantasy about a better Ireland and going it alone on a rock on the edge of the Atlantic is not just unrealistic, but also dangerous and seditious. It undermines our own self-confidence and the confidence of others in us. If we care about this country and our children's future, we should strive to shape the new Europe and not fight it.

I am sharing time with Deputies Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, Seamus Healy and Tom Fleming.

I wish to comment on the irony of Deputy Nash's contribution, which referred to Stalinists being opposed to the European Union.

I remind him that the most prominent former Stalinists in this Parliament are now leading the party of which he is a member. Maybe it is a telling fact that the current leadership of the Labour Party, in their previous incarnation as the Workers' Party, had a slavish commitment to the centralised, totalitarian and undemocratic regimes in Eastern Europe and made regular pilgrimages to Eastern Europe, North Korea and China to kneel before the supposed glories of communism which we all know was a brutal, totalitarian abomination. It seems since their faith in those horrific regimes has collapsed, their belief that there is any alternative to tooth and claw capitalism has collapsed along with it.

Maybe there is a sort of perfect circle in their political trajectory because there are some similarities - I do not want to extend the analogy too far - between the centralised, undemocratic and overbearing communist regimes and the trajectory on which the EU is now beginning to travel. It is increasingly beset with a democratic deficit, where unelected Commissioners, central bankers, European Councils, troikas and all the rest are dictating policy over the heads of ordinary citizens and their elected representatives. Maybe they feel comfortable with the EU as it is currently developing because it reminds them of the good old days of Stalinism.

If there is a worrying growth in the far right in Europe, as there is - people have alluded to it - who is to blame? It is those who are at the helm of the EU and the policies which are being pursued by the EU which created an unprecedented economic crisis and produced a situation whereby we now have 11% unemployment across Europe and far higher levels of unemployment among young people. Some 24 million people are unemployed. It is those conditions of economic crisis, mass unemployment and enormous alienation from the political structures of the EU that are producing a very worrying rise in the far right. The people who should put up their hands and say they have to bear responsibility for this worrying development are those at the helm of the EU.

Let us be absolutely clear. Asking for a review of our relationship with Europe and the policies of the EU is not a statement of wanting to return to some sort of isolated, "go it alone" policy. Rather, it is about questioning the current trajectory and policies of the EU which have led us into the crisis and asking whether should we look at alternative visions of Europe or internationalism.

Let me state clearly for Deputy Nash and anybody else on the other side of the House that I am a thoroughgoing internationalist, as, I believe, are most of those who support the motion. The question is what kind of internationalism and EU do we want. Do we want an EU dominated by corporate interests, bankers and unelected bureaucrats or should it be a social union which prioritises jobs, democracy, environmental protection and sustainable development? That is the Europe we were told in treaty debate after treaty debate that we were getting, but the truth was revealed when the economic crisis hit.

The priorities of the EU were first and foremost to protect private banking interests across Europe. Mass unemployment, huge social dislocation, mass impoverishment for many people and forced emigration was just so much collateral damage we have to put up with in the so-called structural adjustment programmes which have been applied to us. Refusing to even consider alternatives to blind and slavish adherence to the euro and current euro policies is precisely the sort of groupthink and herd mentality that led us into the crisis in the first place.

That is what Nyberg said about the financial crisis. He said the political establishment in this country was gripped by groupthink and herd mentality, and dismissed out of hand contrarians, as he called them. We dare to be contrarians and ask whether the current policies are working, against a background where the whole of the EU is contracting, there is deep alienation from the structures of the EU, some countries are talking about pulling out and the periphery countries have been devastated by the current policies of the ECB and the troika.

I laugh when I hear that we will be saying "goodbye" to the troika. We will say "goodbye" to the troika and "hello" to the six-pack, the two-pack, the EU Commission, the ECB and the fiscal treaty. That is the troika; we are saying "goodbye" and "hello" to the troika. There is an alternative.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak to this motion. I also commend and thank my colleague, Deputy Pringle, on tabling this important motion as the future of this country is at stake.

Our people have a duty to be informed and we as public representatives have a statutory duty to keep our citizens and civil society informed. The motion is also very relevant in the current economic climate where we have mass unemployment and poverty, and small businesses are being wiped out. We need to take a closer look at the economic policies of the eurozone leaders which appear to have lost touch with the people.

Each day in my Dáil office or constituency office in Donnycarney, people contact me about major economic difficulties in their lives. They are real people with real problems, and are calling out for radical solutions and support. It would clearly be wrong or ill informed if we ignored Europe, the ECB and the European leaders and their role in this crisis. That is what this debate is about. Of course, the senior bankers who lied and misled many people in the banking crisis must be mentioned in this and any other debate on Europe. That is what the motion is about.

I recognise that there has been no proper discussion of the fundamental flaws in the eurozone from an Irish perspective. Let us have an analysis of this. The eurozone exchange rate is generally unsuitable for Ireland's unique pattern of export and import trade inside and outside the eurozone. The eurozone put us under the control of the ECB, and as a consequence the Government has no economic policy beyond preserving the euro. A lot of people are asking questions about this and demanding answers. It is a very important issue in regard to the broader issue of Europe. I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy Costello, is in the Chamber.

I refer to the EU and foreign policy issues. It is within the OSCE and a reformed UN, and not the EU, that Ireland should pursue its security concerns. Ireland should pursue a positive neutrality and independent foreign policy, and not join or form an association with any military alliance such as the WEU or NATO. It is something we have to monitor. We know a section of the Government is very much in favour of that. Ireland should seek to promote European and international security through a policy of disarmament and demilitarisation and, therefore, should oppose the militarisation of the EU.

Most people in the Technical Group, as Deputy Boyd Barrett said, are internationalist in their outlook. Ireland should refuse to co-operate with or condone any policies or military groupings which maintain nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction. Irish troops should only serve abroad as peacekeepers under the auspices of the UN. These are the issues we want to raise and highlight.

People like Deputy Harrington made flippant comments about extremists and far right groups. The motion was tabled by people who care about their country, have an international outlook, are very supportive and are not racist in any way. We would challenge, dismiss and tackle groups like UKIP any day of the week.

Only today, leaders in Europe discovered that in the region of €1 trillion was lost in taxes across Europe in the last couple of years.

The €70 billion this country is putting into its insolvent banks works out at €38,000 for every working person. If we include the €35 billion assigned to the National Asset Management Agency, that figure is €57,000. It is reasonable to raise these issues. It is reasonable to put forward a constructive analysis of what is going on in Europe. In particular, we must be vigilant regarding statements by leading European politicians and policy makers that the crisis in the eurozone provides an opportunity to push ahead towards a fiscal and political union. The Union is increasingly losing its legitimacy and authority among European citizens who feel only a scepticism and cynicism in respect of the policies being pursued and the direction in which their masters are taking them. Those masters should take note because some among their number have already been kicked out of office.

There is a democratic deficit here which, if it is to be addressed, will require listening to the concerns of ordinary people. There is a serious problem when economic policies are not working. There is cause for serious concern when foreign policies are not working. When foreign policy is such that silence is an appropriate reaction when ten Afghan children are blown to pieces by NATO bombs, then there is something very wrong. These failures of foreign policy will damage Ireland's reputation as a nation independent in the conduct of its affairs on the international stage and committed to the United Nations. That is the direction in which Ireland and Europe should be going.

I thank Deputy Thomas Pringle for bringing forward this motion. It is particularly timely given that the Taoiseach is representing Ireland in Europe today. I was somewhat surprised to hear that Deputy Olivia Mitchell has accused Deputy Pringle of sedition in tabling the motion. That seems a rather extreme reaction, particularly as the wording has echoes of a speech that was made from the Park recently. To associate the President of this country with sedition seems to be going a little too far.

The motion is extraordinarily welcome because it revives to some extent the need for Europe to provide visionaries and for this nation and its Government to have a vision of what Europe should be. In recent times, by contrast, all that has been happening in Europe is fire-fighting. The Irish Presidency has been marked by a failure to achieve any of its objectives as it instead engaged in that same fire-fighting, some of which was inevitable but a great deal of which was not successful. It was most welcome, in the midst of all this fire-fighting, that we had a magnificent speech from the President of this country setting out his vision for the future of Europe. It is a speech, unfortunately, that has not been taken up by those in the Labour Party who were, once upon a time, committed to the types of ideals put forth by President Higgins. Now, however, they are prepared to take a line which represents a fairly slavish adherence to the groupthink to which Deputies Finian McGrath and Richard Boyd Barrett have referred.

It is very sad that Europe is now marked by crisis after crisis, whereas originally, as President Higgins observed repeatedly in his speech, it was marked by vision after vision. Europe has indeed been successful in its primary objective of preventing another world war. Since achieving that objective, however, it seems to have lost its way. Deputy Pringle's motion speaks of the subservience to the eurozone and the focus on the preservation of the euro. Survival of the European idea and fiscal integration seem to be the only objectives of the Union today. That position is not in any way reflective of an ideal but is merely a practical, German-driven objective to which Ireland seems to be paying a great deal of subservience.

What the President was saying so eloquently in his speech from the Park - which, for some reason, has not been debated in the House nor taken up by his former Labour Party colleagues - was that Europe lacks democratic accountability. When he mentioned fiscal technocracy he was referring to the various institutions in Europe which are dictating the pace of progress to democratically elected leaders. This was not, one assumes, simply a reference to the German hegemony, to which he referred almost directly, as well as the French hegemony and others, but also to the fact that those ideals on which we in this country have always placed great value, including citizenship, are not being pursued by the Government in this country, although he failed to name that Government specifically. Where are the ideals of the European founders today? What is the Taoiseach, as President of Europe, saying about those ideals? I have not heard the news today but it was prefaced quite clearly that his intention was to defend Ireland's status as a tax haven. He intended, it seems, at once to deny that status and to defend our record as a place where tax advantages are taken by foreign multinational companies.

This begs an important question. Why is Ireland permanently on the back foot in Europe? Why is our Presidency being marked by the fact that we are again on the back foot? Why is the Taoiseach, as President of Europe, having to defend our record when he should instead be promoting those ideals for which he has always apparently stood? Why is he not achieving the things he said he would achieve? Where are the jobs? Where is the growth? What are the achievements of the Irish Presidency? What has come of the declaration he made this time last year, on 30 June, that there would be an end to the connection between banking and sovereign debt? That has not happened; in fact, it is going backward. Any such disconnection has been denied by those in Europe who are showing the lead to other countries. What is so disappointing in all of this is that Ireland, in its current pivotal position in Europe, has not only failed to deliver on those objectives it set itself but is also failing to pursue openly the great vision which the President of Ireland showed to his colleagues in this House just a few weeks ago.

The European Union's austerity doctrine imposed the burden of adjustment to the post-2008 economic collapse on the labour market. It is an indefensible misuse of economics that the eurozone authorities should seek stability on the back of tens of millions of unemployed. This month's eurozone unemployment figures reached yet another record. It is equally indefensible that within an economic epoch categorised by intellectual capital and innovation, youth unemployment should now stand at an average of 25% and more than double that in some of the peripheral countries which are most in need of that intellectual capital and capability.

At this stage in the recessionary cycle there is no sense in what is being done to the economy and what is being planned for forthcoming budgets. After five austerity budgets, this country's deficit has been reduced at a terrible cost and with much further to go. Austerity policies reflect the self-interest of other, larger EU powers and are leading to the impoverishment of a growing number of countries. The only response to this has been a call for more integration or, to put it another way, a greater accrual of power and control to the centre. It is the policies dictated from the centre that are the cause of the problem and which are now subverting the original purpose of the wider European project.

The eurozone authorities were wrong in their myopic fixation on reducing debt and effectively ignoring what is the key to the whole ratio, growing gross domestic product.

It defies common sense that an Irish Government should still feel obligated to defend such policies and attempt to impose two more years of "fiscal consolidation". Talk of "exiting the bailout" is wide of the mark. The burden of "troikanomics", including onerous debt-servicing costs, stretch into a future that is dominated by those who preached the austerity doctrine in the first place. Ireland's growth capacity has been compromised; the best and brightest — our engineers, architects, doctors, nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs — have left and the morale of those remaining is being destroyed. This is not "adjustment"; it is tantamount to self-harm. The second reason for a managed exit by Ireland is that these same policies are doing enormous damage to two of the most fundamental pillars of a stable and functioning democratic economy... At the micro-level, in schools and local health provision, they are doing damage that will take years to reverse... Austerity has, however, reinforced German hegemony within the eurozone and there is little evidence of the solidarity that was once at the heart of the European project... There is no longer any appetite for the argument that only further integration will solve this crisis. This is a self-serving argument and finds no resonance among national populations. There is always a danger to democracy when the elite — the "authorities" — become semi-detached from the beliefs of the people from whom they get their legitimacy... Those who aspire to national leadership would come out from behind the barricades of "There is no alternative" and would take up again the freedoms and responsibilities of which they are trustees.

These are not my words but those of an established and prominent economist, Professor Ray Kinsella, Professor of Banking and Finance at the Smurfit Post-Graduate Business School of UCD, writing this week in the Irish Examiner. He was arguing for a managed exit from the eurozone but not the EU, effected through a meeting of peripheral countries to plan resistance to the EU central powers. This motion does not go that far. It merely seeks that the option of leaving the eurozone be made available through planned treaty changes and that is a proposal I support.

I am amazed that both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil seek to delete this call from the motion. The achievement of such an option would be only the start. The central EU powers should be told that Ireland's bank-related debt must be mutualised across the eurozone in proportion to GDP, otherwise Ireland will unilaterally default and encourage other peripheral countries to do likewise and that Ireland would have to consider exiting the euro irrespective of treaties. Without such a stance there will of course be no re-negotiation, just continued capitulation to the austerity policies of Germany and its allies. Today vulture finance companies are buying half the country for a song and international investors are raping the country like the British landlords of old. Davitt organised a plan of campaign and Connolly set about the re-conquest of Ireland. We are faced with a similar task today but where are the Davitts and the Connollys? Soon we will commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising and like Pearse, I am convinced that this generation will rediscover new leaders who will push aside the current ones on their way to the re-conquest of Ireland. I support the motion.

Prior to the Maastricht treaty the creation of the European monetary system in 1979 functioned fairly well due to the residual capital controls and the frequent exchange rate alignments. After 1987, however, the system became far more rigid while capital controls were abolished as a result of the Single Market programme. Countries were increasingly obliged to follow the German interest rate policy which became more restrictive in the wake of the unification of Europe. The subsequent collapse in 1992 and 1993 can be seen as inevitable since there was a limit to the extent to which the national governments were prepared to subordinate national monetary policy to the requirements of a fixed exchange rate regime or to tolerate higher interest rates and growing unemployment in order to stay pegged to the Deutsche mark.

In our case, within the eurozone, we have become victims of excessive lending and a rapid growth economy fuelled largely on the assumption that the lending was reckless and was channelled through the books of the banks and other financial institutions. The result has been a property bubble, wage and cost inflation, the loss of competitiveness, the eventual crisis associated with the rediscovery of risk, the reversal of capital flows and the insolvency of the banks through which the capital flows had been channelled. It is our misfortune that unlike Finland and for instance, even the United States and the UK we do not have our own currency to devalue in order to regain our competitiveness.

Since 2008 we have been pursuing a policy of disproportionate slashing of public expenditure. For such a strategy to succeed and to have any chance of working everything else has to go right. In particular, foreign economies must remain buoyant since export markets become vital when our own domestic economy is being squeezed. The chickens are now coming home to roost as a result of our compliance with European austerity since 2009 and 2010. This was egged on by the conservative-minded people who saw this as a great opportunity to shrink the State and at this stage it is an unmitigated disaster for the country. In order for such a strategy to work debt burdens also need to be reduced which is one reason among many why saddling the Irish taxpayer with the debts of the now defunct banks is unconscionable and unethical in the extreme.

The recent Croke Park II deal was rejected and that is a rejection of the servitude which the Irish people have had to endure over the past four years. Hopefully the Labour Relations Commission, with Kieran Mulvey, Kevin Foley and Anna Perry will succeed in achieving an amicable settlement with all the people employed in the public service through the revived discussions in which they are now engaged. If they achieve this they will have done what the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, failed to achieve with his initial proposals in those talks. Some of the proposals put to nurses, teachers, gardaí and local authority workers and all the others employed in the public service were toxic.

We all recognise that the gap between current expenditure and revenue has to be gradually closed in the medium to long term but we cannot achieve growth in the economy and therefore growth in employment by this means solely. If this course is to be pursued further and is the only option we are going to take we will grind gradually to a halt, employment will grind down and eventually the economy will be ground down to the floor. The ECB should look at what the Fed in the US is doing under Ben Bernanke and the UK Central Bank under Mervyn King. Both have controlled policies of systematic quantitative easing, in other words, they are printing their own money. Although everyone realises that this is a policy that one can pursue for only two or three years at least it improves the liquidity in the economy. The problem in the eurozone is that there is a paranoid relationship with the German economic psyche which fears the slightest increase in inflation and no matter how irrational this may be or how short to medium term it has not allowed the ECB to pursue the policy being pursued in the United States and the UK.

In addition to this, the Central Bank, in association with the European Central Bank, should carry out an econometric analysis of the effects of a devaluation of the euro which would make exports for the eurozone more competitive. I support the motion tabled by Deputy Thomas Pringle and the Technical Group.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett spoke about the lack of democracy in the decision-making process in the European Union. The Lisbon treaty which was passed in 2009 and which he strongly opposed extended co-decision making to the European Parliament which now has the same powers as the Council which is made up of the Prime Ministers of the member states. That is an extension of democracy. There was also an extension of democracy to this Parliament which now has new powers to have an input into the decisions of the European Union. The institutions of the European Union have not only been added to through the European External Action Service but also through greater transparency. The extra democracy added to the Union’s institutions by the Lisbon treaty was opposed by the Deputy who claimed there was a lack of democracy in Europe.

The number of countries that wish to join the European Union is increasing all the time. If matters are so bad in the Union, why are so many countries anxious to join?

Deputy Finian McGrath referred to militarisation and believes we are joining NATO. We are not. Any time we embark on a peacekeeping mission it is subject to the triple lock mechanism which requires a UN Security Council resolution, a Government decision and a parliamentary vote. In fact, the European Union is far from being about militarisation. On 23 April in Pristina representatives of Serbia and Kosovo sat down to agree to parity of esteem between the two countries for the first time ever under the umbrella of the European Union. In the 1980s the Union brought in Spain, Greece and Portugal, former dictatorships. It is now achieving the same purpose in the Balkans and it is a desirable approach. I agree with the President, Mr. Higgins’s remarks on seeking a review and a renewal of the European Union to ensure solidarity and a vision for peace remain part of its goal.

Deputy Shane Ross asked why Ireland should be on the back foot. It is obvious why it is on the back foot. It is because of the actions of bankers and their henchmen and the way our finances were undermined. The Deputy asked where were the jobs and growth the Government had promised. We promised we would travel using a roadmap that would require a degree of austerity. That is what we have had and sacrifices have been made. In 2011 we witnessed the first period of economic growth in five years, with a growth rate of 1.4%. In 2012 it was 0.9%. This year the ESRI estimates it will be 1.8% and could be 2.6% next year. This is happening at a time when we are still in a bailout programme and only Germany is experiencing any growth, while the rest of the European Union is stagnant. We are on the way back.

James Connolly who was referred to by a Member opposite was actually an internationalist. He would have been the first person who would have wanted to see a cross-border union, with member states united in solidarity. He would have welcomed this approach towards peace in the European Union, with solidarity between peoples and communities.

He opposed empires though.

He would not think much of the ECB.

I am not sure about that.

We serve neither king nor kaiser - that is what James Connolly always said.

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

I remind those practical capitalists on the benches opposite that, under the international human development index, the rating of country wealth, Ireland ranks seventh out of 187 countries.

The Minister of State is absolutely right. That is why we should tax the wealthy in this country.

That is the case, even in the middle of a bailout programme.

The richest 300 only pay 5% tax. We need to start taxing the superwealthy.

The rant about Ireland going down the tubes, with the paucity of ideas from Members opposite, is not credible.

I wish to share time with Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and Thomas Pringle.

I am grateful to Deputy Thomas Pringle and the Technical Group for tabling the motion. It is a subject that was overdue for debate in this House and I hope that after this debate it will be debated further by the media and the people, as it is one of the most important issues facing us.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell accused Deputy Thomas Pringle of sedation, which is incorrect. It is more correct to say the majority of parties in this House are guilty of sedating the people. For the past two decades they have sleepwalked the people into a situation where we are now told we will all starve, unless we opt for a complete united Europe. We are told that when we vote against European treaties, we do not understand them. This evening Government Deputies have told us we do not understand what is good for us. Deputy Fergus O’Dowd told us to have sense and wake up, yet that is the very reason parties such as the UKIP, the UK Independence Party, are doing so well in Great Britain. Parties such as the Labour Party in Britain and the Labour Party here are ignoring genuine concerns about how the European project is going. Saying to people they do not understand is driving them into a frenzy and getting them more annoyed. They do understand when they see their children are out of work and neither the European project, the Lisbon treaty nor the European Stability Mechanism has delivered jobs. No matter how many times the Government tells them to wake up and have a bit of sense, it will not work, unless the problems created are solved.

With regard to the eurozone, it is time to do the proverbial or get off the pot. It has to be one or the other. Either we go hook, line and sinker for full fiscal union or we move in the other direction. The last opinion poll on this issue showed 25% of people in the State believed we should move in the other direction. It is bad enough now with how we are dictated to by the European Union. If we opt for full fiscal union, it will tell us everything we should do and we will have no choice. There are two straps on the straitjacket already. Opting for full fiscal union will put another one on it and leave us in serious trouble.

We were told by Deputy Harrington, to provide some reassurance, that to understand how wonderful the euro was, we should look at where we were.

That is not the best way to reassure people. One of the reasons we are experiencing massive debt is we joined the eurozone. I acknowledge we had rubbish Governments, which did not help. We are experiencing massive unemployment. I am looking at where we are. Is that meant to encourage us?

Let us look at where we were, a time to which Deputy Noonan hopes we can return, when we had real growth. At the time, during the 1990s, we had our own currency and we were not connected to sterling. Ireland had just pulled out of the ERM. We were connected to no one but ourselves and we made the decisions. Economic growth between 1993 and 1999 was 6% on average. We have never experienced that without imaginary growth generated by housing bubbles and unlimited credit. We have proven we can go it alone. It is not the case that eurozone members only buy our goods; we buy an equal volume their goods. It is not as if they will get thick with us and not sell their products to us anymore. Trade will continue, as it should.

We should have a little more confidence in this country. We have brilliant things going for us. We have every right to be as confident as the Swiss, Norwegians, Swedish and Icelanders, who all have their own currency. We have more going for us and it is time the Government parties stopped putting us down and saying we cannot survive. We can survive on our steam if we give it a chance.

Nuair a thosaigh an díospóireacht maidir leis an EU blianta ó shin, caithfidh mé a admháil nach rabhthas riamh ina bfhábhar. Cheap mé go mbéimid i bfhad níos fearr as fanacht amach but the people voted several times and that is where we are. I am glad I live in a democracy. I believe in democracy, particularly as a woman, when I think of those countries where there is a lack of democratic rights because people live under dictators or despots. However, our democracy is being seriously undermined by the decisions that are being made about us, our society and our economy outside this country. As the motion states, we are under the control of the ECB as a member of the eurozone. Coming down the line is an unelected European Commission setting out a range of fundamental EU treaty changes. How is that democratic? We spent 800 years under British occupation and we have had approximately 90 years of independence. I wonder whether we value this independence and why the Government is content, for whatever reasons, to allow the Union to be master of our destiny.

I acknowledge the work of Deputy Pringle in getting this topic aired in the Chamber and in opening up a proper discussion on the eurozone. There was a nationwide public consultations process for the review of the White Paper on Irish Aid. It was a good process and I would value a similar process to examine our membership of the eurozone. Like Deputy Catherine Murphy, I am a member of the Constitutional Convention, and there may be a role for the convention in this regard when we conclude the eight specified topics under discussion. Our President recently asked what we mean by "European" and by "the Union". These are the central issues that should be addressed in the public debate.

Two phrases apply to our membership of the Union - one is putting all one's eggs in one basket and the other is the little fish in the big pond. An unlimited supply of money to banks and states led to a crash and nobody wanted to hear the words "Enough" or "Stop". We then had the massive blanket bank guarantee here followed by massive devastation and burdens on eurozone members, including Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Italy. We are members of this EU club and being a member of a club carries responsibilities, which I accept. However, we also have rights. Some of our rights are being eroded. Where is the justice for people in bailing out every bank and bondholder and implementing austerity? There is little equality and democracy in the EU club. We are paying disproportionately and those who had the least to do with the banking crisis are paying the heaviest price. I support the Ballyhea Says No campaign to meet high level ECB and Commission officials to discuss these matters and for them to hear the voices of ordinary people instead of the voices of politicians and their officials.

The fiscal political union has done little to address the social pact, which was an original fundamental of the Union. I was impressed by what the President said when he referred to the loss of social cohesion and the deficit of democratic accountability. He reminded us of what European values were - personal dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and rule of law. Those values are being seriously undermined because we are not seeing an EU that is inclusive or respectful of equality; we are witnessing an unelected Commission determined to pursue the establishment of the great European marketplace that will protect certain people in institutions with little or no regard for ordinary people like the unemployed and the disabled - daoine ar an imeall.

We had a lovely video from an inner city school a few years ago, "Give Up Yer Aul Sins". It is time we had a similar one entitled "Give Up Yer Aul Austerity". Membership of the eurozone has to be a vehicle to benefit all in Irish and European society. We are giving away control of our economic destiny but alarm bells rang when I read about Mr. Barroso wanting to transform the EU into "a federation of nation states with increasing powers for Brussels". He further said: "The world needs a Europe capable of deploying military missions to help stabilize the situation in crisis areas... and to begin truly collective defence planning." Our Army has done great work as a peacekeeping organisation and it has a role working with armies in the developing world on human rights and on the treatment of women.

I would like to keep our membership of the Union under review regarding its benefit to the people of Ireland and not just its benefit to certain sections of our society and provided we can preserve our autonomy.

I thank my colleagues in the Technical Group for supporting the motion and other Members for their contributions, although many of the contributions were standard and disappointing in the context of the debate in the State about the future of Europe. The motion only calls for two simple actions - to initiate a debate through civil society on the future direction of the EU and to ensure treaty change includes a process to allow members to voluntary leave the eurozone and not the Union. What was missing from the Government contributions was a discussion about the future of the Union. That is a sign of the problems in the State and the Government. There is no discussion about the future. I remind Members that Barroso, Hollande and Merkel are all talking about the future and they have a map and a plan of where the future will lie. Barroso has said in the past that Europe has all the hallmarks of an empire. On 7 May, he stated: "The proposals he will bring forward on treaty change will look like political science fiction but they will be a reality in a few years time". He is looking to the future and he knows what future he wants for Europe. Hollande wants an EU government with harmonised taxes and budgets to tackle the crisis. Merkel wants more Europe and wants to work towards the creation of a European army. They know the future they want and is it because the Government parties know what it is that they do not want to have this debate and do not want the people to know where the future lies. The future is a united states of Europe or a federal Europe with an army and a centralised government in which a nation such as Ireland will have no say and will only be a small part of it.

The amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are interesting. The parties have pegged their political futures and the future of this country to stabilising the euro and getting through this crisis with the euro intact. The trade off for that will be the political science fiction to which Barroso referred coming to fruition. The political parties will peg themselves to stabilising the euro and, in the meantime, sleepwalk the country into the united states of Europe. The Taoiseach stated in the House last June that this would never happen and he would never let it happen on his watch. However, it will happen over the next few years and we will wake up some morning and realise we are in a united states of Europe with everyone wondering how we got there. We will have arrived at that point because we pegged ourselves solely to the preservation of the euro. The only policy the Government is pursuing is to maintain the euro and the trade off for that will be the creation of the European super state that the elite in Europe wants to make a reality.

That is the sad reflection of this Government's policy on the eurozone and the euro currency. We should ensure a treaty change to allow a member state to voluntarily leave the euro and leave policy options open. Fianna Fáil said the euro is irrevocably and irreplaceably here to stay. The European Central Bank said the same and that it was never intended that any member state would leave the economic and monetary union but this motion calls for that option. It is a policy option which a Government can pursue but every party in this House has tied itself to the euro and the further integration to complete fiscal union and to the political union which goes with it.

Deputy Mitchell accused me of sedition for tabling this motion. I am afraid we need to see more sedition in this House. We saw the sedition of the Labour Party before the election when it promised all sorts of things in terms of what it would do in Europe. However, when it got under the ring of Fine Gael, which is the Irish version of the Tory Party and not anybody on the Independent benches, its sedition was slowly put to an end. We need more sedition and more debate about what the future holds so that we can make our decisions on the basis of knowledge and not blindly follow what we are told to do.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 37.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J..
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J..
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P..
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies John Halligan and Thomas Pringle.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 82; Níl, 36.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies John Halligan and Thomas Pringle.
Question declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23 May 2013.