1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he held bilateral meetings when he visited Boston to receive an honorary degree; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23703/13]
Vol. 810 No. 1
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he held bilateral meetings when he visited Boston to receive an honorary degree; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23703/13]
2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the meetings he attended when visiting Boston; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25193/13]
3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the issue of the Boston College Belfast oral history project papers when he was at the college recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26617/13]
4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he met any of the undocumented Irish groups when in Boston; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26624/13]
5. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he had any meeting in relation to Ireland's corporation tax rate during his recent visit to Boston; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27873/13]
6. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach to detail the bilateral meetings he held on his recent visit to Boston. [31610/13]
7. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach to indicate the discussions he had on the issue of the undocumented Irish during his recent visit to Boston. [31611/13]
8. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the details of any bilateral meetings which he may have had on his recent visit to Boston College. [31810/13]
9. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to Boston; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31931/13]
10. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the business leaders he met during his recent visit to Boston; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33200/13]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, together.
I visited Boston from 18 to 20 May following an invitation from Fr. William Leahy, president of Boston College, to receive an honorary degree in law and deliver the commencement address at the 2013 graduation ceremony. This was a very prestigious honour, particularly as Boston College is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Much of its history and development as an institution of higher education have been shaped by ties to Ireland. I was pleased to accept the honorary degree and deliver the commencement address on behalf of all the people of Ireland on Monday, 20 May. I also addressed the annual commencement eve dinner at the college on Sunday, 19 May, with a number of other guests who were also receiving honorary degrees.
In addition, I was invited as guest of honour to a dinner on Saturday, 18 May at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's visit to Ireland in 1963. The JFK Presidential Library and Museum is the national official memorial to the late President. The dinner was hosted by the library foundation and also attended by Senator and Mrs. Paul Kirk.
During my visit to Boston I also visited the memorial site of the Boston marathon bombings at Copley Square, with Commissioner of Police Edward Davis, where I placed a floral tribute as a gesture of respect to the dead and injured. I took the opportunity during my various speaking engagements in Boston to praise the courage, dignity and strength shown by Bostonians following the bombings.
On the Monday morning I addressed a business breakfast organised by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland and attended by senior executives from a range of companies with business interests in Ireland and the United States. I highlighted the strengths of Ireland as a location in which to do business and for companies looking to internationalise or expand their existing geographical footprint. My tight schedule did not allow for bilateral meetings with any of the companies present at the business breakfast.
This was a relatively short visit and there were no bilateral political meetings scheduled in my programme. I did not have any meeting regarding Ireland's corporation tax rate, nor did my programme include specific meetings with representatives of the undocumented Irish groups. However, as I previously reported to the House, I had a number of meetings on the issue of immigration reform during my March visit to Washington. There has since been significant progress on this issue generally in the United States. I very much welcome the recent vote by the US Senate to approve a Bill that provides for comprehensive reform of that country's immigration system. This is a very positive development that takes us another step closer to addressing the problems faced by undocumented Irish emigrants. I strongly welcome the provisions in the Bill to address the concerns of our undocumented and the specific E3 provisions for Ireland that provide a legal pathway for the future. I am also pleased that the Bill includes provisions to allow for a continuation of the summer J1 visa programme that has meant so much to successive generations of young Irish people. The focus will now move to the House of Representatives and the Government will continue to follow the issue closely and remain engaged with key stakeholders. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, travels to Washington this week for further discussions on the issue.
I did not have any detailed discussion regarding the Boston College history papers during the visit. As the House is aware, this matter may be the subject of further legal proceedings and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.
I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. He indicated that he had very little time for bilateral meetings during his recent visit to Boston. I am somewhat concerned that he did not meet representatives of the undocumented Irish, as requested by them. It is important that he and Ministers should make time for meetings with these groups when visiting the United States in order to get a sense of the impact on people's lives of the lack of movement or momentum on immigration reform during the years. The people concerned and their families are living in traumatic circumstances and would certainly have appreciated a meeting with the Taoiseach. I hope he will accommodate them during future visits. It is important, too, that the Tánaiste would allow the all-party delegation from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade to accompany him to any meeting he has this week with Members of Congress.
The Belfast oral history project papers relate to a very sensitive and important issue. For the researchers and designers of the project - Anthony McIntyre, a former member of the IRA, and the journalist Ed Moloney - it was an endeavour to get to the truth of the various operations and the murder and mayhem which took place over a long period. Arising from that Belfast project is a very fine publication by Mr. Moloney, Voices From the Grave, a book which every Member of this House should read. It sets out in great detail the appalling atrocities committed by the IRA and loyalist gangs and exposes many truths about the situation in Northern Ireland during that period.
There have been moves by the PSNI and the British authorities to seek the recovery of some of these recordings to help them in pursuing their investigation into the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. It is a great pity that we are nowhere near a resolution of that crime such a long time after the event. Mrs. McConville was a widow struggling to bring up ten children when she was abducted and murdered, a crime to which the IRA admitted in a statement. As Mr. Moloney's book outlines, Brendan Hughes who was a key member of the Belfast brigade of the IRA at the time pulls no punches in his claims of who ordered that killing. There have been various calls for people to assist in the discovery of the truth in this matter. Mr. Hughes has gone to his reward, but he made clear his views on the claims by the leader of Sinn Féin of having had no involvement in the IRA and so on. Mr. Moloney's book is quite explicit in terms of the quotations by Mr. Hughes taken from the tapes. Some of the recordings have been secured by the PSNI, but others have not.
It is a difficult and sensitive situation in that the individuals who recorded the interviews with former combatants were allowed to do so on the understanding the recordings would be protected until after the deaths of the individuals concerned. However, the fate of the disappeared is one of the unresolved issues of the peace process, particularly the murder of Jean McConville. Those who have any information on these matters should make a statement to the police. Moreover, I would invite the leader of Sinn Féin to make a statement to the House on this matter, given the gravity of what occurred and the gravity and scale of the allegations set out in a publication which has been in circulation for some time. If the same allegations were made against any other Member of this House, there would be clarion calls for him or her to confirm to the House and the public the veracity or otherwise of those rather blunt allegations.
It is a very sordid tale and I am surprised that the Taoiseach did not have any discussion on the matter during his trip to the United States. I have met one of the authors of the project and, without casting aspersions on anybody in this House, it is fair to say he has genuine fears for his life as a consequence of the release of the tapes. At the same time, it is my view that nobody should stand in the way of the PSNI in endeavouring to pursue its investigation into these matters to the fullest extent possible. The former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Mrs. Nuala O'Loan, made it very clear, having carried out her own investigation into the matter, that there was no evidence to sustain the allegation that Jean McConville had been an informant. Deputy Adams owes it to the House to make a comment on it.
We are talking about Boston.
I wrote to Senator Hillary Clinton about this and I am asking the Taoiseach whether he sees the need to discuss the pursuit of this by the PSNI and the British authorities with the American authorities. The Tánaiste met with the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, recently. Perhaps the Taoiseach can outline whether the Government, through the Minister for Justice and Equality or the Tánaiste, has had any dealings with the American authorities.
We are talking about Boston at the moment.
I am asking about Question No. 3, which is to do with the oral history project.
There is no disagreement between Deputy Martin and myself in respect of these issues. It was a very short visit and the tightness of the schedule meant we could not have formal bilateral meetings. Like every Member, I share the view of the necessity of doing something about the undocumented Irish. I am in regular contact with a number of people in the United States about the progress of the Bill through the Seanad. The problem will be in the House of Representatives. We continuously get a stream of queries and requests for information about what is happening. It may be that it will have to go to a conference committee of the Senate and the House, depending on the issues raised by representatives in Congress. The point made by the Deputy is clear and there is no disagreement in the House.
In formal visits to the United States, we try to fit in meetings with the representatives of the undocumented. The Tánaiste is going out this week to have meetings with Congress people on the Hill in respect of the Bill that will come before them. With regard to taking the advice of the representatives on the best thing to do, we will be happy to be associated with that work. Through the embassy and the range of public representatives from all parties, we are anxious to do that.
I read Voices from the Grave. I have had words with Deputy Adams before about the late Jean McConville. After Question Time and the Order of Business, I will meet with representatives of the disappeared. We both know the feeling of an end not having been brought about when someone has died or disappeared. It is very important for the families, irrespective of where they come from, that a sense of closure be obtained. I have learned this, particularly from the families of people who were lost at sea. There is a feeling that something is missing, literally, when the remains are never recovered.
The section in the book concerning Jean McConville is stark and strong. I do not know the answer. When Deputy Gerry Adams comments, he may well make the statement that he has made to me before. This is about information contained in a number of tapes that have been sent on to the PSNI. I do not know what they contain but they arise from the oral history project at Boston College. When we talk about bringing closure and healing to the communities in Northern Ireland, this element of the disappeared is a central feature. I read the evidence from Nuala O'Loan on the fact that there was nothing to prove the late Jean McConville was an informant. I also read the Hughes allegations about the decision to have her killed and about what was to be done with the body. I do not know the truth of it; nor does Deputy Martin. Mr. Hughes makes comments about Deputy Gerry Adams, whom I cannot speak for in that regard.
I did not have any opportunity on that short occasion to have detailed discussions about the oral history project with the people in Boston College. It was the subject of court cases and I understand some of the tapes have been handed over to the PSNI.
The Taoiseach has put great store on the question of Ireland's international reputation. Time and again he has cited the importance of maintaining and rehabilitating Ireland's reputation on the international stage as a key reason for continuing the bailout of banks and protecting the financial system, as he calls it - it is because our international reputation is so important. In his recent visit to the United States, did the Taoiseach feel that the visit coincided with stunning revelations emanating from a US congressional committee that American companies were using Ireland as a tax shelter to avoid paying tax, were paying little or no corporation tax and were using the State as a means to avoid paying tax, and that this did immense damage to our international reputation and our reputation in United States, in which the Taoiseach puts so much store? Does the Taoiseach think, in light of these and similar allegations made in the British Parliament, that Ireland is a tax haven and is facilitating aggressive tax avoidance by US multinationals, and that if we are to protect our international reputation we must be seen to take vigorous, aggressive and serious action to get to the bottom of this? Does the Taoiseach not think that the shooting down of a proposal made by me, Deputy Pearse Doherty and Deputy Joe Higgins at the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform that the representatives of Google, Facebook and Apple should come before the committee to answer questions on their tax avoidance schemes and how they use this country to that effect is damaging to the international reputation the Taoiseach thinks is so important was wrong? How can he square his defence of Ireland's international reputation with the fact that he, his party and his Government are involved in a conspiracy of silence about Ireland's corporate tax regime and the use of this country by US multinationals as a tax haven and shelter? How can he square these two things, and will he do anything about it if our reputation, which he considers so important, is not to be left in tatters?
I do not accept the assertion that Ireland is a tax haven and I do not accept that there has been a conspiracy of silence. I spoke to Senator McCain about both issues at the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington. This matter was never mentioned and, in respect of the business people I met in Boston, it is fully understood that this country is not a tax haven. Ireland's reputation internationally is something we value greatly. It has been restored, as has the sense of consistency and stability in regard to the corporation tax rate and, in respect of American investment here, our understanding of the talent pool we have in the country and our ability to cater for the changes that occur with the development of biotechnology, genetics, the Internet, nanotechnology and other areas, not to mention the financial services, where people look for creative, imaginative and challenged young people. They are very happy about that in terms of our reputation.
This happened during the course of our Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which had three pillars: stability, growth and jobs. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, had the privilege of chairing one of the meetings of finance Ministers. That is why tax fraud and evasion and aggressive tax planning were central features of the Presidency pillars.
Great progress was made on those. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and Commissioner Semeta issued a joint letter to ECOFIN Ministers in April urging action on fraud and aggressive tax planning. They identified a number of areas. In May, the ECOFIN agreement on aggressive tax planning and good governance was concluded and acknowledged by member states. Importantly, the Council conclusions recognised that there are international tax issues which cannot be solved through unilateral action by individual countries. It will require collaborative and collective responsibility.
Why can we not bring them in to the committee to answer the questions?
We can only tax companies on the profits they make here. Many companies use multi-jurisdictional tax approaches. The end result may be that through the use of those other tax environments, the rate of tax is reduced from our 12.5% corporate tax rate. It is recognised that this cannot be dealt with individually and the approach must be collective. That is why the European Council, which I attended, was very happy to adopt the principle of achieving a new international code of tax practice. Countries which have traditionally been less forthcoming about their tax systems are now agreed. The anti-fraud package encompasses a quick-reaction mechanism to combat sudden and massive VAT fraud. The expansion of the reverse-charge mechanism was a priority for our Presidency. Political agreement was achieved on the package being delivered at the June ECOFIN meeting and the savings directive was put through. Ireland was the fourth country to sign up with the United States on the FATCA agreement on the sharing of information on tax. We have been very forthcoming on that. We have also been forthcoming on our involvement as a focus group for the OECD, which is now setting out the standards and work to be done to implement a new international tax system. Ireland was responsible during the Presidency for achieving agreement on a mandate for amendments to the savings tax agreement with Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco to ensure there is an equivalence of measures across the European Union.
I do not accept Deputy Boyd Barrett's assertion that Ireland is a tax haven. I do not accept his assertion that there is a conspiracy of silence here. I accept that the reputation of the country is of critical importance. That reputation has been restored. It is accepted in business circles that Ireland's corporate tax rate is transparent, applies across the spectrum and has been deemed to represent an effective rate of 11.9% by the World Bank. The Deputy has made his case before. I do not accept it, consistent though he is in his argument.
I join the Taoiseach in his welcome for the recent decision by the US Senate to approve a comprehensive immigration reform Bill which has the potential to lift the fear of discovery and expulsion with which many undocumented Irish citizens working in the USA are burdened. I acknowledge that it must get through Congress etc. I recognise in particular the efforts of all who have lobbied on the issue. I think well of the work of Ciaran Staunton and others. He was on a conference call to the all-party group in the Oireachtas to brief people on what is required. Interestingly, an all-island approach is being taken between the Assembly and the Oireachtas. Some concerns have been expressed, including concerns about the future of the J1 visa programme which allows thousands of students to work in the USA. I understand a fee of $1,000 will have to paid by a student's employer or other sponsor in the USA. Many students do not have an employer in place before they go and some employers may not be willing to pay even this reduced fee. I ask the Taoiseach to obtain clarification on that issue. I note the Tánaiste's visit. Clearly, all of us must use our contacts on Capitol Hill to lobby for the Bill. The Tánaiste should meet with activists and those who are working with the undocumented Irish. It would be useful to bring an all-party grouping from the Oireachtas and, or, Stormont. Each party has its own contacts and personal relationships, all of which could prove influential in facilitating the passage of the legislation. I ask the Taoiseach to ask the Tánaiste to consider that.
I am uncertain as to whether I should ignore the leader of Fianna Fáil in his charges. Sometimes, it is impossible to know what the right thing to do is when someone comes in with a book, parades it in the Chamber, makes accusations and engages in weasel words. Should I sit on my dignity and let this pass or get up and speak to the issue? I was very taken last week talking about other tapes - the Anglo Irish Bank tapes - to note mentally that the leader of Fianna Fáil spoke to the Taoiseach and said "You choose to exploit the past, not to learn from it". I said "Micheál, I hope you remember that". The Boston tapes is a matter that is in the hands of the PSNI and it will do with that what it wants. I have been very restrained in my comments about all of that and will continue to be. I have consistently rejected claims, however, by those who accuse me of having any knowledge of or part in the disappearance and killing of Jean McConville.
The issue of those who were detained, abducted, shot and buried by the IRA is a terrible legacy of the conflict. We know it is not unique to this phase of the conflict. It has happened at other times. There are still issues going back to the Civil War and the Tan war, which have to be resolved. At least, this generation of republicans, among whom I count myself, is trying to undo the wrong that was done. Clearly, those who were killed cannot be brought back to life, but I do think that a grievous wrong was done. For its part, the IRA, which is now on ceasefire, has left the stage and is not around, apologised for what it did. I have been very much part of the effort to retrieve these remains since I was approached by some of the families. Some of the families are republican families. Some of them are friends of mine. Some of them are neighbours of mine. Fr. Alec Reid, others and I have worked very hard, which the leader of Fianna Fáil must know. The commission was established under a Government of which he was a part. The different suggestions that were put and the co-operation the IRA, including what were referred to as "primary sources", gave to the commission are matters of public record. The man who is in charge of the special forensic investigating team, which was put in place on suggestion from us, has acknowledged all of this. He said in 2009 that those who were working with him were working in a spirit of co-operation and reconciliation to help in every way they could. He said he was absolutely convinced that they were doing everything they could to assist.
Now, we come to how this is used to score political points. I am also meeting the families this evening. I made the point earlier that some of them are friends of mine and many are my neighbours. Those who make the accusation against me, apart from those in the Dáil, are implacable opponents of the peace process.
They say there should not be a peace process and the war should have continued, and they attack me as a means of undermining that. Some of them are past, some of them are still active and some of them are still out there. At least, they have their convictions. They are not doing it for electoral gain. They are not doing it for political point scoring. They are not doing it as a Fianna Fáil leader trying to reclaim the republican mantle which was so despoiled by successive Fianna Fáil leaderships which let the people down in a most deplorable and anti-republican way.
It is also my view that those who brought together this Belfast project have a similar view. These two individuals who misled are not supporters of the peace process. They have since acknowledged that they could not and should not have given the commitments which they gave that these would not be revealed until these individuals were dead.
I am trying not to fall into the trap here of trading points on other people's wounds with the leader of Fianna Fáil. I have a deep investment in what is happening in the North. I will continue to have a deep investment. I do not shy away, I do not hide, I do not disassociate myself but I like to think that I am also defined, as are those who work with me, by what we have still to do.
I would appeal, once again, because I believe - I cited the person in charge of the forensic team's statement that republicans are co-operating actively - the remains of nine of these persons have been recovered and are in graves that their families can visit. Seven have still to be found. Not all of those seven were killed by the IRA, but seven have still to be found and we all need to do our best to play a positive role in this. I appeal, once again, to anyone with any information whatsoever, no matter how small, tiny or insignificant he or she thinks it might be, to bring that forward to the commission, to the families, to the Garda or to the PSNI, or to me or anyone else he or she thinks can usefully bring this forward to help these families.
There is some merit in the suggestion, at the appropriate time and at the appropriate level, and taking the advice of those in Congress in Washington as to whether to send an all-party delegation about this. Clearly, other nationalities have an interest as well and one does not want to be seen to have the entire Bill focused on one country. Obviously, we have our interests here in that regard. We did this previously and there is no difficulty, at the appropriate time and at the appropriate level, in having representatives of the Dáil travel to engage with the representatives, both Democrat and Republican, in Washington about our interest in seeing that the Bill would go through and, if it is not to go through, that, out of the amalgamation of the Senate and the House of Representatives, we keep a close eye on this.
Of all of those who were shot, murdered or killed during the troubled period in Northern Ireland, the name of the late Mrs. Jean McConville stands out because of the notoriety of the case and because of her family circumstances. I accept Deputy Adams's view that if there are persons out there with information of assistance in finding the remains of persons who were shot and taken away - and God knows what happened to them or was done to them that their bodies have not been recovered and been allowed to be repatriated to family graves - and there are such persons, they should come and give that to members of the authority or whoever.
As I stated, quite a long time ago I also read that book, but I saw a short piece of a television programme that Deputy Adams did on this some time ago where he was asked a direct question as to whether there was an involvement from him in this case or not, and he answered that question. Leaving the Boston tapes aside, this is a fairly serious book. I do not know the individuals, Mr. Brendan Hughes or Mr. Ed Moloney, who wrote it, but people would like to hear Deputy Adams confirm in the Dáil that what is written in that book is simply not true.
Did the Taoiseach not hear me a moment ago?
Yes, of course.
The Taoiseach should not play the same games as Deputy Martin plays.
I will give Deputy Adams the opportunity to reply. The people want to hear a voice of reconciliation looking forward to a future here where that closure can be brought in so far as that can happen. It is difficult after 30 years to go and pinpoint exact spots and that is why the commission, in conducting its investigations, has had to have carried out excavations in a range of areas as to where bodies are supposed to be dumped or laid to rest. The people would like Deputy Adams to say here that what Mr. Hughes and Mr. Moloney state in that book is simply not true and that from the Deputy's personal responsibility in a different time and place, we can be clear on that. I accept Deputy Adams's word on his interest in seeing closure brought to the matter of these bodies that have not been recovered. In the case of the late Mrs. McConville, he has an opportunity in the Dáil, our Parliament, to address an issue that has affected many people because of the extent of the coverage of this over the years. For one reason or another, those people have always associated Deputy Adams with elements of that and he has a chance here to put it on the record.
Did the Taoiseach not hear me a moment ago, and the last time he raised it as well?
I know that.
He will get the same answer all the time.
The leader of Fianna Fáil is raising it here with the book on his desk.
Both of them will play little games.
Deputy Adams can repeat it again.
It is in the book.
I do not intend repeating it again. I have said it once. I do not have to repeat myself all the time.
We are discussing this matter here.
I said it a moment ago.
Let me now issue the challenge to Deputy Adams to say again on the record for all and sundry that he confirms that he had nothing at all to do with this and we will move on with the commission to see can we bring closure for remains of the disappeared that are not yet recovered.
I thank the Taoiseach for his informative brief on what he did in Boston where he had a busy schedule. I congratulate him on receipt of an honorary doctorate. It is important that we continue to foster relations between Irish America, both at political level and at a more informal level.
There were two matters I wanted to point out. First, I welcome the meeting the Taoiseach held with the US multinationals organised by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Of course, he had Offaly in mind when he was over there. We would welcome them with open arms, particularly increased trips of groups from IDA Ireland.
I suppose I specifically wanted to focus on the efforts that were being made by everybody on the legalisation and citizenship of the undocumented Irish. We have 50,000 over there. It is fantastic that the Bill was passed recently in the Senate but every effort should be made diplomatically to ensure that it gets through the House of Representatives. It is critical. This is the closest it has been in decades, for the 11 million undocumented in the United States but, specifically, for our undocumented. Recently, I had contact from a parent whose daughter is over there for a number of years. She is doing really well but, unfortunately, cannot come home for those important family events that we all treasure and that make life so worthwhile. What strategy does the Government employ as a rule in terms of linking in with the various lobby groups over there? I refer to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
The Tánaiste is visiting the US and I welcome that the Taoiseach has had meetings on this matter. Has the Government a specific strategy to deal with this? I am particularly concerned about the citizenship element. We want to ensure that they are given legal status and also citizenship. We do not want our people to be second-class citizens over there.
This is a two-way process, in particular, with regard to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. We are very anxious to maintain the attraction for investment in Ireland from the United States and from other countries. That is why it is important to engage with those groups and corporations to show what is on offer here, the tax rate, the available talent pool, our track record, technology and the capacity to measure up in whatever way that might be. On the other hand, I refer to the growth in Irish-owned companies in the United States which currently employ nearly 100,000 people across 50 states and which speaks for itself. The old tradition of, "Please give us", is gone. There is a very strong contribution being made by Ireland to the US.
In reply to Deputy Corcoran Kennedy, the outcome of the EU-US trade and investment talks will be potentially very significant. I hope this question of the allegations about involvement in retrieving information in European Union institutions is dealt with and the facts made public so that these talks can proceed. They could be concluded within two years. At the G8 summit in Fermanagh President Obama offered that the talks would commence in July in Washington. He set a time limit of two to two and a half years in order to make real progress. This agreement would be in the interests of Irish companies which wish to do business in the US and through a separate agreement with Canada. The agreement would also mean that business could come the other way.
The strategy for dealing with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR, and other groups with regard to immigration issues applies from the very highest level. I raised the matter with President Obama last year and again this year, as we always do. However, we are not in a position to dictate what the US Senate or Congress will do. We have stated clearly that we have an interest and we want to work with them. As the process proceeds we wish to explain the circumstances that apply in respect of our citizens.
While the American President is the most powerful politician on the planet, it is an executive position which must strike a balance between the Senate and the Congress. This was given an impetus by President Obama prior to the recent elections with regard to the Latino vote. Segments of the population which have been in the United States since they were children and before certain dates, were given options. We engage on all sides with the ILIR, with Congressmen and with Senators. We owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Leahy and Senator Schumer who were two of the eight Senators who were the original sponsors of the Senate Bill which has now gone through. The problem is that there are very different views in the House of Representatives and this is where the next battle must be fought. We are not in any position to tell them what they must do. We can tell them what we would like them to do and we can ask them to understand our interest. This is why Members on all sides have engaged with their respective contacts. The Tánaiste is visiting the United States this week. The Irish ambassador and the Irish Embassy in Washington are in constant contact with the various segments and sectors in the Congress. The ILIR - Mr. Staunton and others whom we have met on many occasions - will also keep a very close watching eye.
We would like to think that this matter can be brought to a successful conclusion but it affects many more than just Irish people. At the same time as the Bill was going through, the Senate also approved the expenditure of billions of dollars to build a fence between the US and Mexico. This illustrates the depth of conviction about homeland security and illegal immigration as a result of the 9-11 tragedy.
Our strategy is one of constant engagement and interaction from the level of the President down. We would hope that after a very long campaign over many years the Congress and the representatives of the people will understand the contribution which other nationalities can make to the United States and which they have made - none more so than the Irish - over the past 250 years. We would like to think that this can be brought to a conclusion and that it will provide an opportunity for those who are in the US as undocumented immigrants but who have social security numbers and are contributing to the economy of the United States. Many are married with families and it is hoped this will provide them with a legitimate path to citizenship if that is what they wish. It is a complex issue and the Government is very interested in seeing it make progress. Arising from the suggestion by Deputy Adams, when the time comes we will give consideration to an appropriate level of all-party engagement.
It is clear that the momentum has changed in the United States. The Schumer Bill has made progress because of the electoral and political changes in the United States which is to be welcomed. However, significant work still needs to happen with regard to the Republican Party because that is where the action is. Fianna Fáil facilitated all-party delegations in the past. I ask the Taoiseach if he could ensure there is contact between the Government and the actual undocumented people because this would be of assistance to those who are pursuing their interests. The challenge seems to be to secure a majority of the majority within the House of Representatives, the lower house. It is vital that the Government lobbying should target those who have reservations and are opposed to the Bill. In my view this is a very significant opportunity, in the aftermath of the presidential election, to achieve some progress. The reason there has not been progress to date is because of the political configuration within the United States. There has never been an opportunity to gain considerable consensus across both Houses of Congress and across both parties.
I refer to the Boston College Belfast oral history project. I ask the Taoiseach to consider meeting with the authors of that project, Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney. I reject what Deputy Adams said. The Taoiseach can see for himself that their objective in recording these interviews was not to undermine the peace process in any way. I am not endeavouring to exploit the past; I am dealing with the present. The investigation into Jean McConville's death is happening now; it is a live investigation, not an historical investigation. Hence the PSNI's desire to secure these tapes which has caused difficulties for those involved in recording them in the first instance. When I showed this book to the House, the words I used when I said that this book is a "must read", were exactly the words that Deputy Adams used some months ago here when he also paraded a book in the House and said it was a "must read" for every Deputy in the House. The book dealt with British undercover activities in Northern Ireland. He said it outlined in great detail the approaches of the British Government authorities and army and so on, to undercover activity. He felt it was quite appropriate to bring to our attention the importance-----
What is the name of the book?
It was written by a former British Army general---
I did not bring it in here.
Did Deputy Adams say it was a "must read"? I would say that this is also a "must read". It is wrong to try to undermine the people who were responsible for writing this. They are not anti-peace process. In fact, Anthony McIntyre will say that if the IRA and all those who supported their war were honest, they would have said they should have packed up in 1974. From his perspective, everything since 1974 was a futile killing of life on all sides, that it was not worth the loss of one single life.
We are not going back to the book, Deputy.
I do not accept the view that anyone who says anything against the leader of Sinn Féin or against the Sinn Féin Party is somehow to be demonised and just dismissed as being anti-peace process. We are asked please not to take any heed whatsoever of anything that has been said or written and take no heed of what is in the Belfast oral history project. We are to ignore all of that because it is just too negative for Sinn Féin.
What emanates from the project and the interview is really disbelief over the constant denial of the leader of Sinn Féin that he had any involvement whatsoever in the IRA at the time.
Perhaps the Deputy could table an appropriate parliamentary question.
That is what people find difficult to fathom.
I am in a very awkward position here.
Deputy Adams is in a far better position than anybody in this House to make a comprehensive statement, not only on the McConville case but also generally. As Brendan Hughes asks in the book, who met Willie Whitelaw, and why?
I ask the Deputy to put his questions to the Taoiseach.
It is to that hypocrisy that I am referring. Nobody outside Deputy Adams's set believes he was never in the IRA; that is the bottom line and what people balk at.
You never collaborated with the Brits either.
You collaborated with the Brits.
No, I did not, actually.
The Taoiseach is to reply to Deputy Martin.
To be blunt about it, you need to be careful about who you are accusing. There were too many people within your own fold who collaborated.
You well know what I am talking about.
I cannot answer the question as to who met Willie Whitelaw.
It is not one of the questions that was tabled to the Taoiseach today. I find myself in a very awkward position. In reply to Question No. 3, the Taoiseach said:
I did not have any detailed discussion regarding the Boston College history papers during the visit. As the House is aware, this matter may be the subject of further legal proceedings and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.
Therefore, as Chairman of this House, I find it very awkward not to be seen to be stopping people from raising legitimate points but if somebody says that to me in his capacity as Taoiseach, I have to take note of it, and I ask people to respect that please. If there are other questions to be tabled in that regard, please do so and if they are ruled out or in we will deal with them.
I am quite sure that when the interviews took place, they took place in the context of their not being released for a very significant period. They have been the subject of court cases. Some of the tapes are now in the possession of the PSNI, having been declared eligible in this regard in the court decision. I have not heard the tapes and do not know what the direct response, evidence or information given by the persons who gave the interviews actually means in the context of some of the discussions we have had here.
Let me say in passing, on the issue of Jean McConville-----
I would prefer it if the Deputy did not.
Her family has every right to ask questions about her body's whereabouts and the circumstances of her death. The Taoiseach has the right to ask questions also. How does he square his concern over killings such as that of Jean McConville and his desire for questions to be answered on that subject with his not showing the same vigour and concern when it comes to the equally innocent victims of US foreign policy in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
Could we stick to the questions on the Order Paper?
Should the Taoiseach not have been asking the same questions of the American Administration when he was in Boston?
Perhaps the Deputy would table a parliamentary question.
On the issue of corporate taxation and our reputation, I honestly do not believe the Taoiseach is facing up to the serious questions that are being asked. Yesterday, I noted on the Internet that a company called Dema Partners, an international tax solution consultant, offers corporations 80 “tax havens” around the world where they can avoid tax. Ireland is included as one. The US Senate committee, including both Republicans and Democrats, states Ireland is a tax haven, and experts such as Mr. Richard Murphy in the United Kingdom say Ireland is a tax haven. Members of the British Parliament state Ireland is a tax haven but the Taoiseach says it is not and that everything is fine. How does the Taoiseach explain this? If it walks and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Despite this, the Taoiseach's account conflicts with everybody else's account of what is occurring in terms of corporate tax avoidance by multinationals in Ireland. If the Taoiseach is so concerned about Ireland's international reputation, particularly in the United States, why can we, in our Parliament, not do the same as was done in the US Senate and the British Parliament, that is, bring the representatives of Google, Facebook, Apple and other corporations at the centre of the allegations before our committees to answer questions instead of shooting down proposals to do so, as happened last week at a meeting of the finance committee?
I believed that the Deputy had no time at all for consultants and that he had no interest in their views or comments. Despite this, he comes in here and tells me that some crowd listed 80 tax havens around the world, including Ireland.
What I saw on the Internet was alarming.
I am not sure what information the company is using but statistics indicating Ireland is not a tax haven are accepted by the US Government and the White House. I remind the Deputy of what the chief executive of the major company mentioned in this context said publicly, namely, that no special arrangement or deal was done by this country with his company. We are not entitled to do such a deal anyway because the corporate tax legislation here is statute based and very clear. It cannot allow for special deals to be done with any individual company. The Senate committee may well have its own agenda. Obviously, it has capacity to deal with elements of US tax legislation, if it wishes. I repeat that this country has no difficulty whatsoever in standing up for what we do here and the fact that we can only tax on profits generated here. The World Bank clearly points out that Ireland's effective tax rate is 11.9%. Second, Ireland is the fourth country to sign with the United States with the effect of saying we open our books in terms of the sharing of information about tax issues. Third, during our Presidency, we reached an agreement at the European Council that the principle of the development of a new international tax code has to be dealt with because no individual country can deal with it on its own. As somebody pointed out to me, an item manufactured in Ireland and sold in another country generates an element of tax here, in the country in which it is sold and where the intellectual property might well be vested.
Corporations that use many jurisdictions operate according to the various tax environments in those jurisdictions. As the Deputy knows, we do not do what are called the brass-plate operations, in respect of which the company that was mentioned has over 4,000 highly paid technicians and software engineers in the country. Therefore, there is a real investment, which proves Ireland is not a tax haven. None of the four criteria set out by the OECD that determines countries as tax havens is met in any way by Ireland. Everything points in the other direction. Ireland, as one country, is more than willing to play its part with its European colleagues in developing an international code that stands up. As I stated, some of the countries that were very conservative in the dispensing of their information on this have now come forward and said we must develop measures in a collaborative and co-operative way.
With regard to the question on activities in other countries that are at war, these matters are raised through our European contacts, at European Council level and with the high representative. On the last occasion I raised this, it was to tender the condolences of the Irish people to the Italian Prime Minister, whose forces lost a member in Afghanistan when, unfortunately, a bomb was thrown by a young child into a facility there.
I understand the difficult position of the Ceann Comhairle considering that the Taoiseach answered the question put to him, Question No. 3, by saying he did not discuss the Boston College Belfast oral history project when he was in the college and, therefore, had no statement to make on it.
Then we had the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, going on to make all sorts of accusations. If I were to come here and make those types of accusations about any other Teachta Dála, I imagine I would be ruled out of order.
The Deputy has.
I assure the Deputy that he gets the same treatment as anybody else.
I ask the Taoiseach to resist the temptation to play party political games with this issue because I said in my remarks, as he will recall, that I was a little conflicted about whether I should ignore what Teachta Micheál Martin was saying or whether I should respond to him. I responded by saying: "I have consistently rejected claims that I had any knowledge of or any part in the abduction or killing of Jean McConville." I do so again today. Will that be the end of the matter? Of course not because this party, under its current leader, is fighting a battle for its survival and that is its only concern in raising this issue. I repeat what Teachta Micheál Martin said last week to the Taoiseach: "You have chosen to exploit the past, not to learn from it." He should practice what he preaches. The abduction, killing and burial of the people concerned was a grave injustice, but efforts are ongoing and when the seat on which Deputy Micheál Martin has his bum is cold, they will still be ongoing until all the remains have been returned. Jean McConville was one of those whose remains were retrieved through the diligent work of the people on the commission and others, but the remains of seven people have yet to be found. We have to continue with our efforts, no matter what is said or how this is used or exploited for party political gain. I do not know what the voters think of it all, but it is more important than what passes for politics sometimes in this House.