The Government follows closely developments in Spain, which is an important EU partner and friend of Ireland. I know some Members of this House have visited Catalonia and their perspectives contribute to our consideration here this evening. Irish people know Spain, and, indeed, Catalonia, well. After Britain, Spain is the country to which we travel most. Furthermore, cities and towns across Spain, including in Catalonia, are home for many Irish people, while, of course, many Spaniards visit and live in Ireland.
The question of Catalan independence remains a deeply divisive and contentious issue in Catalonia, in the rest of Spain and beyond. We are all following developments in Spain closely, in particular in Catalonia where tensions have been particularly high in recent days. On Monday, 14 October, the Spanish Supreme Court announced its verdict on the cases of 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders. We are all very aware of subsequent reactions across the spectrum of opinion in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain. I note the Spanish Government's statement on this matter. We welcome the Spanish Government's commitment to the defence of the rule of law and respect for the judicial process.
The Government's position remains that we respect the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain, and that any related arrangements are matters to be determined by their own citizens through their own institutions, in keeping with the rule of law. With regard to the Spanish Supreme Court's verdict, just as we would expect any other country to respect our courts, we respect the decision taken by the Spanish courts. Differences of opinion must be contested with full respect for the law and the rights of all citizens. The rule of law is a cornerstone of all modern democracies and it underpins the functioning of the European Union just as it underpins our own democracy in Ireland. Citizens and their elected representatives should, of course, be able to disagree with laws and work to change laws but this must be through the appropriate constitutional channels. However, we cannot ignore the law as it stands or act beyond it. In the same vein, decisions of courts should be respected.
Members will have seen that, in response to the Spanish Supreme Court's decision, large-scale protests have taken place across Catalonia over several days. In some cases, violence has been reported, including clashes between protestors and the police. There is no place in politics for violence. In Catalonia, and elsewhere in Spain, as in all of our democracies, public representatives and citizens must work to advance their goals with full respect for the law. The freedom to express contesting views is essential in any democracy, but differences of opinion must be contested with full respect for the rule of law and the rights of all citizens. This is the foundation that underpins and protects modern democratic societies.
We respect, of course, people's right to gather and to express freely their opinions, as happens may times here in Ireland, but we share the calls for calm, for moderation and for respect for others so as to allow people to go about their daily lives without disruption. Those who live in Catalonia and the many who are visiting, including from Ireland, should be able to travel freely to and from airports, train stations or by car.
Our ambassador and officials working in the Irish Embassy in Madrid continue to follow these developments and, of course, are in contact with the Spanish Government. They are also closely monitoring the situation regarding any demonstration taking place and are providing suitable travel advice to Irish citizens who may be in difficulty there. Tensions are clearly very high in Catalonia at present and the question of independence is deeply divisive there and probably here in the Chamber. It is important that the voices of all Catalans are heard and represented, including those who do not support independence. The Government will always support efforts in Spain that are aimed at reconciliation within Catalonia and within all of Spain on this sensitive issue. The Government continues to support a resolution to the current situation that is based on democracy and the rule of law.