Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Oct 2009

Vol. 692 No. 3

European Union Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, line 4, before "treaties" to insert "Euratom Treaty and the other".

Section 2 effectively deals with the legal personality of the legislation. It amends section 1 of the 1972 Act to include some new definitions. This is necessary so that all of the existing Acts of the Community remain valid for the new dispensation and are correctly expressed in the new treaties governing the European Union. The European Atomic Energy Community, established under the EURATOM Treaty, is legally distinct from the European Community and European Union and, as such, should be expressed distinctly. Listed in the section, in paragraphs (a) to (d), inclusive, are the Treaty on European Union, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Lisbon treaty, and the treaties governing the European Communities. However, even though the EURATOM Treaty is a legally distinct entity, it is not expressly referenced.

I remind the Minister of State of the reservations expressed by the Minister, Deputy Martin, regarding the content of the EURATOM Treaty. He pointed out that it was one of the original treaties, that it had not been updated since its establishment and that such updating was long overdue. Has the Minister of State any information in this regard? It is important that the EURATOM Treaty be specifically referred to in this legislation and that it be updated for the future.

The reason for the reference to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is they are referred to in the definitions section of the 1972 Act and that they are amended by the Lisbon treaty. The latter maintains EURATOM as a separate entity and makes only technical changes to it. Therefore, it is not necessary or desirable to make the change proposed in the amendment. I refer the Deputy to the reference in section 2 that "'European Union' means the European Union, established by virtue of the Lisbon treaty and the European Atomic Energy Community". The Deputy's point regarding the need for a review of the EURATOM Treaty is one for another day. I certainly do not relish the prospect of further institutional review. It would be unwise to accept the Deputy's amendment.

I accept that the amendment is not legally necessary but I would have thought it desirable clearly to make that distinction and to point it up as something that will have to be dealt with for the future. It would be terminologically desirable.

I understand the Deputy's point but for presentation it is important that it is done in this way and that we make it very clear lest a dispute of a legal nature should arise in the future on the question of what precisely we are referring to. Although I may have some personal views on the issue of the European Atomic Energy Community and the legislation that created it, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that the treaty touches on that area. Presentationally, it would be a mistake to adopt the Deputy's proposal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, line 19, after "Communities", to insert the following:

"and by bodies competent under the treaties governing the European Communities".

There is currently no reference in paragraph (c) to bodies competent; they are specifically excluded by the existing wording. It is appropriate that the wording be extended to cover not only the institutions of the European Union but the bodies competent that existed prior to the Lisbon treaty. The proposed amendment offers an improvement in the substance and the text of the provisions.

Paragraph (d) includes reference to bodies competent under the treaties governing the European Union. Therefore, it is not necessary to include this reference in paragraph (c), as proposed by the Deputy. It would be otiose to include that reference twice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 13 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, lines 21 and 22, to delete "those treaties" and substitute "the treaties governing the European Union".

This amendment relates to paragraph (d). I believe that “those treaties” is rather vague, and I propose that this be deleted and replaced with “the treaties governing the European Union”, which would make the reference clear.

Amendment No.13 deals with a retrospective subsection in section 8, and it requires some kind of saver for the constitutional rights of the person. It would be appropriate if it could be inserted at that stage.

I am struggling with the point the Deputy is making. It is very clear that the treaties to which we refer are the treaties governing the European Union. That is the point in amendment No. 13, tabled by the Deputy. To include a reference to the treaties governing the European Union would be superfluous, because it is clear that the reference in section 8 (3)(b), to “those treaties” means the treaties governing the European Union. The same point can be made regarding amendment No. 3. It is again clear that the reference is to the treaties governing the European Union.

It is an issue of drafting. Some people like to make the reference on every possible occasion, and other people try to be more economical with the cross-references. It is not necessary to do this, and the advice from the Parliamentary Counsel is that it is not necessary to do it. We have been at this before, and I know where the Deputy's drafting suggestions come from. We must be more economical with words in the treaties, because the more cross references that are added, the more confusing we tend to make the treaties. Although I accept the bona fides of the Deputy's suggestion, it is unnecessary to make these cross references, as they are implicit.

I accept the Minister of State's argument.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 3 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, line 25, to delete "inserted by" and substitute "as substituted by".

This is also a technical amendment. It seems to me that "substituted by" is the desirable wording on this occasion. Section 3 of the 1972 Act was "substituted" in 2007, and not "inserted". That was the wording used at the time.

I would love to help, but I have to be negative. The Attorney General has advised that the drafting convention, when referring in brackets to a provision inserted or substituted by another enactment, is actually to use the word "inserted". I must say we are in fairly arcane——

It is repetition of the language that was in the original Act.

It is because it is actually bracketed, and that is where the term "inserted" is normally used. Apparently, this is a drafting convention. Given some of the debates that we have had about minor changes in wording in the recent referendum, I have become very averse to changing words at all. The advice is very clear that the drafting convention, when referring in brackets to a provision that is either inserted or substituted by another enactment, is to use the term "inserted".

I am guided by the Minister of State again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

I oppose this section. We had some reference to this already on Second Stage. The section refers to the European Communities Act 2007 and to the additional authority that was granted under that Act to allow the line Minister to specify indictable offences and to incorporate them into secondary legislation through statutory instruments. This is an inordinately wide ranging power that has been granted to the Minister outside the normal operation of this House. It goes completely against the spirit and the substance of what we are doing in the Lisbon treaty, namely, eliminating the democratic deficit so that everything is done in a transparent fashion and in an accountable fashion within the bounds of this House. If we are now to have important Bills enacted — and this is fairly substantial — this flies against the tenor of our activities. We should really abolish the 2007 Act in that respect and take those powers from the individual Minister and restore them to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The other aspect which underlines my argument is that we are conferring extra powers on the Houses in dealing with European Union matters. The role of Members has been enhanced under the Lisbon treaty, yet our 2007 legislation has gone in the opposite direction. The thrust of the discussions for this treaty since 2000 was very democratic. The Minister of State was involved, as were other members of the Government and the Opposition. It was hoped that we would extend that accountability into all of the activities. It is equally important that we have it in the transposition of legislation in this House. In so far as possible, all important legislative provisions should see the light of day on the floor of this House and the other House. They should not be enacted behind closed doors by an individual Minister who may wish to exercise his opinion alone.

I recognise that the Labour Party has had an issue with this for several years, and that it is not just a recent concern. This matter was debated at great length in 2007 in the amendment which made it permissible that implementing regulations to provide for indictable offences be carried over. The issue was decided by the Oireachtas at that time.

There is no substantive change due to this. The section simply takes account of the new arrangements under the Lisbon treaty, and so does not make any substantive change on where we were after the 2007 Act. It simply re-iterates that position, but includes the Lisbon treaty within it.

I will not press it to a vote. I reiterate the Labour Party's continued opposition to this aspect of the European Communities Act 2007, which is mentioned in this section. I accept that no change in this respect is proposed in the Bill before the House. As the Oireachtas implements the provisions of the Lisbon treaty, this issue will have to be addressed. We will have to consider whether these extra powers, which are essentially anti-democratic or undemocratic, should be continued or whether we should seek to abolish them. While I will not pursue this matter at this stage, I will raise it again in the future.

I fully appreciate that the Deputy has been making this point for some time. I recognise the generosity with which he has dealt with it. I fully appreciate that this is a concern within the Labour Party. I respect the fact that it has been making this point since 2007.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, lines 1 and 2, to delete subsection (4).

It seems to me that section 5(4) is superfluous.

We have received strong advice to the effect that section 5(4) which clarifies the meaning of "enactment", is essential so that a reference to statutory instruments is provided for. The definition of "enactment" that is set out in the Interpretation Act 2005, rather than a general definition applicable to statutes, is being used for the purposes of this legislation. As we are keen to capture the reference to statutory instruments in the 2005 Act, it would be a mistake to strike out this section. I accept the Deputy's point. It may seem superfluous to the normal eye. Those engaged in the legal drafting of the Bill have made it clear that far from being superfluous, it is important from the point of view of capturing a reference to statutory instruments.

I accept the Minister of State's explanation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, line 9, to delete "Article 28 or 29" and substitute "Title V".

The Bill provides for the scrutiny of those Common Foreign and Security Policy decisions covered by Articles 28 and 29 of the Treaty on European Union. I suggest that this section should be broadened to include a reference to any Common Foreign and Security Policy decision under the entire title of the EU treaty in question. I am not sure why scrutiny should be restricted to decisions under the sections mentioned in the Bill as it stands.

It is important for me to reiterate the point made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he touched on this matter this morning. When one reads this fairly arcane legislative reference, it is difficult for one to understand what it means. There continues to be a policy of keeping Common Foreign and Security Policy decisions outside the provisions which are being brought into domestic law, with certain exceptions. We have been strongly advised that to achieve that purpose, this section should be retained as it currently stands. If the Deputy would like further elaboration or clarification on the matter, he should reread the section of the Minister's speech in which he explained the logic behind this provision. It was well explained. As I have said, its basic purpose is to keep certain Common Foreign and Security Policy decisions outside the provisions which are being brought into domestic law.

I will not press the amendment.

Section 6 refers to regulations and directives. In case they are interpreted otherwise, I preface my remarks by reminding the House not only that I voted "Yes" in the referendum on the Lisbon treaty, but that I campaigned strongly for a "Yes" vote. I am speaking on behalf of the majority of people in some parts of Connemara who voted "No". According to some accurate tallies I have seen, the areas of An Tuairín, Leitir Mór, Leitir Mealláin, Tír an Fhia I, Tír an Fhia II, Camas, An Turlach Beag, Loch Ána, Kingstown and Ballyconneely all voted strongly against the referendum. Their opposition was mainly based on the interpretation of directives. I do not understand why officials in Ireland are more likely than their counterparts in other countries to interpret directives so thoroughly. Why do they lean over backwards to ensure EU directives are interpreted more strongly than in several other EU countries? Those of us who travel to Spain often see people working on building sites without any helmets, and so on. I am not advocating that — I mention it as an example of how regulations and directives are implemented in other countries, by comparison with Ireland.

This is a particularly serious issue in Connemara because 75% of the land there has been designated as being in a special area of conservation. Anyone who applies for planning permission in any part of Connemara is either in, or adjacent to, one of these designated areas. According to the interpretation of the planning office, if one is adjacent to a designated area, or a proposed designated area, one's application must be the subject of several studies, including an environmental impact study. Ordinary applicants who are qualified in every other respect — they live, work, are involved and were born in the locality — have to spend €2,000 or €3,000 on environmental impact statements about their sites. Such interpretations are completely unnecessary. It is generally the case that when they are submitted, planning permission is still not guaranteed. One often has to make two or three applications before one is successful. One may be refused on the grounds of not having a housing need. If one proves that one has such a need, one's next application might be turned down because one is adjacent to a designated conservation area. One will then have to get an environmental impact study.

Why are EU directives interpreted so diligently in Ireland, compared to other countries? The challenge we face, which was not mentioned during the Second Stage debate, involves engaging with the 50% of people in parts of Donegal and Connemara who voted "No" in the referendum earlier this month. We have to engage with such people, to whom nobody seems to be giving any heed. I submit that we have to address their concerns. Nothing in the Lisbon treaty caused them to vote "No" — it was a kind of protest vote against the overly diligent adherence to, interpretation of and enforcement of EU directives by public officials. Perhaps the Minister of State will advise me on what I should say to a young lad in Oughterard or anywhere else who applies for planning permission. Such a person might work in a local shop and be of limited means. If he gets a site from his parents, he will have to get an environmental impact assessment of the site if it is adjacent to a designated special area of conservation. Nobody in the wildlife section of the Office of Public Works can give me a list of people who carry out this type of work and what they charge. It is an absolute penalty on young couples who are trying to build houses to accommodate themselves in their local areas, where they are living and working.

I recognise the point the Deputy has made. I remind him that when I was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I introduced guidelines specifically to assist people encountering the type of issue he has raised.

The problem is that it is not happening.

Deputy Timmins and I represent a constituency that is not unlike Deputy McCormack's constituency. This is because of concerns about the environment. The best stewards of the environment are people who live in the countryside. I have always made the point that the most active supporters of the environment are the farming community in general. I agree completely with the Deputy that a countryside divested of people is simply a desert. We do not want to create a desert and call it progress because that is nonsense. The point has been well made that frustration arises because of domestic interpretations in some of our agencies. From our experience as local representatives, Deputy McCormack and I could both instance many cases of various agencies adopting conflicting views. This issue requires attention.

This is a hobbyhorse of mine. When I chaired a committee that dealt with this matter some years ago, we produced a report calling specifically for more common sense to be used in the application and domestic interpretation of directives, regulations and EU legislation. The Deputy is correct that domestic interpretation causes a great deal of frustration. He and I probably agree that sometimes, when officials interpret laws, which laws are largely domestic, or dealing with domestic planning considerations, they find it all too easy to blame the Union for their own perverse interpretations.

I am very familiar with the circumstances the Deputy describes. If one drives through the areas of France that are not unlike parts of Connemara or County Wicklow, one will note that the constraints of which we speak do not apply at all. There is a need for common sense here.

One of the liberating aspects of the Lisbon treaty is that Members of the Oireachtas will have to become much more actively involved in EU affairs. I make no apology for saying this and believe it is good. It is good and democratic that people who are concerned about EU law, be they councillors or general citizens, will have the opportunity to lobby Members of the Oireachtas to ensure we are more attentive to detail.

Deputy McCormack is correct that there is a predisposition in Ireland to being extraordinarily detailed in our interpretation of various measures. It seems to be part of our national character and may be the result of something in our genetic make-up or psyche. If one compares practices across the Union, be they in respect of the sale of artisan foods or planning, one will note a more pedantic approach in Ireland than elsewhere. This must be addressed. As we discuss new EU legislation in the Houses, we should be very careful that our domestic interpretation does not exceed either the letter or purpose of the former. It really infuriates me to hear those who are guilty of very nitpicking interpretations of legislation state their interpretations are EU requirements. They are not EU requirements in this case but domestic requirements. All of us in politics agree on this and it needs to be attended to.

I am conscious of the latitude the Acting Chairman is giving me in that we are probably straying a little from the section under discussion and the amendment of Deputy Costello.

Now that the Minister of State's views are articulated here, I will bring them to the notice of the relevant authorities in my area. From dealings with the Minister of State in his previous Ministry, I know what he is saying is correct. Unfortunately, despite the fact that he stated his views on the record in the past and answered parliamentary questions I tabled, local authorities do not seem to heed those views. They did not do so even when he was in the Ministry directly concerned with the matter I raise. I am glad I will now be able to forward the views expressed by the Minister of State to the relevant authorities in my county to determine whether any good can come of my doing so on this occasion.

The section deals with updating the definition of "measures". It largely involves a terminological change. Deputy McCormack's point is valid in the broader context of the section dealing with scrutiny and the need to update the legislative powers of scrutiny.

The Lisbon treaty gives extra powers to the Oireachtas to consult the Commission in devising policy, in addition to the watchdog power in respect of what is coming out at the other end. With regard to what Deputy McCormack stated, the result should be much more localised and should reflect much better the proposals of national Parliaments. They will now have a role in the consideration of policy issued annually by the Commission and they will also have a more direct role in keeping a close eye on the transposition of legislation to ensure it does not transgress in respect of subsidiarity. What Deputy McCormack said is quite relevant to the experiences of very many people.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, subsection (4), line 1, after "shall" to insert "by resolution direct the Clerk of the House to".

This is a minor matter related to the manner in which we conduct our business. There is no specific mechanism for the House to notify the Minister in writing. The only action either House can take is to act by resolution. Therefore, I suggest the Bill should state that the House should pass a resolution that would direct the Clerk of the Dáil to notify the Minister. The Minister would then proceed to deal with the European Court of Justice with regard to any particular decision or Act with which the Oireachtas has difficulty.

I agree with the Deputy that this is very important but I believe the handling of the matter would best be left to the House. It really is a matter for the House but section 7 is very important because it gives very specific powers to the Oireachtas.

To refer to the debate we just had, I will give a good illustration of why the House should be flexible in such matters. The Deputy may recall that several years ago an Oireachtas committee produced a study that considered the application of EU regulation in agriculture. The committee invited the Director General of the relevant section of the Commission to attend. When he did so with his staff the result was very interesting. He made the point that the Irish approach to adopting certain directives was very specific to our own Department and did not reflect a requirement of the relevant Directorate-General.

The manner in which this very important section will be brought into operation is really a matter for the Oireachtas. The House should pay some attention to drafting the rules on how this is handled. I refer to issues such as the Passerelle clause and the general issue of how the new powers will be operated. These are not matters that should be referred to in the legislation but they should be dealt with in detail by the House. It is for the House to set its own rules on these issues. It would, therefore, be unwise to accept the amendment.

As the Minister of State said, this is an important section. I welcome it and the fact that he and his staff have included it in the body of the legislation. Its inclusion reflects the enhanced role of the Oireachtas. It will be a matter for the Oireachtas to tease out the mechanisms required for the implementation of its new role with regard to subsidiarity and other powers granted by this legislation. Perhaps it would be best to leave the matter until we have an opportunity to examine carefully how best to respond to the totality of the Lisbon treaty and the powers it confers on the House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 6, subsection (1), line 7, after "instrument" to insert "or enactment".

The amendments propose the addition of the words "or enactment" after the word "instrument" in four places in the section. My advice is that it is not necessary to apply this provision to primary legislation. When the Deputy drafted his amendments he may have had statutory instruments in mind. Unlike statutory instruments, which may be linked to specific EU directives, primary legislation stands alone and survives the repeal of any EU directive which it was enacted to implement. Accordingly, primary legislation enacted to give effect to repealed directives can be availed of to implement the codifying directive it replaces. That is the formal explanation. It is not necessary to apply this provision to primary legislation.

It was statutory instruments, which were given effect by the Act, to which I referred. My suggestion was that it be extended to cases where primary legislation would give effect to an EU instrument. I accept what the Minister of State has to say.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 6, subsection (2), line 27, after "act" to insert the following:

"but subject to the constitutional rights of any person affected,".

This amendment would insert a retrospective reference which would ensure that the constitutional rights of the person referred to would be protected.

The strong advice is that this is not necessary. Constitutional rights are constitutional rights and legislation cannot trespass on them. They are inviolable and the absence of the additional words would not allow this legislation to trespass on them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 13 not moved.
Section 8 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 7, subsection (2), line 7, to delete "Communities" and substitute "Union".

The final summation in this section is that "The European Communities Acts 1972 to 2007 and this Act may be cited together as the European Communities Acts 1972 to 2009.". When the Lisbon treaty is passed we will no longer have European Communities Acts but European Union Acts. Therefore that would be a more appropriate citation.

I see Deputy Costello's point. However, such a change would be more appropriate to consolidation legislation. There is a need, at some stage, for such legislation in this area. The collective citation used here has its roots in the principal Act, which is the European Communities Act 1972. It is felt it is not necessary to make the proposed change.

There is need for consolidation legislation in this area. Further tidying up will remove confusing alternative references and make things neater. Deputy Costello's amendment would be more appropriate to a consolidating Bill. Several pieces of textual consolidation are required and we will deal with them at that stage.

Does the Minister of State accept the need for the amendment while saying he will not make it at present?

Not really. I am saying the citation draws its roots from the principal Act. I accept the general principle of Deputy Costello's amendment. Different terminology is used to describe this body of 27 member states. At some stage in the future we will need consolidating legislation to make sure there is homogeneity in the language used right across. I do not accept the amendment but Deputy Costello's general principle is sensible and points in the direction of a consolidating Act. When the consolidating Act comes across he can claim credit for it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."

Subsection 9(3) states that the Act shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint. How does the Minister of State envisage that happening? Are these words designed to accommodate the question mark which remains around the ratification of the Lisbon treaty by all member states? Will the Act come into operation immediately upon ratification by all members or will the Minister take his time until some future uncertain date? Can the Minister of State give a clear idea of the purpose of this final section?

I see Deputy Costello's point. Section 8 comes into operation now. Enactment will depend on someone in another member state finding his biro and signing the necessary document for final ratification. The Minister will then sign a commencement order.

The wording of the subsection is very general. It does not say the Minister will bring the Act into operation immediately the opportunity arises. He may do so at some distant future date. The Lisbon treaty could be in place for some time before the Minister decides it is appropriate to go ahead with it, perhaps because of the extra activities it will require from the Oireachtas. Is the Minister of State telling the House that the order will be signed as soon as the opportunity arises?

Given the torture and twists and turns that we have all gone through there will not be any particular delay, but the enactment order has to be signed when the ratification process is completed. The Minister specifically referred to that in his Second Stage speech. The Deputy can take it that there will be great anxiety for an Irish Minister to do that but we do not know the day yet.

Section 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Dick Roche, and the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, for the manner in which they have presented the legislation, and for the entire debate and the precursor of it, the Lisbon treaty and the campaign that took place to ratify that. I thank also the officials on the good work done behind the scenes. Sometimes we forget all of that hard slog. A significant amount of work was done by them throughout the campaign and the treaty ratification. I welcome that and compliment them on it.

I compliment everybody who was involved because it was an arduous period. A great deal rested on the outcome of the treaty. What we are doing today is tying up loose ends and preparing for the ratification instruments. We hope it will be possible to put everything together next week and that the Czech President will have changed his mind or else made sufficient progress so that he will be prepared to sign the ratification documents and that we can all move forward together. I thank the Minister of State for his contribution and his consideration in all of the matters today.

I wish to be associated with those remarks.

I thank everyone in this House and everyone in this country who has engaged in the two referenda. I am somewhat mystified at comments made by Deputy Ó Snodaigh about the possibility of there being some sort of democratic deficit. The Irish people have spoken clearly. When one takes the aggregate of the "Yes" and the "No" votes in both referenda, they have spoken even more clearly.

We have gone through a remarkable period in terms of our relationship with the European Union. I pay a particular tribute to the leaders and members of the Opposition parties who put party politics to one side to carry this important referendum. From time to time we have a moral responsibility in this House and in the other House to put partisan politics to one side and to deal with the greater public interest.

The Irish people have shown extraordinary forbearance in the past two referenda and they have shown again their extraordinary interest in being at the heart of Europe. That is where we belong. That is where our republicanism comes from and that is where our future lies. I take particular pleasure in the fact that we have gone through this legislation and it is now ready to move to the other House. I hope that in the next day or two we will be in a position to lodge the instruments of ratification in Rome. We will have shown the rest of Europe that we as a nation value our place at the heart of the European Union, that we value the Union and we share with the other approximately 490 million people a common sense of purpose, place and follow certain values that we all hold dear, namely, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

I pay my respects to people who over the years have canvassed on the "No" side. There are many good people whose views I do not agree with, but who were not in it just for mischief, they were in it because they believed firmly in what they were saying. That, again, is part of democracy, and democracy was played out in a very real way in our nation on 2 October. Other nations did not have that opportunity. The drafters of our Constitution were very wise when they decided that the only sovereign authority to amend the Constitution was the people. The people have spoken clearly. It is now our responsibility when the treaty finally takes effect to show that we in both Houses are capable of dealing with the new challenges, as so many Deputies have said, of Europe in an open, transparent and democratic way and fighting the case and the cause of Ireland. I thank Deputies for their contributions, courtesy and kind words.

Question put and agreed to.