Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 22 Oct 2009

Vol. 197 No. 8

European Union Bill 2009: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

When the Lisbon treaty enters into force we will be sure to have an Irish Commissioner at the Commission table. However, if the ratification process is not completed and the Nice treaty remains in force, the size of the Commission will be reduced and no country, including Ireland, will be guaranteed a place at the table.

The Lisbon treaty will simplify and stabilise the Union's external representation. One of the key elements in this area is the establishment under the treaty of two important new positions which are relevant to the foreign policy area. As I have mentioned both already, I will not repeat them. I shall say a few words about the post of High Representative because there was some misrepresentation on this matter. This new post will improve the interaction and coherence between the Council and the Commission in that the High Representative will also be a Vice President of the Commission, with responsibility for external relations. The High Representative will be able to make proposals in respect of the common foreign and security policy and elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of the strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council. He or she will be assisted — this is a considerable innovation — by a European external action service which will have a presence both in Brussels and in third countries. The EEAS will include staff seconded from the national diplomatic services of the member states as well as officials currently serving in the Commission and the general secretariat of the Council.

Turning to more general points, I wish to refer to the European Defence Agency. The Lisbon treaty also puts the European Defence Agency, which was established during the Irish Presidency in 2004, on a treaty basis for the first time. The purpose of the agency is to assist and support the member states to develop the necessary capabilities to undertake peace support and crisis management operations. It is important to say that participation in specific EDA projects is entirely voluntary and is for national decision on a case-by-case basis. The legally binding guarantee on our traditional policy of military neutrality, secured by Ireland at the June Council meeting, provides that it will be a matter for each member state to decide, in accordance with the provisions of the treaty and any domestic legal requirements, whether to participate in the EDA.

The Defence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, which was published last month and introduced in the Dáil last week by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, makes clear that Irish participation in EDA programmes will be subject to the prior approval of both the Government and Dáil Éireann. It also provides that the Government will not approve participation unless it is satisfied that such participation would contribute to the enhancement of capabilities for UN-mandated missions in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or the strengthening of international security in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

I hope that, with the passage of this Bill, we will be able to turn a page and move on from the protracted discussions on institutional issues and focus our efforts on issues of direct consequence and relevance to the citizens of Europe. That is not only the view of the Irish Government but is the common governmental view throughout the Union. We want to take Europe away from internal discussion and navel gazing about institutional arrangements and move onto the bigger issues of concern to citizens. I have in mind issues such as climate change, energy security and the global economic crisis. The Lisbon treaty gives the Union the tools it needs to tackle big ticket issues such as these and issues which are beyond the scope and competence of any individual member state.

European Union membership continues to be vital for our future and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty represents an important step we can take on the road to national recovery. I recall, as the Minister, Deputy Martin, did yesterday, what Jack Lynch said in April 1972, namely, that the decision to be taken in our referendum on EEC membership would in future times "be recorded either as an unprecedented opportunity which we chose to grasp with incalculable gain or which we chose to throw away with irreparable loss". The people faced a similar decision on 2 October and once again made a wise and comprehensive decision.

Again, I offer my personal gratitude to Members from all sides who participated in an extraordinary referendum effort. If we as a nation might sometimes put partisan considerations to one side and focus on the big ticket issues, we could achieve wonderful results. I thank the House.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for what was probably the lengthiest and most comprehensive contribution on a Bill heard in this House for some time. I had intended to go into some technical areas of the Bill but if I were to do so at this stage I would probably get a red card from the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I compliment the Minister of State on the role he played in securing a positive vote on the Lisbon treaty.

It is with considerable relief that Senators consider the European Union Bill today. One of its many aspects is that it gives effect to the Lisbon treaty. For those of us who believe that the passage of that treaty is of fundamental importance to the future of Ireland, the referendum result and, in particular, the large majority achieved is a very welcome development.

In the campaign my party focused heavily on the economic aspects of the Lisbon treaty. In the real world the importance of the treaty lies not alone in its contents but in the message its passage represents. It tells Europe that Ireland is at the heart of and committed to the European project. A "No" vote would have sent a disastrous message. The reality is that the treaty could not come into force without a "Yes" vote in Ireland. There is nothing in the treaty for Ireland to fear. However, key for us was the message the "Yes" vote sent out, not only to Europe but all around the world. The real danger was that a "No" vote would have been seen as a sign of disengagement, that Europe and Ireland were separating. A "No" vote would not have terminated our relationship but would have created all sorts of negative impressions worldwide. Anything that cast question over that relationship or created the impression the relationship was under threat or was being reviewed would have been an absolute disaster for Ireland. Jobs would have been put on the line. Both existing and new jobs might have been moved elsewhere. It was vital for us, our economy and our recovery that the message of Ireland's commitment to Europe was sent out, as it was by the people, loud and clear.

I pay particular praise to Mr. Justice Frank Clarke of the Referendum Commission who conveyed clearly and effectively the truth about the Lisbon treaty to voters. He exposed the lies and told the truth. If that truth hurt the "No" side, it tells its own message, namely, that its people were the ones telling whoppers about the treaty, claiming it would do things it could not and would not do things it clearly could. In the first Lisbon treaty referendum the "No" side's falsehoods set the agenda. Myths were stated and believed as fact. Untruths — I could use stronger language but will not — were peddled that were, to those of us who knew and had studied the topic in detail, mind-boggling in their absurdity. The "No" side in the first Lisbon treaty referendum tapped into that old Lyndon Johnson adage about telling lies to force one's opponent to deny a ludicrous claim. That way they planted doubts in people's minds about what the treaty really contained. These were genuine doubts among voters but they were baseless.

Twenty-six of the EU states have ratified the treaty. It has been ratified by the Czech Parliament and simply awaits the Czech President's signature. He is waiting now for the outcome of yet another court challenge. I note that CTK, the Czech news agency, reported that those senators who initiated the challenge against the Lisbon treaty have launched further challenges against the constitutionality of the Treaty of Rome which are also before the Czech constitutional court. It seems to many of us that what we are witnessing is an increasingly frantic grasping at straws to find any means to stop the Lisbon treaty. I hope that, if the courts in the Czech Republic rule the treaty is constitutional, President Klaus will sign the document and allow ratification to proceed. Any more cynical game-playing would be unhelpful to everyone. Some 27 parliaments in 27 countries have spoken, as have millions of voters. I trust that, as a democrat, the President will respect these democratic decisions.

The Bill is not simply concerned with implementation of the Lisbon treaty, it also improves the oversight mechanisms of the Oireachtas in respect of the European institutions. Many of us are concerned that the Oireachtas has not been as thorough in its oversight role as it could be. I welcome the contents of the Bill on this matter, but further developments may be required. Fine Gael is committed to radical reform of the Oireachtas, reforms that would impact directly on the future of this House. We will be aiming to ensure a reformed Oireachtas would be active in its oversight role.

It is important that the Government outline for the Oireachtas how it intends to ensure this Parliament can exercise its new rights to call for draft EU legislation to be changed. The Lisbon treaty contains specific time-limited procedures, but the Houses only sit for approximately 90 days a year and have long recesses. How does the Government propose to reform the sitting arrangements of both Houses to ensure that, when needed, they can comment on proposals within the limited timeframe laid down in the treaty? It would be unacceptable for us to find that, at a key moment, the Oireachtas could not discuss draft legislation within the timeframe because the Houses were in recess. We will need to co-ordinate with European institutions on the timing of recesses to ensure we will be available to exercise the new powers and rights we have gained under the treaty.

I join the Minister of State in complimenting my colleague, Senator Donohoe, who chaired the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on European Affairs so ably. The sub-committee's work was excellent and helpful.

I welcome the Bill's introduction, which marks the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between Ireland and the European Union. We will certainly support the Bill.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, and compliment him and his officials on their work in providing a comprehensive overview. It is important for the Oireachtas that this be available, as it outlines past, present and future directions. I also compliment the Minister of State and his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, on their negotiation of the protocols, assurances that made all the difference in the second Lisbon treaty referendum.

The Minister of State's contribution was worthwhile. He stated:

When the treaty comes into force, the legally binding guarantees secured by the Government in June on taxation, the protection of the right to life, the family and education and Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality will also enter into force. The legally binding guarantees are in the form of a decision of the Heads of State or Government of the 27 member states of the European Union.

The Minister of State's reference to this and its inclusion in the legislation are important.

The Bill clearly indicates that the Upper House has a particular role to play in terms of the Lisbon treaty and the Bill. The recent policies outlined by other parties on the future of the House came as a jolt and, if we are not radical, the House will become redundant. In the light of the Bill and finalisation of the treaty, we have an opportunity to provide the House with a distinguished role in the scrutinising of legislation. We have time to prove how worthwhile the House can be as regards the treaty. Let people judge the outcome of the changes that must be made to accommodate the scrutinising of Bills in the House. The legislation is clear. It does not read "joint committees of this House"; rather, it reads "Houses of Parliament". As there are only two, the Dáil and the Seanad, there is a clear distinction. We must utilise the role we have been given if Deputies and Senators are to give citizens an opportunity to scrutinise legislation and refer it back to them.

I welcome the passing of the Bill through the House. At times the road has been rocky, but I am certain that it will benefit Ireland, its citizens and the European Union. The rationale for the Lisbon treaty, first drafted ten years ago, was to inject and accord increased democratic and political legitimacy to the workings of the Union. The tenets of democracy and legitimacy should not be lost on my fellow Senators, as these objectives have been under some scrutiny of late.

I do not intend to recant the Bill section by section, but I will draw the attention of the House to the cornerstones of the Bill and, by way of an analogy, the treaty that made support for the treaty such an obvious and pragmatic position to take. Before I do so, I wish to digress for reasons I hope my colleagues will consider worthy. I record the gratitude of the House to all those groups, people, organisations and parties which took part in the debate. I refer, in particular, to the Minister, Deputy Martin, and the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, who canvassed in the towns and villages of County Roscommon and made a good impression during the campaign. The overall majority can be attributed to their work.

Like Senator Cummins, I congratulate Mr. Justice Frank Clark, chairman of the Referendum Commission, on his excellent work. He was fair and objective and made a good impression. He appeared on "Morning Ireland" to discuss the agenda for the day. I compliment the national broadcaster, RTE, on providing that facility for him and the commission in order that they could tell the truth.

Never before was there such visible participation by civil society groups. At a time when private citizens could be concerned more about their own plight, be it unemployment, constrained finances and so forth, they stepped up to the plate for their country. This statement should apply to both sides of the debate.

The work of Senator Donohoe and Deputy Dooley, Vice Chairman of the Oireachtas sub-committee appointed to examine the future of Ireland in the European Union, should be acknowledged. The sub-committee's recommendations on the need for the Houses of the Oireachtas to engage fully with the European Union will serve this House well into the future.

The principal theme apparent throughout is Oireachtas oversight, which embodies the important linkage between the European Union and Ireland. This manifests itself in a number of ways. The protocol on the role of national parliaments annexed to the treaty creates the opportunity for increased parliamentary involvement in EU activities. These arrangements apply to both Houses. Section 7 of the Bill cites a number of instances in which our parliamentary structure may interact with the structure of the European Union, affording either House the opportunity to oppose a decision notified to the Houses under Article 48.7 of the treaty within six months of notification. Either House may, not later than eight weeks after the transmission of a draft legislative measure, send to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission a reasoned opinion in accordance with that article if the House concerned passes a resolution authorising it to so do. The House will need greater flexibility in so far as this issue is concerned and should not operate on a party political basis. If a suggestion is made, Senators should be allowed to discuss European legislation and reach a consensus, as opposed to making a decision by way of majority control. If the House was of the view this legislation was not in the best interests of Ireland then it should not be done on the basis of the number of seats on any side of the House but rather on the basis of a majority of the House being of the view that it should be referred back. I make that appeal to the Minister of State and to the Government to give that autonomy and flexibility, freedom and democracy to the House.

The Bill is replete with other examples of where Dublin can interact with Brussels, not least in the area of subsidiarity; where if in the view of this House the principle of subsidiarity is being infringed, a review may be requested of the relevant Minister and the Minister shall arrange for such proceedings to be brought. In the context of Europe we have heard much talk of the democratic deficit or the gap between Ireland as a member state and Europe. This treaty represents an opportunity to address this accusation. The treaty represents a real and constructive role for the Seanad to step into this breach. We will have the opportunity more so than the other House which is involved in day-to-day business. In 2004 the sub-committee on Seanad reform concluded that the Seanad would be a suitable Chamber to scrutinise EU legislation. The findings of the sub-committee stated the Seanad should be given a new role in EU affairs with responsibility for assessing and reviewing EU legislation, in addition to providing Irish MEPs with a domestic forum to discuss EU issues and account for their work.

In February 1930, Sir Winston Churchill, in response to the first shoots of a European project stated, "We have our own dreams and our task. We are with Europe, but not of it." I say Ireland's position is resolutely different; we are with Europe, we are of Europe and we are for Europe. There is a responsibility on this House to allow our MEPs to come here to discuss European legislation with Members of the Oireachtas because they would hear our opinions and views. The citizens, by means of the Members of the Oireachtas, could convey their concerns and worries. I refer to the EU directives on bog-cutting and the removal of eel fishing from this country by means of a 90-year ban which has come about without the proper involvement of Irish citizens. The commitment given by us and the Government on 2 October is a great moment for the country.

I note in the Minister of State's speech a reference to the external connections with the European Union. It is important that Irish officials should be involved in this regard. The European external action service will have a presence both in Brussels and in third countries. It will include staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the member states as well as officials currently serving in the Commission and the general secretariat of the Council. The Government is examining a renewed strategy for engagement with the European Union with a view to maximising Ireland's influence on European Union laws and policies. This strategy will include support for the employment of Irish personnel in European Union institutions and bodies. This is very worthwhile. Because I served as a Minister with responsibility for trade and marketing and I was delegated with the responsibility for negotiating the Single European Act, I know the strength of our diplomatic involvement in Brussels is second to none. The public is not as aware as those of us who have served in Europe. We know how democratic and fair a system it is. There is no bullying; everything we sought was given. We debated the issue around the table. The Union is larger than when I was there. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and people will really understand that their decision was worthwhile and will be fulfilled by this Bill and by the Government and by the honesty of the European Union.

I wish to share time with Senator Feargal Quinn with the agreement of the House.

I welcome the Minister of State. We have had a certain amount of sparring over the period on this matter but we have finally managed to bring our views into a certain degree of alignment. I welcome this opportunity to speak on the Bill because I was probably the first person in this House at the time of the previous referendum to declare a position against the Lisbon treaty. I made my reservations and the reason for those reservations perfectly clear. They were because of what I perceived as the increasing militarisation of the Union and my inability to get this taken seriously at Government level, particularly the "morphing", to use a horrible modern word, of the European armaments group into the less sinister-sounding European Defence Agency. I tried to raise this with the Oireachtas joint committee established but they ignored it. I tried to raise it with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, and it was deflected in a manner fairly similar to the way in which the abuse of Shannon Airport during the rendition flights period was brushed aside by answering completely different questions to the ones I raised. However, I was very pleased with the assistance of some of the departmental officials who are here today to extract in the weeks before the final vote on this referendum a specific commitment from the Minister on behalf of the Government and signed and delivered to me and with the indulgence of the Chair I wish to put some of this correspondence on the record of the House. It is the instrument that allowed me to change sides, which I wanted to do, because I have always supported the European Union and the European movement generally. He first wrote some nice things about my change of heart and then continued:

I am happy to give you the reassurance you request regarding Ireland's position on an EU munitions industry. We would have no interest in supporting any efforts to develop a European munitions industry for export. The Lisbon Treaty does not contemplate any such policy initiative or make any provision for movement in that direction. Ireland would indeed resist any pressure which might be exercised in future by any Member State to take the Union down such a route, which would, of course, require a unanimous decision in the unlikely event that any such move were ever to be contemplated at EU level.

This amounts to a commitment to use the veto. The reason for my concern is the kind of incautious things said in the preceding years and also during the first referendum campaign by, in particular, the French, who seemed to be driving in this direction. It appeared to me they were determined to use the kind of shelf company of the European armaments group to promote this idea of a munitions industry for export and to go into competition with the American munitions industry. This explained the intervention of Mr. Declan Ganley because he was plugged in to certain aspects of the American munitions establishment. I thought that was one of his principal motivations in campaigning against the Lisbon treaty because he saw the danger of competition in this area. This aspect was never explored by people in public, so far as I know.

He was a bit of an embarrassment on the occasion when I was on the "No" side but there were a lot of other embarrassments. I refer to those people who said that if we voted for the Lisbon treaty, we would get homosexual marriage and abortion information and God knows what else. As I said at the time, if I thought that, I would vote for it. Although I am not sure that sexual orientation is actually included in the provisions of this Bill——

I draw the Senator's attention to the charter which is a wonderful expression of all the rights and is a wonderful expression of the safeguarding of citizens for a whole variety——

That is rather general.

It is very specific.

It shows the kind of incremental development. I well remember the time in Paris when at a COSAC meeting I had an engagement with Monsieur Alain Juppé.He rounded on me and said the European Union is not a human rights organisation, it has no human rights competence. This is now incrementally growing and it is to be welcomed.

At the conclusion of the Minister's correspondence he states:

On another matter in which I know you take an interest, [I had raised it with him in a message] I would like to assure you that the promotion and protection of human rights — including those of children and women affected by armed conflict — are integrated fully into the planning and conduct of the EU's civilian and military missions. An outstanding example is the mission in Chad . . . Support for human rights in areas of armed conflict is an important part of the Government's overall approach to human rights, peace-building and development issues.

This statement is very important. The Minister is committed to arms reduction and to protecting the rights of civilians in these areas.

I wish to raise one or two other issues. I deplore the inactivity of President Václav Klaus. It really is a defiance of democracy that he is still refusing to sign the treaty, despite the express wishes of his elected parliament.

Will the Minister of State look into the wheelie bin controversy of the previous referendum in which 3,000 votes in Donegal went missing? There has been no satisfactory explanation of it or of the responsibilities either of the returning officer or the Garda, despite citizens' concern about this matter.

I have always stated and I still maintain that even if we had voted "No", we could not have been thrown out of the European Union. Even if we had voted "No" we could not have been relegated to second class citizenship, legally or officially. However, the European Union is something that works on political goodwill.

We are working on a timeframe, Senator.

I am finishing now. Political goodwill is the lubrication of the European Union and we have had very fine diplomatic representation in Europe, as previous speakers have stated. We have a very high reputation. I was concerned that in this difficult economic time we might sacrifice that goodwill and turn it into ill will, such that although we could not be punished legally, there are other ways of skinning a cat.

I thank Senator Norris for allowing me to share time. Ní neart go chur le chéile. The best way to translate that is there is no strength without co-operation. I fully believe the benefits we have received from Europe are those we cherish, those we value and those we wish to maintain. I have been fairly active in European affairs in recent years, especially with EuroCommerce. Through that organisation I met federalists for the first time, people who believe in a federal Europe. The real benefit we will gain from the Lisbon treaty is that we will avoid a federal Europe. This aspect has me in favour of the treaty.

I have confirmed with the Minister of State that sexual orientation is in the charter. I apologise for the interruption.

I realise the Senator would not have a problem with that. We do not hear it much but it seems to be a nasty word for anyone to declare themselves a federalist. I have met a number of senior people who believe in a federal Europe. The great benefit of the Lisbon treaty is that it avoids precisely this. It allows us the opportunity to have a more efficient Europe than would otherwise be the case.

The difficulties of trying to run a business with a board of eight, ten, 12, 15 or 25 members are clear. It becomes more and more difficult to run a board the larger it becomes. However, if that board of management had to have unanimity on every item of discussion then it would be almost impossible to make decisions. I hope the treaty will be approved very shortly and we will have a European Union with a much more efficient method of operation. I believe the balance negotiated regarding voting rights is well thought out, planned and argued. Therefore, it will avoid the difficulties referred to by those federalists who seek a totally united Europe similar to the United States with a good deal more power heading to Brussels.

The other man I met some years ago to whom I referred earlier was Václav Klaus. I have not met him in recent times. I came to know him in between his terms as Prime Minister and President of the Czech Republic. He was strongly committed to certain views at that stage which he expressed when I outlined my enthusiasm for Europe. He referred to the fact that he had previously had a Big Brother from Moscow for many years and he did not wish to substitute it with a Big Brother from Brussels. He seems to have taken this view to an extreme to the extent that when he visited here with Mr. Ganley, he did not pick up the telephone to inform me he was coming or to discuss what he wished to achieve.

I refer to two or three things which I would like to see take place. I refer to the Single European Payments Area, SEPA. It is very significant not only for business but also for the citizens of Europe and for the customers of almost every business. I believe in removing the barriers, especially in the eurozone. This must be a target and we must do our best to try to achieve this. I held some concerns at the time of the first referendum concerning the four main issues raised by others. I did not declare which way I would vote until I was satisfied in my mind. The issues included, in no particular order, neutrality, which the Minister of State clarified, the issue of the Commissioner, which has been solved, the tax situation, about which I am now satisfied, and the question of Ireland's right to legislate itself with regard to abortion. Such issues were resolved. I did not make up my mind or decide until those issues were clarified.

My challenge for the Minister of State is to address several other issues. Can we manage to do something about joining the Schengen Agreement area? We should convince Northern Ireland to participate on its own because citizens of Northern Ireland now need photo identification and probably a passport to travel to Britain. It seems a reasonably simple task to encourage people to join the Schengen Agreement area, even if Britain does not join. However, it may mean having to convince Northern Ireland.

I refer to another issue that has nothing to do with the European Union but the Minister of State may be able to do something in this regard. I wish to join Central European Time, especially this weekend. We should operate in the same time zone as the majority of Europe. I tackled Mr. Barroso, the President of the European Commission, on the matter when he was here. I accused him of being the one who ruined it because Portugal moved from Central European Time and joined our time zone six or seven years ago. He claimed he was on my side and he did not wish it to take place. The Minister of State should consider if there is something we can do in this area. Let us consider the benefits. For example, next week we would not have to put the clocks back.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I welcome the opportunity to engage in the Second Stage debate on the European Union Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to give domestic effect to the provisions of the Lisbon treaty. Before I refer to the provisions of the Bill I welcome the very strong and decisive vote in favour of the treaty cast by the people on 2 October. I congratulate the Minister, his colleagues and everyone else involved in the campaign to have the treaty ratified.

One reason the people voted in such large numbers in favour of the treaty was because they see Ireland's economic future as bound up with our continued membership of the European Union. They are very aware of the critical role the European Central Bank is playing in keeping our banks afloat. There are also expectations concerning the role of the European Union in helping us to tackle other deep-seated economic problems, including the growing level of unemployment. In the coming years this will be a major issue for the public. I hope there is a good deal of fresh thinking within the Council of Ministers and other European institutions regarding a co-ordinated European effort to try to stimulate economic activity and the accompanying employment or job creation opportunities. If there is no such attempt and if individual member states simply look after their own populations, real opportunity for economies of scale in terms of large infrastructure projects will be missed.

In addition, we must pursue the stimulation of more economic activity through the full implementation of the services directive. The directive may help many environmental companies which wish to deliver services in other member states to do so. However, the framework must be in place for European-wide co-operation in the emerging area of economic opportunity, that is, the green economy. If this is to take place we must consider common training standards for green collar jobs and common accreditation systems and we must ensure the services directive is fully and effectively rolled out. We must ensure also that infrastructural projects are undertaken. We need a co-ordinated European approach. We require a stimulus package that is genuinely European rather than each member state putting in its own funding into the pot and reserving it for its own population. Major benefits could be derived from that and I hope the Minister of State will carry this issue forward and raise it at the Council of Ministers.

The incorporation of the Lisbon treaty provisions into domestic legislation is a formality but, as others have mentioned, a number of issues are worth highlighting. The key provision in the Bill is the update of the European Communities Act 1972 for a number of reasons. First, the Union will have legal personality. In other words, it will be a subject of international law following the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, which means this part of the European Communities Act needs to be updated. Once the legislation is adopted, laws made by the Union, which has effectively been founded anew by the Lisbon treaty, will have the same force and effect as those made by the Union, as established and altered by the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties and so on.

The exception relating to the European Court of Justice is included in the legislation. Section 2 gives the laws of the EU pre-eminence over domestic law. A great deal of misinformation was put out about this during the Lisbon treaty campaign. That has been the position in all previous treaties and this means the European Court of Justice will have authority to make final determinations in disputes between member states and the rights to make final interpretations of EU law, to review the legality of EU law or any measures taken by a European body and to rule on the adequacy of the member states' transpositions of EU measures into domestic law. Ireland has felt the impact of this on a number of occasions. The treaty states the court will not have jurisdiction with respect to the provisions of the Common Foreign and Security Policy or acts adopted on the basis of provisions and the Bill reiterates that exclusion.

The issue of Oireachtas oversight is important. Section 7 provides that the Houses of the Oireachtas can exercise oversight over the changes proposed in the Lisbon treaty to legislative procedures, which are complicated by the ordinary procedure, the simplified procedure and the passerelle clause, to which Sinn Féin referred frequently during the referendum campaign. The Houses of the Oireachtas has a role in blocking these changes if they do not believe they are in the country's interest.

Debate adjourned.