Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Ceisteanna (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24)

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

2. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meetings with other Heads of State in Brussels in May; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26764/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

3. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with government officials during his visit to Germany in July 2014. [30901/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

4. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the European Council meeting in August; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35189/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

5. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meetings with the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk. [35191/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

6. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his discussions with other Heads of Government on the issue of Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35194/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

7. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his discussions at the most recent European Council meeting in Brussels. [35211/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

8. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the outcomes in respect of the situation in Ukraine that were agreed by the leaders at the most recent European Council meeting. [35212/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised at the European Council meeting the recent Israeli onslaught against the citizens of Gaza. [35214/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

10. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the aid that has been agreed by EU leaders in support of Gazans. [35215/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

11. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised at the European Council meeting the recent land grab by the state of Israel of 1,000 acres on the West Bank. [35216/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

12. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met or spoken to Chancellor Merkel recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35618/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

13. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met or spoken with Mr. Mario Draghi recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35620/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

14. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the discussions at the August European Council meeting on the Ebola virus in west Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35625/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

15. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has discussed Ireland's retrospective debt with any other EU leaders recently during, before or after an European Council meeting since June 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35638/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

16. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position on the discussions at the European Council meeting in August 2014; if he made a contribution at same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35662/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

17. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the discussions on Israel and Gaza at the European Council meeting; if he made a contribution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35663/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

18. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position on the EU increasing the sanctions on Russia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35664/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

19. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the Israel-Palestine situation was discussed at European Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35670/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

20. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken or met President Hollande recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35672/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

21. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met or spoken with Prime Minister Renzi; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35673/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

22. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on decisions taken by EU leaders in respect of Russia at the recent European Council meeting. [35674/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

23. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the bilateral meetings he held when he attended the European Council on 30 August 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36509/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

24. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he has had discussions with other EU Heads of State with regard to Israel following the recent attacks on Gaza; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36517/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (26 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 to 24, inclusive, together.

I attended European Council meetings in June, July and August. The main purpose of the special European Council in August was to elect a new President of the European Council and appoint the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. I am very pleased that the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and the Italian Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, were selected for these key positions. I have worked closely with Donald Tusk in his capacity as Prime Minister in the past few years and believe his experience and professionalism will serve the Union well. I have told him that I look forward to working closely with him in driving forward the agenda of growth, jobs and investment. I take the opportunity to record my thanks to the outgoing President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the outgoing High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, who have guided the Union through some very difficult times in the past five years.

While I did not have separate bilateral meetings with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Renzi or President Hollande at the August European Council, I did, of course, engage with all of my colleagues during the course of discussions, including those to whom I have just referred. I also met Chancellor Merkel during my visit to Berlin in July. My replies to previous questions about that visit are on the record of the House. I have not had a specific meeting with the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, recently. However, he participates regularly at European Council meetings when core economic issues are discussed.

At the European Council meeting in August we discussed the economic and employment situation in the Union. We reiterated the need to progress the country-specific recommendations under the European Semester and implement the strategic agenda agreed at the European Council in June. We will return to these issues at the European Council and the Euro Summit in October which President Draghi will also attend.

During the European Councils in June, July and August and on the margins of these meetings I engaged in discussions with a number of colleagues about Ireland's economic situation, as well as about broader European economic issues. The possible use of the European Stability Mechanism for bank recapitalisation was not up for discussion at these European Council meetings, but it is for consideration by finance Ministers.

At the July meeting of the European Council Heads of State and Governments repeated their call on Russia to actively use its influence over illegally armed groups and to stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border with Ukraine in order to de-escalate the situation rapidly. The Council regretted the lack of progress on four key steps set out at the June meeting and agreed to take a number of new measures in response to the deteriorating situation in the area. A special European Council meeting on 30 August took place against a backdrop of a very serious intensification of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the previous two weeks. The meeting included a discussion with President Poroshenko. The European Council condemned the increased flow of fighters and weapons from Russia into the Donbas region, as well as the aggression of Russian armed forces on Ukrainian soil, and called for their immediate withdrawal. We reiterated the importance of implementing President Porosheko's peace plan without delay and set out the essential actions required to achieve this.

The European Council also requested the Commission and the European External Action Service to present proposals for further restrictive measures against Russia within seven days for its consideration. These measures which reinforce the restrictions already in place since July were adopted on 8 September and entered into force on 12 September. We also called on all parties to support the UN-led international relief effort aimed at providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance for the local civilian population. The European Council conclusions reiterated the urgent need for a sustainable political solution based on respect for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence.

While the emergency Foreign Affairs Council in August focused on recent events in Gaza, the special meeting of the European Council in late August adopted conclusions which flowed from the Foreign Affairs Council welcoming the recent ceasefire and stressing, in particular, that efforts must continue to bring about an end to the closure regime operated by Israel, an improvement in the condition of the people in Gaza and an end to the rocket attacks on Israel. The Council reiterated the European Union's willingness to assist in Gaza and stated Gaza must be part of the comprehensive resolution of the conflict in a two-state solution. Further humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Gaza will be discussed at an international conference in Cairo on 12 October.

The European Council in August also expressed concern about the crisis caused by the ebola virus in Africa and stressed the importance of the international community as a whole providing substantial co-ordinated support for the countries of the region, NGOs and the World Health Organization to help them to tackle the disease as swiftly and effectively as possible. The European Council welcomed the additional funds provided by the European Union and its member states and their efforts to provide further financial and human resources to meet, in particular, the increased demands for experts in local areas. The European Council paid tribute to the efforts of humanitarian and health workers on the front line. It called for increased co-ordination at EU level in the assistance provided by EU member states and invited the Council to adopt a comprehensive EU framework response to address the crisis.

I have answered questions on the special meeting of Heads of State and Government in Brussels in May and these replies are included in the Official Report.

As we have a short amount of time, I ask Deputies to be as brief as possible.

After the euro area summit in June 2012, the Minister made lavish claims in the Dáil that this meant one of the euro financial mechanisms would be used to replace the massive €64 billion Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, followed by Fine Gael and the Labour Party, had forced Irish taxpayers to pay to bail out the European financial market system. That was two years and a number of months ago. Why did this not feature at the summit on which the Taoiseach reported to us? Where are the funds? Where is the relief that was promised? When the Taoiseach and the former Tánaiste came here to talk about seismic changes and earth-shattering events, we thought a tsunami of relief was to follow shortly. Not one cent has been seen and I ask the Taoiseach for an explanation.

Has the position and future of Hong Kong featured at EU summit level in the recent period? I am sure the Taoiseach knows that China is declaring that its Stalinist totalitarianism will be imposed on the people of Hong Kong who, in particular the youth but also wide ranges of the population, are in revolt and absolutely correct to be so. Is the Taoiseach embarrassed about this recent development, as he feted the Chinese leadership and failed to criticise the nature of the regime when it visited Ireland? There is massive repression at the diktat of the Chinese regime and we cannot rule out the possibility that a horror like what happened at Tiananmen Square could be visited on Hong Kong, either before or after the 2017 elections. Will the matter feature in upcoming meetings? Is it an issue on which the Taoiseach will engage and raise at meetings?

I refer to the horrors and atrocities visited on the people of Gaza by the overwhelming miliary power of and bombardment by the Israeli regime. How do the Taoiseach and his fellow EU leaders justify Israel being a favoured state of the European Union as far as trade issues are concerned? How does he justify the weak-kneed, cowardly, dishonest and hypocritical failure of the European Union to call what the Israeli regime is doing in Gaza by its name?

The situation in Hong Kong was not discussed at the European Council meeting. It had not erupted in the manner it has in more recent times. I deplore that kind of activity and hope the situation can be stabilised quickly. There is no doubt that it will be discussed in the future.

On the question of finances, the banking union structure has continued to be put in place at official level and towards the end of the year the stability mechanism and banking union will be in place. It will then be a question of considering what is the best option for recapitalisation. The taxpayer put €4 billion into Bank of Ireland and received €6 billion in return and it still owns 15% of the entity. The appropriate time for it to be disposed of is a matter for consideration by the Minister for Finance and the Government in due course. The same applies to AIB. The option of deciding which entity would give the best return to the taxpayer remains. The option of being able to pursue the process of direct recapitalisation of the banks remains open and on the table, all of the elements having been completed.

In regard to the situation in Gaza, we were appalled by it all summer.

The loss of life was not acceptable under any circumstances. Ireland has consistently warned that if this was not resolved it would lead to a new outbreak of exceptional violence, which happened with loss of life, particularly on the Gaza side, following the shootings in the West Bank. The situation has stabilised somewhat, but the place is destroyed. There is an exceptional requirement for reconstruction funds to bring in material to rebuild the many thousands of dwellings and houses that have been flattened in Gaza.

The ceasefire on 26 August brought about some sense of stability, and I noticed the reaction of the people in Gaza to that. Political discussions must continue. The attitude and the political position of the different groups from Hamas to so many others is an issue that requires constant analysis because of the changing nature of what is happening there. It is unacceptable to have had a continuation of attacks from Israel into Gaza. I could never understand why one would hear comments that they were investigating incidents in which schools were hit and comments as to whether stocks of arms were held in United Nations buildings. It always struck me that the United Nations is doing a remarkable job out there and clearly those buildings should be sacrosanct for the purposes for which they are intended. How they could become places for arms to be stocked is something I could never get to grips with. The ceasefire is tenuous. It is another beginning, with thousands of lives having been lost.

It is not appropriate that the acquisition of land on the West Bank and the building of very significant numbers of houses and apartments continue without restriction. The European Union and the international community must be focused on this. I note, for the attention of Deputy Joe Higgins, from the discussions which took place at the European Council that 1 million people have fled from Syria into southern Lebanon and a million people have moved from Syria into Jordan, and they have had all sorts of humanitarian crises in Syria. There is a civil war in effect in Libya, and we have ISIS or ISIL and the other challenging issues that apply across the greater Middle East region, including the extermination of Christian communities and the Christian population at Mosul, formerly Nineveh. Deputy Higgins will be aware that the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a panel of inquiry to examine breaches of human rights in the recent conflict, and I am sure it will find many. We support the council and its work on this. Ireland supported an investigation, and now that the panel has been established, I am not sure whether any other format will be brought forward. The position has been grossly unacceptable and we hope the tenuous ceasefire that is now in place can continue and that these people in a devastated area can have some sense of family living. It is a couple of years since I was out there, but one has to go there, as the Deputy knows himself, to see the extent of the devastation - flattened buildings, unemployed young people and the struggles they have to deal with every day under different regimes, always with the awareness that another incursion might take place. This was an issue that was raised also.

The financial position and issues with regard to repayments were raised. I note for information the approval, of which the Deputy will be aware, that has been given from our European colleagues for the early purchase of IMF loan repayments. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and his team did an excellent job here. Ireland borrowed €22.5 billion at 5% from the IMF, the most expensive portion of which is the €18.3 billion portion which is subject to the IMF's highest credit surcharge. It makes practical common sense that if we can borrow at much lower rates than applied previously, there is an opportunity to buy out the loans. Thanks be to God we can, as the rates currently available on the international markets are well below the 5% level. Our ten-year bond in Ireland is now less than 2%. By buying out the loans at a lesser charge, we can save the taxpayer approximately €1.5 billion over a five-year period. That would be a positive indicator for Europe, a very significant advance for Ireland and a very worthwhile saving for the taxpayer here due to the emergence of the country as a stronger and more competitive economic unit. We are grateful to our EU colleagues for that.

Under the terms of each of Ireland's loan agreements with the EFSF, the ESM and the three bilateral lenders - the UK, Sweden and Denmark - we were supposed to pay back those loans at the same time as making repayments on the IMF loans. However, at the meeting of 12 and 13 September, Ministers expressed broad support for Ireland's proposal, as did the bilateral lenders. For some member states, this approval is subject to the necessity of reverting to their national parliaments for parliamentary approval and authorisation. That is being done. For the EFSF loans, the Eurogroup mandated the euro working group to take this proposal forward while ECOFIN mandated the economic and financial committee to do likewise. The Minister for Finance wrote to the EFSF, the ESM and the three bilateral lenders on 19 September to formally request their agreement to our proposal to repay up to €18.3 billion of our IMF loans ahead of schedule and to the waiving of the mandatory proportionate repayment clauses set out in each of the loan documents. Once the national procedures are adopted, it will be possible for Ireland to start discussions with the IMF on the detailed arrangements for early repayment. I am sure Deputy Higgins welcomes that.

I suggest we group the questions of the three Deputies offering to speak: Deputy Adams, Deputy Martin and Deputy Boyd Barrett.

I have about ten questions.

There are only 12 minutes remaining and I cannot leave anyone out.

I will be as brief as I can, but I note that this is not a satisfactory way to do business. I asked a number of questions of the Taoiseach about Gaza and the onslaught there and he did not answer one of them in his response. We all know that more than 2,000 people were killed by the Israeli Defence Forces, including more than 500 children, and that the Israeli Government is in breach of international law, humanitarian law and criminal law. The question is what the people of Palestine are to do. If the international community stands back and does not uphold the rights of citizens there, the Israeli Government will continue to do what it is doing.

The Taoiseach said in his remarks that the international community must be focused on this, but our Government is not focused on it. Our Government, this State and the island of Ireland could be leaders in conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights globally, but we are not. We have the shameful decision by the Government to abstain on a UN vote calling for an investigation into war crimes during the slad on Gaza. It is beyond comprehension that we abstained on that issue. Similarly, while the Government recognises the mission of the State of Palestine in Ireland, it does not provide it with the same privileges, immunities, exemptions and facilities granted to other diplomatic missions in Dublin pursuant to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. In response to a question I asked, I was told that a formal recognition of the Palestinian state and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations should take place in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

That is not good enough. I ask the Taoiseach to ensure that we become champions of peace in the Middle East, that we stand up for the rights of the people of Israel, particularly those who are the victims, and for the rights of the people of Palestine. He can do that by affording full diplomatic status to the Palestinian mission in Ireland and raising all those issues in a consistent and ongoing way.

I note the response to what is happening in Ukraine is markedly different from what is happening in the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the onslaught upon the people of the Palestinian territories.

I have tabled 11 questions in this group and it is unsatisfactory that I have to deal with them all now in a short space of time. We should do it thematically - Gaza, Palestine, Ukraine separately-----

-----and the debt issue separately. Whoever decided to group them should have at least divided them up in that way because this is totally unsatisfactory.

First, in terms of the debt issue and the retrospective debt, for three and a half years the Taoiseach and the Government defined relief on banking debt as European agreement on retrospectively funding the debts that were effectively imposed on Ireland. In fact, two senior Ministers went so far as to say that up to €60 billion could be retrieved in such a manner. That followed the famous 2012 meeting when Mario Monti and those others forced Chancellor Merkel's hand but what we have witnessed since then essentially has been the unravelling of that decision. The Taoiseach has completely changed tack and the idea of getting such a sizeable retrospective deal has abated; he has given up on that. He now uses vague language to do with existing options, and no one quite knows what those options are. There was always an option to sell the banks later on. That was never off the table, but that was not the point. The point was that Europe imposed a solution in Ireland at a time when Europe itself did not have solutions for what was a wider eurozone crisis, not just an Irish crisis. That is at the kernel of this, and it did not treat Ireland fairly. The former Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, said that the 2012 meeting was a game changer. It has not turned out to be a game changer. Can the Taoiseach confirm to the House that the European leaders are not prepared to do a deal on Ireland's debt retrospectively? The separation of sovereign and banking debt, which was proclaimed, will not be retrospective. Can the Taoiseach give a straight answer regarding what he is being told now by Chancellor Merkel and others?

Second, regarding the Palestinian crisis and the appalling strategy being taken by the Israeli Government, we have condemned the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel but those rocket attacks were no justification for the declaration of war on Palestine, and on Gaza in particular, by the Israeli Government. It cannot bomb with impunity and do those kinds of military operations without killing many innocent women and children, and innocent civilians generally. What was appalling was the lack of any pulling back when innocent children running across a beach were murdered. To be honest, the Taoiseach pulled his punches in terms of the UN committee on human rights but there was a lack of unequivocal condemnation of that kind of activity emanating, in my view, from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and from others. I got the sense that there was a decided lack of comfort within Government circles about what was transpiring and how to react to it. There comes a time when we have to say that the use of such lethal force on a civilian population had no justification and was a disproportionate response to what was happening.

There is a sense that the Government has a particular position on this debate than that it had three and a half years ago in that it was far more tolerant of Israeli strategy, which I believe is a flawed strategy. I have no difficulty in terms of Israel as a state in the sense that I recognise its right to exist and I recognise the two-state solution as the ideal solution, but I am not sure Israel believes in a two-state solution. I am not sure that its political strategy is designed to achieve that. In fact, one would have to come to the conclusion that its political strategy is to do the exact opposite. The recent announcements in terms of further land settlements is flying in the face of United Nations rules, regulations and law and makes it far more difficult to ever have a two-state solution or a Palestinian state that has the capacity to be effective as a Palestinian state.

All the Israeli strategy succeeds in doing is undermining moderate opinion within Gaza and moderate opinion within the West Bank, and undermines Abbas and his Government, Fayyad and all those who showed that progress could be made if there was some dialogue. It is almost as if Israel has a vested interest in ensuring that the extremes stay vibrant and in existence. People may disagree with my position on that but that is my sense of it. There is an urgency for Europe in that regard. The UN Secretary General summed it up when the conflict ended when he asked - "What do we do now?". Do we rebuild it yet again? How many more hundreds of millions of people will come from Europe to rebuild Gaza for another war in two years' time, which will level everything again? I recall being at Foreign Affairs Council meetings at which Tony Blair said the sewage treatment plant would be rebuilt. None of the promises made after the flotilla disasters, which the Taoiseach might remember, have been kept. It is an appalling crime against humanity that an entire population is imprisoned to the degree it is, and western states and the European states have not called it what it is, for a range of reasons. It is time some countries within the European Council, including Ireland, spoke a few truths now and again about this issue. I ask the Taoiseach to give me some indication of what transpired at the summit meeting with regard to that issue.

Third, regarding Ukraine, I welcome the Taoiseach's support for the tough sanctions against Russia in terms of its aggression against a neighbouring state. The Sinn Féin leader said there seemed to be a different response from the Government side to Gaza than there would be to Ukraine. One could make the same statement about Sinn Féin's stance in terms of Gaza and Ukraine.

That is not the case.

It is because Sinn Féin has followed the same line in the European Parliament as it followed here-----

We have been very clear.

-----which is that it attacked the European Union and the United States, and it tried to draw an equivalence between the behaviour of the EU and the United States to Russia's behaviour.

All of them are wrong.

That is my point. The Deputy has just confirmed what I said. The Taoiseach should always remember, and I hope he would agree with me, that the association agreement was the No. 1 item on President Poroshenko's election programme when he won an overwhelming majority in Ukraine. He has full democratic legitimacy, and he should be accepted as such, but for some reason Sinn Féin does not accept it. Russia has behaved as an aggressive imperial power.

I agree with that.

It has partitioned a state it believes should be subject to Russian control.

I agree with that.

Throwing in the equivalence aspect that they are all wrong is giving it a fool's pardon.

I want to call Deputy Boyd Barrett. I know there are no time limits, Deputy-----

The Deputy is refusing to call it what it is, and that only encourages President Putin in terms of further aggression. I ask the Taoiseach to assure us that Ireland will continue to stand with the people of states threatened by Russian aggression. It is a very serious issue in that part of the world because they have experienced terrible events in the past and they do not want to go back to that.

My final question is on Ebola in west Africa. Europe and the developed states have not responded with the urgency necessary from the outset of this crisis. It is an appalling, devastating crisis, not only in terms of Ebola itself. The entire public health system in Sierra Leone, west Africa and across the entire continent is in danger of collapsing. There will be far more deaths from malaria, maternal mortality and other conditions because people are no longer turning up to hospitals. Hospitals are closing. Health staff have left because of the impact of Ebola. People are not taking medicines or going onto the system. I acknowledge that the Government has donated €600,000. He might see if Irish Aid could do more and if the public health community in Ireland could meet with a view to determining if there is anything they could do on a more practical level to assist the international effort.

This is a public health crisis of extraordinary consequence and demands a far greater international response then it has received to date.

My question concerns double standards when it comes to the way Europe deals with the situation faced by Palestinians, and the people of Gaza in particular, in the wake of the recent assault by Israel on Gaza. I would like the Taoiseach to explain how on earth the EU can continue to confer trade privileges and effective associate EU membership on Israel, contribute €840 million in recent years to Israel to develop weapons and missile systems through the EU scientific research programme and continue to allow the EU to be largest trading partner of Israel by a mile. We give them trade privileges, unprecedented access to EU funds and we contribute directly to the development of weaponry and military research that Israel uses against Palestinians in what François Hollande described as a massacre. The president of an EU state described what they did to the UN school as a massacre.

The Russell tribunal met in the past week in Brussels and found that Israel's Operation Protective Edge displayed evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination, persecution and incitement to genocide. It does not get much more serious than that yet the EU confers trade privileges on a state accused of these things. At what point do diplomatic niceties, realpolitik and blind submission to the diktats of the wider EU and its strategic interests give way to standing up and showing moral backbone and saying it is no longer acceptable to treat as a normal state and confer privileges and trade benefits on a state guilty of massacres and accused of genocidal action?

The same European Union can, in an instant, impose sanctions on Russia. I absolutely condemn what Russia is doing in Ukraine but nobody is accusing Russia of genocide. Israel is being accused of genocide and there is no question that it engaged in massacres yet we do nothing. When will the Taoiseach speak out and stop hiding behind EU silence and the claim that it is a decision for the EU? Will Ireland speak out about this and say it is not good enough that genocidal assaults over many years are being conducted against the people of Gaza and we continue not just to treat Israel as a normal state but to confer privilege on it? It is an extraordinary moral contradiction and I ask the Taoiseach to explain it.

It is just not good enough. Deputy Martin raised Gaza as well. It is a country surrounded by Arab countries and on three occasions in the past 30 or 40 years a two-state solution was offered but rejected because of the inability of Arab nations to get agreement on this very controversial situation. It is unacceptable in any circumstances that, as pointed out by Deputy Micheál Martin, disproportionate use of lethal force should be directed at a confined entity like Gaza. Ireland has been forthright in unreservedly condemning that scale of attack and also condemning the rockets from Gaza indiscriminately fired into places in Israel. Ireland has its experience and the professionalism of our troops serving in the UN based on our proven capacity to do things differently in the case of conflict resolution, including decommissioning weapons and building tenuous peace. I was speaking to someone yesterday who was in Belfast 25 years ago and I asked him what he thought. He said that the walls are higher and that it is not the way it used to be despite the fact that things were difficult then. Deputy Gerry Adams is aware of the discussions to be led by both Governments that may bring about a renewed sense of activity about what we must do in Northern Ireland. I share the view of Deputies Boyd Barrett and Micheál Martin on the question of water, accommodation and the scale of reconstruction funds that must go in to Gaza for the nth time. The blockade of its seaward side and its sea fishing exits is crushing people. This is a case of attempting a different kind of conflict resolution but it must involve the capacity to reach out to different forces. The question of decommissioning is an issue.

Ebola has frightened millions of people listening to international newscasters. If people contract symptoms that look like ebola and decide to leave the local region, they carry this with them. The capacity to beat this is obviously there and it may be that countries allocating money for humanitarian aid may be better off giving a proportion of it to the World Health Organisation, which has the logistical capacity to deal with it but not have the funds. Countries with good intent allocate funding for humanitarian works. A portion of it might be better spent by the World Health Organisation to deal with rehydration of people and developing the capacity to treat people locally rather than have them travel long distances where the disease can spread. My layman's understanding of this is that it can peter out with proper treatment but new movement brings about a resurgence and causes major anxiety. With regard to Deputy Martin's comment about the Irish aid already given, we will see whether something else can be made available.

President Poroshenko was very forthright at the European Council meeting, as was the response from the European Council in respect of the extra sanctions implemented within seven days. Europe became serious in terms of these very wealthy individuals who are being seriously compromised by these sanctions. With regard to the grouping of the questions, I will look into that matter.

The June 2012 decision still stands and Ireland is one of the few countries that could make a claim for recapitalisation under that decision. It was not possible to do anything until the banking resolution and banking union mechanisms were put in place, which will be from November. The Government will make its decision on the best option.

The Deputy is correct in that the option of the sale back of the banks was always available. With direct recapitalisation, it took a hell of an amount of complex and tortuous discussion and negotiations to get to the present point. It is now being finalised and is the subject of decisions by countries if they wish to make a claim under it.

The Government will make its decisions in due course on the testing of the value of banks or the option of pursuing the question of the decision of 2012, which is still there and very much on the table.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.