28 Ean 2011, 13.50

The Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs succeeded in offering an impartial arena for debate and information following the first Lisbon Treaty vote but was unable to complete its investigation into the status of the €40bn worth of EU loans.

The Committee which staged over 100 meetings since its formation held its final meeting this week, had secured meetings with Jean Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, Commissioner Oliver Rehn and Klaus Regling over the next week. Regrettably these meetings will not now take place due to the impending dissolution of the Dáil.

The Committee had resolved to examine the terms of the loans made available to Ireland in order to ascertain whether or not Ireland had got the best possible interest rate. The meetings with these key individuals were a central aspect to this investigation.

Over the course of its 38 months in existence, the Committee has produced 16 reports on a broad range of subjects from the situation in the Western Balkans to the EU’s involvement in the Middle East peace process to the EU 2020 Strategy for Growth and Jobs to stronger EU financial regulation and reform of the European Monetary Union.

However, a key focus of the Committee’s work has been the Lisbon Treaty, both its ratification and implementation. Its sub-committee produced a report on Ireland’s future in the EU which not only took stock of Ireland’s membership but underlined the issues and concerns of the Irish people which helped the government to secure the guarantees in the run up to the second referendum. Jointly with the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny, the Joint Committee produced a report on the future role of the Oireachtas in EU affairs which seeks to fully exploit the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty which gave national parliaments a bigger say in what the EU does.

One of the final acts of the Committee was to agree a contribution to the European Parliament’s Special Committee on policy challenges and budget resources for the EU post 2013. This contribution highlights the need to maintain funding for the CAP and to invest more in research and innovation. It also reiterates the Committee’s strongly held position that no moves should be made by the EU to harmonise taxes, including corporate tax.

Committee Chairman, Bernard Durkan TD said;
“I am particularly proud of the work carried out by this Committee and its sub-Committee following the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. The initial debate leading up to the first vote was full of half truths and misinformation. I believe the Committee provided a forum for open debate where those of all views could clearly express their opinions and be thoroughly questioned. It enabled the Irish people to be better informed and reassured.

Work continues both within the Oireachtas and with our partners in national parliaments across Europe on the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. It is important that the Oireachtas fully exploits the opportunities provided by the Treaty for the benefit of the people we represent. I hope that the committee’s report on the role of the Oireachtas in EU affairs will serve as an inspiration for the next Dáil when it comes to deciding how we do our work in the increasingly important area of EU matters.

Disappointingly however, owing to the unexpected shortening of the Oireachtas term the Committee will not be able to conclude its scrutiny of the massive loans received from the EU.  There is great public debate in Ireland concerning the standing of these loans and the Committee was determined to establish if Ireland had gotten a fair deal.

I would urge the next Committee to proceed with this initiative and rearrange the meetings we had put in place. It is also important that the next Committee continues to monitor the debate on the EU’s future budget. Both these issues will have a real impact on the future direction of the EU and on the Irish people.

Daniel English
Oireachtas Communications Office
01 618 4484
087 6949926
The full membership of the Committee is:
Bernard Durkan, TD, Chairman (Fine Gael)
Timmy Dooley, TD Vice Chairman (Fianna Fáil)
Thomas Byrne, TD (Fianna Fáil)
Michael Creed, TD (Fine Gael)
Pat Breen TD, (Fine Gael)
Sean Barrett TD, (Fine Gael)
Michael Mulcahy TD, (Fianna Fáil)
Mary O'Rourke, TD (Fianna Fáil)
Beverley Flynn, TD (Fianna Fáil)
Sean Power, TD (Fianna Fáil)
Joanna Tuffy, TD, (Labour)
Brendan Howlin TD, (Labour)
Noel Treacy TD, (Fianna Fáil)
Senator Rónán Mullen, (Independent)
Senator Phil Prendergast, (Labour)
Senator Paschal Donohoe, (Fine Gael)
Senator Terry Leyden, (Fianna Fáil)
Senator John Hanifan, (Fianna Fáil)
Senator Maurice Cummins, (Fine Gael)
Senator Feargal Quinn, (Independent)
Senator Mark Deary (Green Party)