Thursday, 4 October 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
Sinn Féin believes that a radical change in direction is required and that the EU has its priorities seriously wrong. We agree with many of President Schulz's comments. However, the EU can find €100 billion for bad Spanish banks but only a pittance to tackle youth unemployment. President Schulz has identified youth unemployment as the most serious problem facing the people of the European Union. We welcome that statement, which is true. I appeal to the President to go beyond fine words and to give real hope to a generation of young people without work.
The European Union and member states need to focus on stimulating Europe's economies and to encourage growth through stimulus packages. There is no stimulus in any of what the Irish Government is doing. We need to get people back to work. More important, we need to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services rather than destroying them.
Sinn Féin has long argued that the role of the ECB needs to be re-examined and that it needs to fulfil the role of a lender of last resort. In recent months, the focus of attention of the larger states such as Germany, the President of the Commission, Mr. Barroso, and Mr. Schulz, as President of the EU Parliament, have moved increasingly towards a political and fiscal union. Sinn Féin does not believe that fiscal federalism will stabilise the euro. The current policy of austerity and bank bailouts has led to greater instability in the eurozone. The one-size-fits-all monetary policy was part of the problem. A one-size-fits-all fiscal policy will only make matters worse. Sinn Féin is firmly of the view that what is now required is a different approach based on investment in jobs and economic growth.
In his state of the Union address to the European Parliament several weeks ago, Mr. Barroso confirmed that a federal Europe is the ultimate goal of the EU Commission. Sinn Féin has consistently raised the concern in previous referendum campaigns that Irish sovereignty is being undermined and that we are being pushed towards a federal Europe. The democratic deficit was mentioned. The people of this island have never been consulted on that issue. I welcome President Schulz's comments on the need for greater democratisation of EU institutions but there needs to be a recognition in Brussels that there is no mandate or popular will in this State for a European super state or United States of Europe - on the contrary.
President Schulz recognised in his speech today that communities and citizens across the EU, in particular young people, are struggling with sky high levels of unemployment, emigration and under-employment. They are victims of an economic mess caused by the type of austerity policies to which the Commission is wedded. What citizens in Ireland and across the European Union want is practical leadership. President Schulz spoke eloquently about the need for solidarity and about trust being required. However, until there is evidence that the European institutions and the Governments are focussed on creating jobs, protecting public services and sheltering the most vulnerable from the outcomes of austerity, we will see a continued alienation of people from these institutions. A social European Union is required, a European Union of equals, one which protects our citizens, rural communities, young people and most especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable. Mar a dúirt mé, cead míle fáilte, one hundred thousand welcomes. I thank President Schulz for his attendance, his remarks and wish him good luck in his job.
An Ceann Comhairle: I understand the time allocated for the Technical Group is being shared between Deputies Stephen Donnelly and Joe Higgins, with Deputy Donnelly taking six minutes and Deputy Higgins taking four.
Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: I too welcome President Schulz to Ireland and Dáil Éireann. All of us, as European citizens, have much of which to be proud. There has been relative peace across the Continent for decades now for the first time in a long time and a growth in Europe's voice on critical issues such as inequality, social justice, climate change and so on. Unfortunately, the current economic crisis, in particular the manner in which European leaders and certain European institutions have responded to it, has fundamentally challenged the solidarity upon which Europe is built, as referred to earlier by President Schulz. The President's speech today and previous statements by him which I have read highlight the work he is doing for Europe and Ireland, for which I, as a Member of Parliament in Ireland, thank him.
I would like to use this opportunity to add the following point to the conversation on Ireland and Europe. Ireland never received a bailout and is not looking for one. However, we do need our €64 billion returned to ensure our recovery.
Deputy Finian McGrath: Hear, hear.
Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: I often hear expressed in the so-called creditor countries the common view that Ireland mismanaged its internal affairs, made mistakes and is now looking for other people's hard earned money to correct those mistakes. A mixture of economic and moral sentiment is expressed. During a recent conversation I had with a German economist he pointed out to me that the German translation of "debt" is the same as that for "guilt", which I found interesting.
There is no doubt but that mistakes have been made in this country. We have made mistakes and are working to correct them. However, the interpretation that Ireland is looking for aid is incorrect and is damaging to the solidarity of Europe and Ireland's ability, as a modern, developed society and economy, to help Europe get out of the current crisis. The following tells an interesting story. Ireland will borrow €67 billion from the troika. To date, Ireland has poured €64 billion into failed banks, which, in my opinion, should never have been given a penny. This €64 billion is the equivalent of the German people being asked to put one trillion dollars into a failed banking system. When, during a recent interview for a documentary exploring this issue, I put this to a German journalist his response was, "There would be revolution". This is what Ireland has done thus far. It is likely we will do more. The banks have, in return, given this money to bondholders. This numbers in this regard are, again, very interesting. Some €124 billion of senior debt was held by the banks when the State guaranteed it. In Greece, there was a 50% write down for senior bondholders. President Schulz is a business man, having run a bookshop for many years. He knows that when a bankrupt company is taken over the new owner meets with the company's creditors and debts are written down. This is standard practice.
What one gets when one knits the three aforementioned figures together is interesting: €67 million is being borrowed from the troika, virtually all of which is going into the banks and almost the same amount is being given by the banks to the senior bondholders in terms of forgone losses. This is what has happened: there has been a €67 billion circle of money from the troika through Ireland to the international banks and investors. I have spoken to many people about this and have, as I am sure have President Schulz and other Members of this House, read many opinions on it. I have yet to read an opinion which says that this was morally or economically correct. Yet, it continues to happen.
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