Header Item Military Neutrality (Continued)
 Header Item Waste Disposal

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 954 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe] The EU also proposes to support member states’ collaborative efforts in helping them deploy the most suitable financial arrangements for joint acquisition with a view to incentivise cooperation and leverage national financing.

Until 2020, the Commission is proposing to allocate €590 million to the European defence fund. As of 2020, the Commission is proposing to allocate at the minimum €1.5 billion per year. The fund is not designed to substitute member states’ defence investments, but to enable and accelerate their co-operation. The proposals presented by the Commission are the first step in a long process of negotiation that will take place with the involvement of the member states. These proposals will be discussed at a number of EU working bodies and will require EU Council and Parliament approval before the defence fund can be adopted.

As part of these negotiations, member states will have differing views on the fund and also to the potential impact on the content and nature of EU research and innovation programmes, in particular in relation to the successor to the Horizon 2020 research programme. Moreover the funding proposed will have to be dealt with in the context of the negotiations for the multi-annual financial framework post-2020.

  The proposals under the defence fund will fully respect the EU treaties and the Lisbon treaty protocols and they pose no challenge to Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality. The voluntary nature of participation in the proposed fund is very much a feature of this initiative and fully acknowledges and reaffirms that defence remains a member state prerogative. Decisions about expenditure, military capabilities, research and technology are and remain matters for individual member states in the first instance. Ireland would be in full control in relation to what type of project it wanted to participate in and with whom. The proposals for the establishment of a defence fund raises no issues in relation to Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe I quote from the reflection paper from 7 June which the Minister of State may not have seen. We have our priorities all wrong regarding Europe. When I and my colleague, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, brought forward a Bill to enshrine neutrality into Bunreacht na hÉireann, we were repeatedly and wrongly told that the Constitution already protects Irish neutrality. In that debate, the Minister of State himself stated that there were no proposals to create a standing EU army and we are not, and will not, become part of any alliance of permanent military formation but that is clearly the direction in which the Commission and the European External Action Group wish to move us. Why has the Irish Government not vetoed this latest step to create a standing EU army? The Commission has been totally dismissive of the democratic will of states and their citizens. When it comes to military integration, Jean-Claude Junker's Commission has adopted an attitude of "when" rather than "if". An Irish Government should be able to tell the Commission that it will not accept this latest step and neither does the Irish people who actively support Irish neutrality en masse. The Commission's stated aim of achieving a security and defence union by 2025 marks a shift in EU policy which undermines national sovereignty.

  As we have seen in Iraq and Libya, military intervention only worsens and prolongs conflicts. The focus of the EU and its member states should be on increasing international co-operation which improves democracy, human rights and development and not a militaristic foreign policy which will exacerbate instability. While Europe fails to adequately provide for refugees fleeing war and conflict, it is shocking to most people that the Commission would prioritise an increase in military spending. These priorities are all wrong and that is the view of most Irish people.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I would not accept Deputy Crowe's assertion on that. Ireland recognises that for certain EU member states, defence is a significant contributor to their economies and represents an industry of €100 million, with 1.5 million people employed directly and indirectly. As I have previously told the House, for Ireland to have well-equipped and capability-driven defence forces we must support funding for defence research. That is exactly what this is about. Ireland may not have a defence industry but it does not stop Ireland tapping into funding through our well-established companies in the dual use, product and technology sectors. Under the development and acquisition strand of the proposed defence fund, Ireland welcomes that a proportion of the overall budget proposed for projects involving cross-border participation of SMEs. This may give Irish industry and opportunity to participate in this proposed programme. Ireland's position will continue to develop through the interdepartmental group established to examine the implications of the defence fund for Ireland and to ensure a consolidated position on the proposals before us. The defence industry development programme proposed under the capability window will now be referred to the EU Parliament and Council for their consideration and the Commission hopes that this programme will be agreed and in place for the period 2018-2019. On the 2017 preparatory action under the research window, my Department is working closely with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland to ensure Irish industry and academia are well informed about opportunities that may arise from this programme. This has no influence whatever on our policy of neutrality.

Waste Disposal

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The fourth and final item is one which Deputy O'Dea wishes to discuss. It concerns the proposal by Irish Cement to burn toxic waste at its plant in Limerick.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. I thank the relevant Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten, for coming in. I raised this previously and on that occasion it was dealt with by the Minister for Education and Skills who was standing in for him. I am glad he is here that I can bring it to his personal attention.

Irish Cement Limited has plans to burn initially 90,000 tonnes of toxic waste at its plant in Castlemungret, Mungret, County Limerick. There are 25,000 living in the immediate vicinity of that plant on the south side of Limerick city. This particular plant has an appalling safety record. There have been regular malfunctions and blow outs over several years and especially in recent months. In that context, my constituents are naturally very reluctant to accept any assurances coming from Irish Cement Limited.

I have had meetings with Irish Cement Limited on this matter. We have listened to what its spokesman have had to say. Its argument is that there are four cement plants on the island of Ireland - one is across the Border - three have moved from burning fossil fuel to burning industrial and toxic waste, so what is the problem with a fourth one doing so? It also argues that this process is wide spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world and that it has worked well, particularly in Germany. That argument leaves out a number of factors. First, it leaves out the extra filtration and mitigating equipment used in Germany, which is not proposed to be used here. More crucially, it also leaves out that fact that since various countries allowed this process, in accordance with rules formulated to cover it, science has moved on. In several European countries where this process takes place, particularly Spain, they have realised the danger it constitutes to public health and there has been a storm of protest. We cannot just swallow the argument that because they are there and they operate in accordance with the rules in operation when they applied. That does not mean they are not killing people or damaging them.

There is a wealth of scientific evidence that shows a very close connection between various forms of cancer and respiratory diseases and proximity to this type of operation. I am advised by people who know a lot more about this than I do, that the burning of toxic waste in a cement plant is infinitely more dangerous to the environment than a traditional incinerator. Irish Cement Limited have also claimed that burning this so-called alternative fuel, namely industrial waste, will reduce the carbon footprint. It will do nothing of the sort. I do not have time to illustrate why this statement is another sham but even if it did reduce the carbon footprint it would still be counterproductive because it results in an increase in the toxins and fluorines released into the atmosphere.

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