Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Debate
Implications for Good Friday Agreement of UK Referendum Result (Resumed): Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Senator Mark Daly: As my colleague, Deputy Smith, pointed out, the difficulty about the Dutch Parliament’s understanding of our position is that it is not unique. I understand from meetings Fianna Fáil members had with some of the Sicilian and Italian parliamentarians that they thought Ireland is leaving the EU because Northern Ireland is leaving. This is the challenge we face. Malta had some understanding but, in reality, it requires a lot of education because there is so much going on and so much information-sharing and laying out of our position. One of the big challenges the Government faces is that while Theresa May has made her statement, we need to set out our asks and say what we want. Deputy Sherlock pointed out the votes that took place in Westminster. What is being said by the British Government and what it is doing are two entirely different things. Theresa May when she was Home Secretary said the hard Border would of course return if there were a Brexit. Then she became Prime Minister and said there would of course be no return to a hard Border. Now she says the Border will be as frictionless as possible. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, says there will be no special deal for Northern Ireland. The lack of understanding in Westminster could be put in the following way. While Westminster was trying to emphasise the importance of Northern Ireland in terms of the impact of Brexit, one of its reports which the House of Lords produced stated that – I thought it was a very telling line – the relationship between Ireland and Britain has not always been a smooth one. This would have to be the greatest understatement of any diplomat in the history of the State. The report’s analysis of the impact was such that its authors dismissed everything that would suit us and would do everything to suit themselves. The UK currently has an operation called Operation Gull whereby people leaving Belfast, Derry and Larne are profiled and 752 people have been arrested on immigration grounds. It already has immigration controls between the North of Ireland and Britain. That is the solution to not having a hard Border. It has to accept that when 40,000 people were employed in the security forces in the North, the Border could not be secured. Trying to secure it now would be foolhardy, whereas it is already carrying out immigration controls at the three exit points from Northern Ireland to Britain. Yet, it will not reimpose that. The House of Lords has said that it cannot be done for political reasons, even though exactly the same system was in place between 1939 and 1952 and, under it, identify checks were carried out on people travelling from the North to Britain.
Amendments to Councillors’ Conditions: Statements
Senator Mark Daly: I thank the Minister for coming to the House. I have to reflect the views of the people who have contacted me and say that there is grave disappointment regarding the offer that is on the table. In many counties and in many cases, even with what is on the table people will be €5,000 worse off than they were five years ago.
The feedback I am getting is that the fixed allowance, which is obviously an increase in many instances, should continue under the current system, and the €1,000 under the municipal district payment, while welcome, is discriminating against Galway, Cork and Dublin, as my colleague has pointed out. The Minister has explained it, but that is the feeling that exists and we should have equity wherever we go.
The Association of Irish Local Government and the Local Government Members Association have engaged with the Minister, as have many Senators and other public representatives, but what they are looking for is fairness. When one looks at the overall issue regarding their payments compared with Northern Ireland and England, Scotland and Wales, there is not the same parity of esteem, to use a term from the peace process, when it comes to public representatives at a local level here. If we want public representatives to continue in the role across the country then we must ensure that we give them the payments and the supports that will ensure they will be there. Otherwise we will have mass retirements as happened in Dublin City Council, when in one year, 20% of the councillors retired because of pressure of work in one election term.
Senator Mark Daly: I agree with Senator Conway about the information being provided to Ministers. Mark Twain said that “facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable” but when one does not have the facts, there is nothing one can do about it. While heads should roll, in a modern democracy, the fact that the lists are not accurate means that the HSE has a lot to answer for. That does not mean that the Minister is not the person in charge. The former Minister, Deputy Varadkar, appeared here many times and one would swear that he was a commentator on the health service instead of being the Minister for Health. Nobody can point to any reforms he made when he was Minister for Health.
The leader of the DUP is also a person who seems to be unable to grasp facts as they apply to the real world. She is not a woman of detail, as we know, because even though she was in charge of the department that promoted and signed off on the renewable energy scheme, she said she did not realise that the devil was in the detail and that, in reality, she was giving away hundreds of billions of pounds to people to literally burn money. She was not very good on facts when she said yesterday that more people in Northern Ireland—–
An Cathaoirleach: Senator Paul Coghlan is being very interruptive today and by interrupting, he is delaying the entire process.
Senator Mark Daly: I will start again for the benefit—–
An Cathaoirleach: That is not allowed.
Senator Mark Daly: In respect of the DUP leader’s ability to grasp facts, she does not seem to understand that her department was in charge of signing off on the renewable energy scheme and that she has burned £500 million on this scheme to the point where I am informed by people in Northern Ireland that they are not even burning the pellets they are getting paid to burn. They are actually taking the pellets south and reselling them. That is enterprising and I am sure the DUP would love that type of enterprise. The leader of the DUP also said something yesterday that is not a fact either. She said more people in Northern Ireland speak Polish than speak Irish. That is not true. There are 30,000 Polish speakers and 105,000 people who speak Irish. She did not seem to understand the most important fact of all when she announced the DUP’s policies and said that she did not support an Irish language Act and would not see one implemented. This is part of an international agreement. That is a fact. It is the St. Andrew’s Agreement and it should be implemented. However, the DUP seems to want to roll back on an agreement to which it signed up itself. Ms Foster does not seem to have much of a grasp of the facts. It is deplorable that the DUP is now rolling back on its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrew’s Agreement.
Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on the Irish Overseas and Diaspora and Member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Mark Daly is calling on Irish people, at home and abroad, to contribute their ideas to the Fianna Fáil policy paper on the Diaspora which is currently being revised. Fianna Fail was the first political party to ever produce a policy paper on this issue.
Senator Daly commented: “With everything that is happening across the world, and especially in the United States, Ireland needs a strong stance on issues affecting Irish people, and people of Irish descent.
“Fianna Fáil is committed to ensuring that the voices and opinions of Irish people overseas are heard, and included in our policy positions.
“Issues such as immigration reform in the United States which will affect the 50,000 undocumented Irish currently living there and Brexit will affect us all, but for those in the United States or Britain, they are especially pertinent.
“We want to hear what people feel are the major challenges affecting the Irish diaspora, and what solutions people feel are suitable.
“Submissions can be made until Friday, 24st February by emailing me at Mark.Daly@oireachtas.ie
“I would urge anyone with an interest in, or knowledge of, diaspora issues to get involved,” concluded Daly.