Baroness Thatcher 1925-2013

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week we lost a Political heavyweight. Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom died of a stroke on Monday morning. While I certainly did not agree with everything she did, she was a passionate, sharp and ruthless politician.

No matter what I say about her, others have probable said it better, so I have decided just to link to a few articles I have found that cover Baroness Thatcher.

One that did surprise me was Russel Brand’s take on the former Prime Minister.

When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring – I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it’s safe to say, one of Thatcher’s children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

Comment is free: Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: ‘I always felt sorry for her children’

Ireland’s Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton had a piece in the Irish Independent on Thatcher that is also interesting to read!

So, how did this grocer’s daughter of modest means and no political patronage break through the Tory club of middle-aged and middle-class men? It certainly wasn’t by way of roll-over compromise, conformity or gender quotas.

Lucinda Creighton: Margaret Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter who made her country stand tall again

Conservative MP Conor Burns spoke yesterday in the House of Commons on his relationship with the former Prime Minister. It is very interesting to read of this as he is an out gay MP! The Pinknews have the story:

Mr Burns, who voted in favour of same-sex marriage, after public deliberation, said that he visited former prime minister Lady Thatcher almost every Sunday.

He said that on one visit, a cab driver refused to take his fare when he was dropped off at Lady Thatcher’s former Chelsea home saying that he recognised it as “Maggie Thatcher’s gaff” and that he should “tell her from me, we ain’t had a good’un since”.

Mr Burns told MPs: “I imparted this message to Margaret and she intoned: ‘Well he was quite right

Gay MP Conor Burns amuses Commons with tales of his ‘friend and mentor’ Margaret Thatcher

Public Service Europe have a great article by Giles Goodall on Thatcher contributions to Europe which are often overlooked.

Perhaps Thatcher’s biggest legacy to Europe, apart from securing the legendary British rebate and simultaneously condemning future budget negotiations to be a zero-sum game, was to drive forward the single market and enlargement; first to the south but subsequently also north and eastwards. These dual achievements, originally pursued as means to thwart what she considered to be the twin European threats of socialism and further integration – or ‘deepening’ – have arguably become two of the EU’s greatest success stories.

Margaret Thatcher helped drive forward EU’s biggest successes

The Guardian have coverage of more of the stories shared in the Commons and Lords yesterday.

They also have some great Anecdotes!

The Economist have a good article on her legacy.

SEVERAL prime ministers have occupied 10 Downing Street for as long as, or even longer than, Margaret Thatcher. Some have won as many elections—Tony Blair, for one. But Mrs Thatcher (later Lady Thatcher), Britain’s sole woman prime minister, remains the only occupant of Number 10 to have become an “-ism” in her lifetime. She left behind a brand of politics and a set of convictions which still resonate, from Warsaw to Santiago to Washington, DC.

Margaret Thatcher: A cut above the rest

I finish with this excerpt from her last speech as Prime Minister in the House of Commons, it is one of my favourite speeches.

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Creighton warns Yes side of Complancency

English: Lucinda Creighton, TD
Image via Wikipedia

In an article in the Sunday Business Post (€) Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton has warned the Yes side on being complacent about a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum. In the opinion article Minister Creighton draws a parallel between recent polls showing 60% in favour of the Treaty now and those which showed a larger majority in favour of the first Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Minister Creighton has committed the Government to playing an active role in the referendum campaign and she does not want to see a repeat of past mistakes in campaigns.

She also calls on”All citizens who have a stake in Ireland’s economic recovery must campaign for a Yes vote. ” She acknowledges that while referendum campaigns are “off-putting for ‘normal’ people (ie non-politicians!)” she points out that “the very point of a referendum is that it is about mobilising and engaging every single citizen on the extremely important question of amending our Constitution”.

Minister Creighton also calls on the Government to go further in facilitating people to vote in this referendum, calling for it to be held on a weekend and over two days which is the norm in continental Europe.

How much of this will happen is anyone’s guess. But her comments are right and should be heeded by the Government and those hoping for a Yes vote. Responsibility for the hoped response rest with both equally. The Government must ensure that those who want to vote are able to and are well informed. And those who want a Yes vote must ensure that they inform others of why a yes vote is important, why Ireland should sign up to this treaty.


Coveney, Creighton and Europe

European Union
Image via Wikipedia

A lot of people mentioned to me that were surprised that Simon Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food. To me it was no surprise, not only is Simon popular with farmers, in a Red C Poll for the Irish Farmers Journal Simon was the most popular candidate for Agriculture Minister, but he has European experience. The majroity of legislations, rules and payments relating to Agriculture comes from the European Union through the Common Agriculture Policy. This is where Simon will do an excellent job as Agriculture Minister. Why?
Easy, Its because he knows how the Europe Union works. Simon was an MEP from 2004 to 2007. He was a spokesperson for the European Peoples Party. He has experience with dealling with these issues in Europe. Also with CAP reform being a major issue, have a Minister with intimate knolwdege of how laws are passed by the EU and with contacts outside of the various Government, should mean that he may have a bit of sway in the EU.
Lucinda Creightons appointment as Minister for Europe was no surprise to anyone. Lucinda is a fromer board member of the Youth of European People’s Party, where she served as Vice President. Again this should work to her advantage. Lucinda will have a network of contacts within the EPP. This should help her to explain Ireland’s poistion to friendly ears and hopefullly get us a good deal. Its also more likely that she will turn up to more meetings than her preprocessor.
Here is hoping that these appointements will bear fruits for Ireland.

FG’s Deputy Spokespersons

Enda Kenny yesterday announced his list of Deputy spokespersons. They are as follows:

Special Responsibilities  		 Name

Food & Fisheries			Shane McEntee TD
CAP Reform				Noel Coonan TD
Forestry				Tom Sheahan TD
Telecommunications		 	Michael D’Arcy TD
Competition and Consumer 	 	Olivia Mitchell TD
Gaeltacht			 	Dinny McGinley TD
Lifelong Learning 			Ulick Burke TD
& School Transport
Enterprise & Employment			Kieran O’Donnell TD
Local & Community Development	 	James Bannon TD
Housing				 	Terence Flanagan TD
Public Expenditure			Brian Hayes TD
Banking & Credit			Damien English TD
European Affairs			Michael Creed TD
Human Rights/ODA			Pat Breen TD
Irish Diaspora				Paul Connaughton TD
Primary Care & Disability		Denis Naughten TD
Mental Health				Dan Neville TD
Immigration, Integration 		Lucinda Creighton TD
& Equality
Pension & Welfare Reform		Billy Timmins TD
Road Safety				Tom Hayes TD
Sport					John O’Mahony TD
Assistant Whip (and Juvenile 	 	Joe Carey TD
North-South Cooperation			Joe McHugh TD

It is good to see Dan Neville staying with Mental Health because his is doing amazing work in that area. It is interesting to see that Lucinda Creighton stays a spokesperson, moving to Immigration, but she will be missed in European Affairs! Michael Creed takes over on European Affairs, that one worries me slightly, I have never really heard him talk about Europe. Noel Coonan has been appointed spokesperson on CAP Reform which shows that FG is taking it seriously. Paul Connaughton gets Irish Diaspora, which is a bit of strange one to me.

Check out ScandalCentral for more commentary on the appointments.

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Lucinda’s Argument for a Tallaght Strategy II

Lucinda Creighton TD has blogged about how she thinks the Government and Opposition should work together on the budget. She raises some interesting points.

Need for Patriotic Rather than Political Response to Economic Crisis

Some may say it is naive of Opposition politicians to suggest that now is a time when we must put aside the old fashioned confrontational, adversarial politics of old and replace it, albeit temporarily, with a constructive engagement with the Government and the Minister for Finance. I don’t consider myself to be naive, but I do believe that politicians on both sides of the Dail chamber need to start putting the country first.

We all know that Fianna Fail has made a dog’s dinner of our economy, our society and the lack of faith in politics generally in this country. I contend, however, that it is pointless repeating this mantra of blame. Our people are intelligent and savvy. They don’t need constant reminding. They will serve up a large helping of retribution to the Government when the time comes.

In the meantime, I think that we on the Opposition benches would be well advised to offer a Tallaght Strategy form of constructive engagement in the Dail. What this country needs desperately is a sense of optimism and some degree of certainty. This is not only important for those all important “international markets” to which Minister Lenihan repeatedly refers, but much more importantly, it is critical from the point of view of our people. Irish people are increasingly deflated and despairing. If they see some patriotism and true leadership coming from Opposition Deputies, I have no doubt but that the entire country will rise to the enormous challenges which face us.

In the coming weeks, there must be a meeting of minds between The Opposition and the Government. Garret FitzGerald is correct – there has been no serious effort by the Government to share necessary information with the Opposition. If this changes and the Minister shows a degree of openness and a willingness to work honestly with the Opposition, then we should reciprocate. We should agree the broad parameters of the Budget in the weeks to come. Major public spending cuts will be necessary, and I hold firm to my opinion that the quicker we can make a dent on our deficit the better (as per my previous blog). This can be accelerated by a serious effort at public sector reform as has been advocated and detailed by Richard Bruton over a period of several years. In addition, we must stimulate the small and medium enterprise sector through PRSI and VAT breaks, in order to restore competitiveness and growth to our business community. This is the only way we can eventually secure a return to job creation. A stimulus plan, along the lines of our New ERA proposals, financed by a combination of private investment and the National Pensions Reserve Fund would assist in stimulating shorter term job creation.

These are just some suggestions that should be on the table. They are not prescriptive, and we in Fine Gael would have to enter discussions with the other parties with an open mind. The sooner this happens the better. Ireland cannot afford to wait.

Let’s Work Together to Save the Country

To a certain extent I do find myself agreeing with Lucinda, but will the government be as open as it needs to be? Can they really work for the good of the country or will they as some have pointed out, use this co-operation as a way to implicate the opposition parties in the budget. Blaming them for the hardship and cuts that will follow?

Yes, the Government needs new ideas. But the opposition to help will need complete open access to the figures and to see where the money is going. Will the Government be willing to do that?

I think the Government will be willing to share the information. It will have a hard enough time as it is to pass the budget with its majority being so slim. The question is will the government remain above politics and take the opposition on board and not bash them with the budget. Of course the opposition will have to do the same. While they can fully blame the Government for past mistakes and budgets, they must not bash the Government with a budget they worked on.

This is a catch 22 for politicians. Can they ignore their instincts and work together for the betterment of us all? Here is hoping they can

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Lisbon Round-Up: Greens Say Yes and No Side Lies

Lisbon Treaty referendum Ireland
Image by The Workers’ Party of Ireland via Flickr

In a change of heart from the last referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, the Green Party narrowly agreed to back the treaty at its convention last Saturday. There was plenty of blog coverage. Here are some to check out: CorkPolitics, IrishElection and Jim on Blogactiv. Fair play to the Greens and I look forward to seeing them on the canvass.

Labour launched there Yes campiagn good and early which was covered by Evert over on Irish Election. He takes a look at what Labour are saying about the EIB.

Stanley Crossick on blogactiv takes a look at the role of National Parliaments under Lisbon in light of the ruling of the German Constitutional Court.

Of course Lisbon isn’t an only Irish issue. Grahnlaw updates us on the goings on in the Åland Parliament (Part of Finland) and European Voice says Klaus is going to try and derail Lisbon again.

Returning to Ireland, Jim tells us how Lisbon even comes up when he is on holidays. Lucinda Creighton asks Do We Need Europe at the MacGill Summer School. The answer of course we do!

And to finish up, Evert tries to spin some untruths about Lisbon over on Irish Election. I try and take him to task in the comments, along with some others, do join in!

As usual if you think I have missed anything let me know! Email: stephen{at}stephenspillane{dot}com or tweet me!

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Holiday Atmosphere at Ard Fheis?

If you take a walk outside the main hotel there is a big crowd outside enjoying the sunshine. There is a relaxed mood among delegates as the various sessions continue this evening.

I attended the YFG session for part of it, but had to leav early. I was there for contributions from Lucinda Creighton (Europe) and Brian Hayes (Education). They gave good speeches, with Lucinda focusing on the Lisbon Treaty and the Lisbon Strategy (not to be confused). Brian Hayes explained the background to his recent Green Paper on higher education. It made alot of sense especially when he said in his speech to the Education Session that if this comes in, the new entrants will not have to pay a registration fee.

Who knows what will come of these, will the youth manifesto be any different to senior manifesto? We will find out

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YFG Session at Fine Gael Ard Fheis – “Ireland Needs Change”

YFG are holding a session on Saturday at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis enititled “Ireland Needs Change”. The aim of the discussion is to allow spokespersons in the party let the young members know what they are doing.

The session will be addressed by:

  • Barry Walsh, President Young Fine Gael
  • Richard Bruton TD, Deputy Leader and Fine Gael Spokesperson on Finance (Chair)
  • Lucinda Creighton TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on European Affairs
  • Brian Hayes TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Education
  • Leo Varadkar TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment

The session will also feed into and link intiatives to the Youth Manifesto for the Local and European Elections.

At the last Ard Fheis the session was on the “Just Society” and I really enjoyed the discussion. This year looks even more interesting with “Change” being a big theme in a lot of political campaigns since the Obama one. I am loooking forward to what the spokespeople think of our contributions and ideas and I like that they have picked three of the young front benchers and gotten Richard Bruton to chair it. This shows they do think of us as “not just as an army of canvassers” as one candidate said recently!

The Womens Group are also holding a side event entitled “Getting the best out of your Canvass” which I don’t think I will be attending.

The full timetable for Ard Fheis is online here in PDF from

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Fine Gaeler’s on Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

I was recently asked about official Fine Gael stuff on Facebook and twitter (I seam to be the go to person) and I must say there isn’t any that I knew of! That remineded of my FineGaelNews bot on twitter and I checked out its followers and I found three Senators and a TD who use it properly as well as a Local Election Candidate.

The Senators are Senator Fidelma Healy Eames from Galway, Fine Gaels spokesperson on Education in the Seanad; Senator JP Phelan from Kilkenny and Fine Gaels spokesman on Enterprise, Trade & Employment in the Seanad; and Paschal Donohoe fromn Dublin who is persumed FG Candidate for Dublin South byelection.

The TD is Lucinda Creighton, she is Fine Gaels spokesperson on Europe and she is T.D. for Dublin South East.

The Local Election Candiate is Simon Harris who is running in Greystones, Co Wicklow for the local council.

Also to be fair I did find a Fianna Failer on twitter too it’s Eoin Ryan MEP for Dublin. Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party is also on twitter, also Green Party Senator and Dublin Euro candidate Deirdre De Burca is on twitter!

Do you know of more Irish Politicians on twitter? Let me know!

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Some Contributions from the First Day of Debate on the Twenty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill

Parts of the Contributions by TD’s to yesterdays debate.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern (Fianna Fail)

The discussion of the Bill by the Oireachtas represents an important phase in our national debate on the treaty, which will be put to a referendum in June. The reform treaty is important for Ireland and Europe and it is a logical step for the European Union in a world of increasing globalisation. Ratification of this treaty is a logical step for Irish men and women who want to express their faith in a political project that has, in the past 35 years, changed our nation for the better.

I sincerely believe it would be a profound mistake for us to vote “No”. Such an outcome would cause great uncertainty within the Union. It would damage the Union and cast doubt on our collective ability to face up to the new challenges confronting our Continent. It would be seen as a victory for those across Europe who have never liked the EU way of doing business through the painstaking pursuit of agreement that can serve our shared interests as Europeans. Failure to ratify the treaty would be especially damaging to smaller countries like Ireland, which derive particular benefit from the level playing field provided by agreed EU arrangements. Most crucially, a “No” vote would be damaging to Ireland. It would damage our standing as a committed participant in the evolution of the Union.

Some opponents of the treaty have been speaking in alarmist terms about this. It is suggested that, suddenly, EU law will be superior to Irish law. In language similar to that of parties and newspapers across the water that want to put the EU out of business, these opponents are suggesting that this treaty will put the Irish Constitution out of business. They are wrong. This constitutional provision is not new. It is as old as our membership of the Union. The wording reflects the principle of the primacy of European law, well established by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg prior to Ireland’s accession to the European Communities.

The EU principle of primacy reflects the general principle of international law, recognised since 1937 by Article 29.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, that States must comply with international legal obligations freely undertaken by them in the exercise of their sovereignty. The practical effect of the principle of primacy is that it offers certainty and clarity regarding the relationship between the Union’s laws and those of member states. It applies only in those areas where the member states have conferred powers on the Union.

This principle of conferral is an important element which is helpfully highlighted and clarified in the reform treaty. It makes it clear that the Union does not have powers of its own. Its powers derive from sovereign decisions by the member states to give the Union certain powers. These powers are carefully set out in the EU treaties.

Bunreacht na hÉireann will continue to be the basic legal document of the State and will continue to determine, in the final instance, the precise relationship between Irish and EU law. The ultimate locus of sovereignty will continue to reside with the member states rather than the Union.

Deputy Billy Timmins (Fine Gael)

The same arguments are made time and again. Our neutrality is akin to the cat with the nine lives – it being lost on each occasion that we passed an EU treaty. Our neutrality must have many graves stretching from Rome to Maastricht to Nice. I would like to be in a position to say that our concept of neutrality has ceased and that we are full participants in the common foreign and security policy but this is not so. If something is worth being a member of, it is worth protecting. Where we can assist in dealing with evil and oppression, we should do so and follow our own sovereign decision. In recent weeks, there has been much criticism of China’s role in the Tibet Autonomous Region and yet that country, as a member of the UN Security Council, can decide our foreign policy, as can any other permanent members if certain circumstances arise. The comfort blanket of the UN can dictate our sovereignty in some decision making on foreign policy, while the European Union, strangely, cannot. This is paradoxical. I also believe that the majority of Irish people would favour our participation in the common foreign and security policy if they were afforded the opportunity to voice their opinion on it. Hopefully, they will get that opportunity in the not too distant future.

I hope we will get an opportunity to deal with details of the Bill on Committee Stage. There are many other aspects with regard to foreign direct investment, which I hope speakers from this side of the House will address. On Committee Stage we will raise some issues with respect to what will become subsections 13o and 14o of Article 29 of the Constitution. It may be unnecessary to include them as we believe the authority already exists in the Constitution given that we have signed up to the treaty.

Deputy Lucinda Creighton (Fine Gael)

What will this particular treaty achieve that will be so significant? Many people are asking whether the treaty is really necessary. Previous treaties focused on clear and crucial initiatives of the EU. At first it was dealing with the Single Market. As it progressed, it dealt with the common currency, the euro. More recently we voted for the Nice treaty to support the enlargement of the European Union, allowing 12 new member states from the eastern bloc to join the EU and benefit from it in the same way as we have done. We now face a new juncture in the development of the European Union. We face new challenges and the Lisbon reform treaty is designed to assist Ireland and other member states in facing up to these challenges.

These challenges are numerous. They are the challenges that affect each and every citizen of this country. Anybody who believes this referendum, this Bill or Europe is not relevant to their lives should think again because they are simply wrong. The challenges that face us are relevant to every citizen. They include the challenge of global warming and climate change, the threat to energy security in Ireland and the rest of Europe, the challenges associated with Third World hunger and peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions in our neighbouring regions.

Critically, the treaty also addresses perhaps the greatest threat to the Irish people, that of the global economic downturn and the prospect of job losses in this country. The Lisbon treaty focuses on making Europe more competitive and on the completion of the Single Market, with the prospect of greater economic security for all of us in the context of our place in Europe in the future.

It is time to listen to the facts rather than the scare-mongering spin, and here are some of the facts. On the issue of neutrality, Ireland will retain its veto on all matters concerning European defence policy. We cannot be forced into anything of which we do not want to be part. The treaties will continue to recognise that EU policy “shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”, a clear reference to Ireland. The constitutional prohibition in this country on joining an EU common defence force remains in place. The triple lock means that no Irish troops will be deployed without a UN mandate. That position is very clear. These three levels of protection from the treaty and the Constitution mean that no amount of spin from “No” campaigners can undermine the true facts of this scenario.

The changes introduced by the Lisbon treaty will equip the European Union to undertake widely supported crisis management and peacekeeping tasks around the world and particularly in neighbouring regions. The current UN-authorised EU mission to Chad, in which Ireland is playing a leading role, is a prime example of the European Union’s activities in this area of common security policy. The mission will provide security for the provision of humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons, many fleeing persecution in Darfur. Surely that is a meritorious activity for Irish troops to be part of and I am proud of it.

By supporting this treaty, the Irish people will be enabling the European Union to take specific action which will benefit business interests in Ireland. The treaty will ensure increased access for Irish business to European markets. It will also ensure that Ireland will retain a veto in key areas for Irish business, such as taxation. We must not be deluded or confused on this issue – we retain our veto on taxation.

Overall the case for the Lisbon treaty is indisputable. The EU has been and will continue to be good for Irish business and the Irish people. Those of us supporting this Bill realise that we have the facts on our side. The people who oppose this treaty do so on the basis of misinformation, misinterpretation and the concoction of some far-fetched tales. By sticking to and promoting the facts it will become clear to the public that this treaty is in their interests.

Deputy Joe Costello (Labour)

The phoney war is over and the formal debate has begun in the Oireachtas. Both the National Forum on Europe and the Joint Committee on European Affairs will take the debate to the people throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, which is most welcome. The Labour Party is also taking the referendum very seriously. We debated the substance of the Lisbon reform treaty at our annual conference in November 2007 in Wexford and voted overwhelmingly to campaign for a “Yes” vote.

The European project unites the people of Europe by democratic consent on the basis of shared values and in doing so the participating countries agree to pool and share sovereignty in the pursuit of peace, prosperity, stability and solidarity. At the same time the principles of subsidiary and proportionality ensure that matters which can be dealt with by the individual member states are left to the individual member states.

At every referendum since Ireland joined in 1972, dire warnings and predictions were given and made about what Europe would do to Ireland. However, Europe did not do any of these awful things. It did not reduce Ireland to a province of a European empire or super state. It did not enforce the conscription of young Irish men and women into a European army, as we heard so often. It did not force Ireland into aggressive imperialist wars. It did not bring about a disastrous fall in the nation’s population – in fact the reverse has occurred. It did not cause wholescale unemployment or destroy the small Irish economy – again, the reverse has occurred. It did not undermine Irish culture or the Irish language; the Irish language is now an official language of the European Union. It did not put an end to trade union or workers’ rights; they are firmly supported and enshrined in the charter of fundamental rights. It did not introduce abortion or euthanasia, nor can it.

All these predictions were made again and again during every treaty debate by those campaigning for a “No” vote. Every one has proved to be groundless and inaccurate. They are being made again by the same individuals and groups who are opposing the Lisbon reform treaty. They are just as unfounded, inaccurate and misleading today as they were when first made.

The treaty creates new goals and challenges for member states. At the National Forum on Europe the Labour Party argued that the EU should take leadership of the great challenges of the day affecting humankind. Under the Lisbon reform treaty the EU has firmly placed itself as the leading player in tackling climate change and the sustainability of the planet. Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights states “a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development”. Likewise the Lisbon reform treaty commits the EU to become the world leader in Third World development, humanitarian aid and the eradication of global poverty.

The Debate will resume today.

Parliamentary Debates (Offical Report) Dáil Debate Vol. 650 No. 3, Wednesday, 2 April 2008