- Minister Mitchell O’Connor must not blindly accept decision -
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Darragh O’Brien TD has said that he is disappointed and concerned to learn that the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition sees limited scope to introduce a revised temporary State Aid framework in light of Brexit.
Deputy O’Brien made his comments following a reply received from the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor to a parliamentary question he asked on this issue.
“As a result the decision of the United Kingdom to exit the European Union, Fianna Fáil has been calling for a review of State aid rules with a view to establishing a temporary framework to enable Irish businesses diversify and restructure.
“It is disappointing that Minister Mitchell O’Connor, and her Department, have not been able to convince the DG of the economic necessity of introducing revised State Aid rules in light of Brexit.
“While I understand that this is a complex area and that a large degree of uncertainty surrounds Brexit I am concerned that DG Competition sees limited scope to introduce a revised Temporary State Aid framework. This is not the answer that Ireland needs to hear.
“Minister Mitchell O’Connor needs to do more, and not just accept the decision of the Directorate General. Her job is to defend Ireland’s strategic interests, and it seems to me that she does not possess the skills needed to press home Ireland’s difficulties at a European level.
“Has the Minister formally requested the DG to consider introducing temporary changes to the State Aid rules? Is she planning on doing this?” asked O’Brien.
“These questions need to be answered, and answered quickly. Too many jobs are on the line, and our future economic prosperity is at risk. We cannot afford to wait on Minister Mitchell O’Connor to get her act together.
“Fianna Fáil has been in discussions with a variety of stakeholders, affected by Brexit, such as business and farming organisations, as well as trade unions. They have been consistently clear that the existing State Aid rules will not be sufficient in addressing the challenges facing the Irish economy, especially exporters, as a result of Brexit.
“It is imperative that the Government explores every mechanism available to offset the adverse consequences of Brexit and ensure that our businesses are insulated as much as possible from a situation which was not of their creation.
“The Government, and in particular Minister Mitchell O’Connor, have a duty in this regard and they must relay at every level and opportunity that Ireland stands to be disproportionally affected by Brexit more so than any other EU member state,” concluded O’Brien.
Brexit triggers rise in number of issued passports
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Darragh O'Brien TD has said that there has been a 10% surge in the number of Irish passports issued this year when compared to 2015.
Deputy O'Brien made his comments on foot of a parliamentary question which he recently tabled to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The number of Irish passports issued as of December 13th 2016 was 719,675 and this is projected to increase to almost 740,000 by the end of the year. This represents an almost 10% increase on the 2015,” he added.
“Undoubtedly, Brexit has had a significant impact on the numbers applying for an Irish passport. Since the referendum result was announced we have seen a spike in the amount of applications received by the passport office. Demand has increased further on foot of the UK's decision to leave the EU.
“Being the owner of an Irish passport has always being regarded as highly valuable and has now become even more respected as it represents a gateway to the EU.
“The increase in those applying for an Irish passport also underscores the fact that despite the outcome of the referendum there are many people who are keen to retain the benefits associated with EU membership and the fundamental principle of free movement.
Question No. 249
Parliamentary Question - Oireachtas
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passports issued by his department from 1 January to date in 2016; the way in which this figure compares with 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 15th December, 2016.
Ref No: 40502/16
The number of passports issued in 2015 was 672,760. The number of passports issued to 13 December 2016 is 719,675. It is projected that by the end of 2016 the Passport Service will issue almost 740,000 passports. This would represent an increase in applications of 10% on 2015.
Underlying demand for passports in 2016 was already running at an increase of over 9% on 2015 before the Brexit referendum. This was in part driven by an increase in outbound travel, the Euros 2016 as well as a spike in applications in 2006 feeding through in the ten year renewal cycle.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade Darragh O'Brien TD has said that last night's attacks demonstrate a fundamental challenge for liberal democracies across the world.
Deputy O'Brien was commenting following what appears to be a terrorist attack in the Breitscheidplatz area of Berlin which has left at least 12 people dead and dozens of others injured. This attack follows to the shooting dead of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov at a broadcasted event in Turkish capital Ankara yesterday evening marking a new low in international diplomatic relations and also the cowardly attack on worshippers in Zurich.
Commenting on last night’s events Deputy O'Brien said, “I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms this appalling attack which appears to have been intentional and which has killed and injured so many.
“On behalf of my party colleagues, I extend my deepest sympathies to the people of Germany, to the families of those who have lost loved ones and also to those who have been injured. I have passed on my condolences personally to the German Ambassador here in Ireland.
“It appears that the painful reality of terrorism has again struck at the very heart of Europe, but we must stand together in the face of such violence and work collectively to combat those who wish to destroy democratic values and ideals.
"The brutal killing of Russia's Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov in Ankara and the cowardly attack on worshippers at prayer in Zurich are both further acts of violence that threaten our basic human values.
“Last night's events are an appalling reminder of how very real the challenge that exists to bridge the divide between peoples of all races, ethnicity, culture or creed. However, this challenge is too important to ignore.”
Fingal TD raises issue in Dáil with An Taoiseach
Local TD, Darragh O’Brien has accused the Government of once again letting down the 15,000 Dublin airport pension scheme members.
Speaking in the Dáil on the issue earlier this week, Deputy O’Brien said, “As a result of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2013 and the State Airports (Shannon Group) Act 2014, the airport pension scheme, the Irish airlines superannuation scheme, IASS, retired members lost six weeks of their pension and long-serving deferred members lost up to 60% of their entitlements.
"Every major employer in this country with a sizeable pension scheme, particularly those with defined benefit schemes, have been faciliated by Government policy to run the scheme down and pull the rug out from under members who have paid in.
“Employers are ensuring that these schemes fail and they have been provided with a roadmap to do it.
“The destruction of the IAS pension scheme in which 15,000 members were removed from the pension scheme unilaterally was aided and abetted by the last Government,” he added.
“The private pension levy that took €2.6 billion out of people's savings and provisions for their retirement has done more to undermine pension provision in this country. Furthermore, it set a precedent for other employers of profitable firms to wind down their pension schemes and reduce pension scheme benefits.
“The Government must amend the Pensions Act 1990 to provide the protections that are required. Thousands of other workers will be affected in addition to the 15,000 active, retired and deferred pensioners in the IASS unless there is action on this issue.
“Minister Leo Varadkar must put forward specific pension legislation to provide the protection that his party removed from pension scheme members during the lifetime of the last Dáil.
“The massive ramifications faced by 15,000 families across the country must not be inflicted on more pension scheme members. More action is needed to guarantee that this absurd policy will not similarly impact tens of thousands of others,”
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade Darragh O’Brien TD has said that an Ireland-UK Bilateral Agreement is not possible.
Deputy O’Brien made his comments following a meeting with Lord Jay after the publication of a House of Lords Report which examined the impact of Brexit on British-Irish relations.
“Fianna Fáil made a written submission to the House of Lords EU committee on the impact of Brexit on British-Irish relations, which outlined our concerns in relation to areas such Northern Ireland and the Common Travel Area. We have made it clear to Lord Jay that the recommendation included in the Report, for Ireland and the UK to draft a bi-lateral agreement as a strand of the Brexit negotiations, is not possible and will not occur,” added Deputy O’Brien.
“As I have continually noted, it is absolutely essential that the final agreement reflects our distinct and unique position in relation to Brexit, we are also seeking to stop further fragmentation of the EU and negotiating bi-lateral deals will undermine that objective.
“The negotiations ahead will be extremely complex but we must send out a clear message to our EU counterparts that Ireland’s place is remains within the EU and we are firmly committed to the principles upon which it was founded.”
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Darragh O’Brien TD has said he is appalled by reports emerging from Syria that civilians have been ‘shot on the spot’ in Aleppo by pro-Government forces.
“Reports are emerging that civilians are effectively being executed in Easter Aleppo. This conflict has resulted in the most unspeakable atrocities and today’s reports are further evidence of the brutality of this war,” he added.
“The international community must do all it can to try broker an agreement between forces loyal to the Syrian regime and the opposition to facilitate evacuations. Thousands of people remain trapped in Eastern Aleppo, the humanitarian situation is dire and the death toll is rising on a daily basis.
“We must urge all sides in this conflict to fulfil their obligation to protect civilians and those found to be using indiscriminate acts of violence must face very serious repercussions.
"Aleppo and its people are being devastated before our eyes and more must be done to create a safe passage for those fleeing the ravages of this horrifying war.”