Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Simon Coveney with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, who is on a one day visit to Dublin.
Mr Coveney and Mr Mass unveiled proposals for closer Irish-German ties, including “a new consulate in Frankfurt, a joint Irish-German economic council, closer political and ministerial exchanges and a greater arts push co-ordinated by a new cultural director in Berlin”.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney, taking Leaders’ Questions in which he was asked about homelessness, he said:
“In relation to homelessness, we are making some positive progress. Rough sleepers, for example, are down by 50%..”
Mr Coveney’s comment follows Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy saying yesterday – on foot of the publication of February’s homeless figures:
“Recent indicators suggest that the number of people sleeping rough is significantly down on what it was last year. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive undertook a count of rough sleepers last night [Tuesday night] and while they have not yet verified all of the data, it appears the numbers are down approximately 50% on the count undertaken last November, when the figure stood at 184.”
Meanwhile, in relation to the count of people sleeping rough on Tuesday night…
Those working on the ground on a nightly basis were not informed of the official count nor were they asked for their expertise regarding the locations of those who are sleeping rough.Remember the night the figure comparisons should be good.#MyNameis#EnoughisEnoughhttps://t.co/ofB4OOhRLK
The Tanaiste Simon Coveney is shifting his position on abortion. He’s indicated he will support a law to allow terminations up to 12 weeks, if it’s coupled with strict medical guidelines. @jerrybuttimer speaks to #DrivetimeRTE
In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions, which were taken by Tanáiste Simon Coveney.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised this afternoon’s debate and vote on Permanent Structured Co-operation – an EU security and defence agreement – otherwise known as PESCO.
The ultimate aim of PESCO is to “deepen” defence co-operation among EU members states.
Mr Barrett ended up asking Mr Coveney to publish the Attorney General’s advice on PESCO but Mr Coveney pointed out the AG’s advice is never published.
From their exchange…
Richard Boyd Barrett: “Tanaiste, minister, this is the week that Donald Trump has declared war on the people of Palestine and the wider Arab and Muslim world by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – threatening to inflame conflict right across the Middle East.
“Now, against that background of war mongering, increased militarism by Trump, it is more important than ever that Ireland holds on to its traditional position of military neutrality and opposing war mongering and militarism.
“And yet, it is precisely in this week, that the Government has rammed through and quite successfully, to this point, buried what is the biggest betrayal of Irish neutrality since the decision to allow US forces use Shannon Airport to bomb Iraq back into the Dark Ages.
“The vote that will take place today, for us to join permanent, structured cooperation on a new common defence project in the European Union is an absolute betrayal of Ireland’s neutrality.
“It is a step towards involvement in what is explicitly being touted by Donald Tusk, by Juncker, by Macron as a new European army and common defence pact.
“And you have buried this. You misled the business committee because the decision to join PESCO was taken, we were informed by Minister Kehoe who didn’t know much else frankly about this, but the one thing he informed us last night, was this decision was taken on the 21st of November and yet, for two business committee meetings, afterwards, not a mention that you were planning to push this vote through this week.
“No doubt you’ve been briefing the media that there’s nothing to see here, it’s irrelevant, not significant, there’s no legal implications, but the truth is this is us joining up in a common defence which will require us regularly, I’m quoting, increased defence budgets in real terms, to meet the 2% GDP benchmark, that would mean a quadrupling of our Irish defence expenditure.
“These are binding..common commitments. It will involve bringing our defence apparatus in line with other member states.
“It will involve establishing permanent, inter-operability with NATO, it will involve increased expenditure on arms and weaponry to benefit the European military industrial complex and now my question is not only why have you mislead the country, and try to bury this significant betrayal of Irish neutrality but I want to ask you seriously: is this not unconstitutional?
“Apart from everything else, is it not unconstitutional? Article 29.4.9 of our constitution says the following: ‘the State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State’, our state.
“This is a common defence, it is explicit, anybody who wants to, who doubts that, should read the PESCO agreement. We are signing up for a common defence, in defiance of our own constitution and you’ve mislead the public, you’ve mislead the Dail, and played fast and loose with the business committee.”
Simon Coveney: “What I don’t agree with you on, deputy, is the attempt by you, and others, in this House, to paint PESCO, Permanent Structured Cooperation, as something that it’s not.
“I’m a former Minister for Defence, I’m somebody who has listened to many debates in relation to this initiative. The truth is, deputy, that is simply a structured initiative that allows member states to opt in and opt out, depending on what they’re comfortable with, on different projects.
“We have other non-aligned countries, and usual countries like Sweden, Austria, Finland that have already signed up. And from an Irish perspective, this is an opportunity for us to essentially share resources and access other resources in areas where we are comfortable in co-operation and it’s no more or less than that, on a case-by-case basis.
“I suspect we will want to use this in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of peace-keeping and training, in areas potentially like marine surveillance, so that Ireland can be part of collective initiatives when it’s appropriate to be a part of those collective initiatives in the context of the European Union.
“As the Taoiseach said yesterday, other countries will see it differently. Other countries may want to get more involved in a more structured way in projects that will not have an involvement in.
“And so I would ask the deputy to actually call this what it is, as opposed to trying to create some kind of conspiracy that simply doesn’t exist.
“This is a conversation that’s been happening since the Lisbon Treaty and it is now something that is coming to finality, following a long debate that a lot of countries have been involved in, neutral states, NATO members and others.
“And Ireland insisted, as others did, on language in the context of the setting up of PESCO to ensure that it is constitutional, to ensure that it doesn’t undermine Irish neutrality, to ensure that the triple lock still applies if we’re going to send troops to any other part of the world.
“So, from that point of view, we have tested this in the context of some of the questions that you’ve asked and it does not undermine what is important to Irish people and what is important to mewhich is that Ireland remains non aligned militarily and a neutral state.”
Boyd Barrett: “That is the most cynical rubbish I have ever heard.
“Right. And I really appeal, I really appeal to the public and the press to simply read the document. Notification on Permanent Structure Cooperation. OK?
“It includes, for example, binding commitments. First of all, it refers to 20 binding commitments, there’s no ambiguity about the language. One of those includes commitment to agree on a common technical and operation standards of forces, acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with NATO.
“That’s NATO that involves Donald Trump and the United States, right?
“That’s what we’re talking about. We are committing to the integration of Irish defence forces with NATO. It commits us and we still haven’t got answers on this, it commits us to real increases in defence budgets ok?
“Successive medium-term increase in defence investment. Increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defence research and technology which will be reviewed on an annual basis. A national implementation plan to meet these targets.
“This is the military equivalent of the Fiscal Treaty and we are signing up to it. And what, this is what, I’ll just conclude on this.
“This is Tusk said about PESCO, it’s purpose is to protect the bloc from the effects of the migrant crisis and hostile bordering states. Effects of the migrant crisis? 35,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean thanks to Fortress Europe.
“And they want to militarise the wall that Donald Trump dreams of building to keep those desperate people out. This is what they’re about. And you have deceived the public. And I would just ask this simple question: Give us the legal advice that that doesn’t run counter to Article 29. Can you give us that advice before we have to take the vote today?
“From the Attorney General that that does not run counter to Article 29 of the constitution.”
Coveney: “Well I can tell you deputy that we wouldn’t be bringing a vote to this house if we hadn’t….sorry…you know only too well, that the AG’s legal advice is not published, ever. So, so. You know. Stop asking for things you know you can’t access…”
“The AG’s responsibility is to get legal advice to the Government and the Government then brings proposals to the House that’s consistent with that, that’s the way this House works. That’s the way this House works.
“In relation to interoperability, deputy, there’s nothing new in that. The Irish Defence Forces have worked with NATO in the past. We’ve done it in Afghanistan and any time you send peacekeepers to any part of the world, are you seriously suggesting that our peacekeepers shouldn’t be interoperable with colleagues that they work with? In parts of the world where they put their lives at risk, deputy, to defend peace and stability of strangers that they’ve never met.
“The problem that you have is that you don’t seem to understand the risks that Irish troops put themselves in, in the pursuit of peace and stability
“And my job is to make sure that we reduce those risks by making sure that they have the budgets and the equipment to do the job properly to ensure that we have enough people in terms of personnel in the Defence Forces to make sure that they’re well-equipped and well trained.
“And to make sure that when they’re working with others, when we make the voluntary decision and it’s confirmed by they triple lock, to send troops to parts of the world, that they have trained, and that they are interoperable in a professional sense with others that they will be working with.
“And that makes perfect sense to me. It is also absolutely consistent with the new White Paper on defence which was supported and passed in this House.”
You cannot visit The Irish Anti-War Movement or Shannonwatch websites from Oireachtas computers. They’re blocked! @PaulMurphyTD also reveals arms industry lobbying in Brussels has doubled to €5.6m in one year. They’re not lobbying for lower expenditure on arms! #pesco
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to make a make a a “positive statement to the country to provide reassurance on Brexit” within the next hour, according to the Tánaiste.
Simon Coveney said that an agreement on the wording around the issue of a border on the island of Ireland is very close.
He said that progress was made this morning and the discussions are moving in the right direction. Mr Coveney added that he hopes there will be an agreement on a “balanced wording” in the next hour.
Mr Varadkar is to make a public statement on Phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations at 2.30pm.
…The Tánaiste said he believes the border between Ireland and the UK will not change from how it appears today.
“I suspect it will look very like what it looks like today which is to remain largely an invisible border, with no barriers to movement and trade and the normality on the island of Ireland, as we’ve grown to appreciate over the last 20 years,” he said.
“The British government appears to have bowed to the Republic of Ireland’s demand that Northern Ireland will stay aligned with key EU laws and regulations after Brexit so as to ensure that a hard border does not return to the island.
“According to sources, MEPs were told by the chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, that Theresa May had conceded after days of intense talks that the province would be treated as a special case.”
A draft of the text of a 15-page joint statement between the European commission and the British government is said to include a commitment in paragraph 48 that “in the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that there continues to be continued regulatory alignment” with the internal market and customs union.
Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit. Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs.
If it’s not some kind of Norway status for whole UK, it must mean some kind of special deal for NI. Has to be one or the other. And if latter, why not also for Scotland, London & Wales (if it wants it)? https://t.co/xh7Ef06uNv
From left: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Heather Humphries, new Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Josepha Madigan, new Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and new Tanáiste Simon Coveney, who also remains as Minister for Foreign Affairs
From top: Then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney following his meeting with Apollo House activists, including top from left: Brendan Ogle and Terry McMahon; Terry Mcmahon
Filmmaker Terry McMahon was among a group of Apollo House activists who met then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at the Housing Agency offices in Dublin on January 6, 2017.
Terry McMahon writes:
It was late at government buildings. Rain threatened as exhausted press photographers peered up at sparsely lit windows. A cynical RTE reporter sat in his expensive car hating the dumb do-gooders that had lately hogged his headlines. The streets were empty.
Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney sat across from us. Frustration on both sides. Trying to break a deadlock. We were ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Coveney and his cohorts were the government.
We were in lengthy negotiations to secure basic rights for some of society’s most vulnerable. They were complex and difficult but Coveney reiterated the brilliantly bold statement that he would have every family out of emergency hotels by July 1st 2017.
He gave his word on it. He was staking his reputation on it. This was going to happen. This was irrefutable. This was fact.
Our side of the long negotiating table was a motley crew. Brendan Ogle and Dave Gibney were the main negotiators. Brilliant men both. Union leaders. Fighters. Then there was Jim Sheridan, the multiple Oscar nominated genius in fiction and in life; Glen Hansard, the Oscar winning giant with a heart as big as his magnificent voice; the relentlessly brave saints of The Irish Housing Network, Aisling Hedderman and Oisin Fagan; and Dean Scurry, the visionary working class hero who started the whole damn thing.
And me, the dumb fuck hack-whore who’d never be normally let in the building. On the government’s side there were men and women who led us to believe they wanted to do the right thing. And we believed them. We had to.
New Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Focus Ireland founder Sister Stanislaus and CEO Ashley Balbirnie at Harold’s Cross this morning
Remember former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s claim that he would ensure all homeless families would be out of hotel accommodation by July 1?
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said the Government is going to miss its deadline of 1 July for moving homeless families from temporary hotel accommodation.
He said the 650 families involved will be moved straight into family hubs or other accommodation or they will be notified in writing of where they are going in the coming weeks.
…Mr Murphy was speaking at the opening of 28 housing units in the grounds of Harold’s Cross Hospice in Dublin. The units are owned and operated by Focus Ireland and built on a site donated by the Sisters of Charity.
Mr Murphy said that the review of Rebuilding Ireland is continuing and it is a good time to look at what new measures or powers might be needed. He said the Taoiseach has told him to think big and no idea is too radical.
“The issue of Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street which is currently being modified to become a family hub to house homeless families. A constituent contacted my office yesterday, very distressed, that she, along with her two young boys, were placed in Lynam’s Hotel late on Monday night. They arrived to find the place without running water or electricity in the room and she felt very unsafe.”
“I understand that Lynam’s is being offered as a late-night solution when no other family accommodation can be found, instead of sending families to Garda stations as has happened recently. Yet, Lynam’s is still a building site.
“Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Helping Homelessness charity, went to the property yesterday with Dublin Fire Brigade and I understand that a full inspection is being carried out today. And there’s a photo on social media of a fire escape chained shut and I understand members of the fire brigade did declare the building a fire hazard last night.
“But, in the light of this, and I also understand young students and family, including four children, minister, were today evacuated from 24, Mountjoy Square over safety issues and that a fire safety notice was issued for this property in August 2016, so minister can you now outline what other occupied properties around Dublin have fire safety notices indicating the address and date of issue for the fire safety for each property. How can tenants be left in a property which has had a fire safety notice for almost a year? I’ve asked your senior minister, Deputy Murphy, to act urgently on this.”
Dublin City Council says the Housing Minister has pulled out of appearing at its monthly meeting later. Simon Coveney hasn’t explained why he can’t make it to discuss tackling the city’s homeless problem.
A spokesperson from the Department of Housing told 98FM that Minister Coveney is simply “not available” for [yesterday] evening’s meeting.