Mick Wallace The #US and #EU are increasingly using #sanctions as a weapon against countries that don't bow to their financial i… https://t.co/qMbVI1XYfc
Mick Wallace How bad that the #EU of the so called 'European Values' has supported this Terrorism against the people of #Syriahttps://t.co/wRXMSubfYi
Mick Wallace Western Colonialism never really stopped, it just got a make over - It's now called 'Financial Imperialism'. Are we… https://t.co/KoMpQ69bBw
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Would mean something for Irish people and the notion of 'Irish Neutrality' if Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncov

Dail Diary

Dáil Diary no 54. 5th December 2014

Irish Government must end US Military use of Shannon…

For far too long, the Irish Government has slavishly bowed to the Imperial ambitions of the US Military, facilitating them at every turn, as we allow Shannon airport to be used as a US Military airbase. Our servile role means that Ireland is complicit in the destruction and massacre of many communities in the Middle East region, where the US military have illegally occupied sovereign countries, committed endless war crimes – and all for what?? To date, Obama has invaded and bombed 7 predominantly Muslim countries – And to think that he was given the Nobel Peace Prize?? Here’s my contribution on the issue yesterday at Leader’s Questions with Tánaiste Joan Burton -

“It appears that neither Shannon Airport Authority nor the Government knows, or keeps proper records on, what US military aircraft land at Shannon. On four occasions lately, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade denied on the Dáil record that an aircraft had landed, although we knew it had. Then he discovered we had proof. The Minister told the Dáil last Tuesday:

 “Arising from new information which has been brought to my attention, I would like to correct the record of the House in respect of an error in responses to four parliamentary questions from Deputy Clare Daly starting on 7 October 2014 and finishing with Question No. 110 on 20 November 2014. I replied to the questions on the basis of the information provided by Shannon Airport Authority.”

How can it be acceptable that the Minister is relying on a civil authority for information regarding military traffic, given that the policy provides that only the Minister for Justice and Equality can give permission for military aeroplanes to land? If this aeroplane had permission to land, why did the Department not have a record of it? Clearly, it did not have a record. Now that the Minister has admitted the aeroplane was there, does the Government have any proof that the aeroplane was not involved in any military operation or exercise, in view of the fact that it was operated by a US Marine Corps Reserve squadron called the Rangers, which has done a great deal of work in Libya and Iraq?

  Last year, a C-130 Hercules landed at Shannon with a weapon on board. We were told this was an administrative error and that it had no permit to land. The policy is inconsistent. In 2003, Judge Kearns ruled in the case of Horgan v. Ireland in the High Court that it was illegal and a breach of international laws on neutrality for the Government to give approval for the movement of troops or munitions on their way to a war front.

How, in God's name, can we give permits to the civilian aircraft that we admit are carrying weapons with them when we know bloody well they are going to a war front? Does the Government have records of where the planes go? If not, how can we know whether they are going to a war front? Unless we have inspections and monitoring, how can we know we are not complicit in war crimes in the Middle East, where the US army has illegally occupied sovereign states and committed umpteen war crimes? How can we know what is on the aircraft when sometimes we do not even know they are there?

The Tánaiste:  I understand there was some discussion on the matter in one of the committees yesterday. On the Minister's correcting the record about four parliamentary questions the Deputy referenced, it is very welcome that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, would provide additional information if it becomes available. It is fair to the Deputy who asked the questions to correct the record if additional information comes in. It is to the credit of the Minister and shows how seriously the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence take our obligations as a neutral country regarding military traffic through or into Irish airspace.

I do not have the details regarding the Deputy's questions on the civil authority at Shannon. I would be happy to raise them with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and return to the Deputy. The Minister's updating or correcting the record if the Civil Aviation Authority has corrected or updated information is a good thing.

Mick Wallace:  While we are glad he corrected the record, it is a pity he denied it four times. It is proof that the Government did not know and that control of the military aircraft in Shannon has been outsourced to a civil authority, which is scary, given the importance the Government says it attaches to it. When the Labour Party was in opposition, it was adamant that aircraft should be inspected.

Former Deputy Michael D. Higgins and the former Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore insisted that aircraft be searched and that unless they were, we could not know what was on them.

Why has the Labour Party changed its position? Why can we now take the word of the Americans, who tell us everything is grand? They told Angela Merkel they were not tapping her phone. We could not believe the time of day from these people. If we want to know what is on the aircraft, we have to inspect them. If the Government wants to know whether they are going to a war front, it must monitor their movement.

The Government is not protecting the Irish people's desire for peace and human rights. We are complicit in atrocious behaviour on the part of the US military in the Middle East, which has descended into anarchy thanks to their war efforts.

Will the Tánaiste, as leader of the Labour Party, consider revisiting her party's position on it and demanding we begin inspecting these aircraft?

The Tánaiste:  Deputy Wallace has raised a serious issue. I am not aware if there is a person or party in the House who disagrees with a very strong, active policy of neutrality on the part of Ireland and the Government. This is, and always has been, the Labour Party's policy. The arrangements under which permission is granted for any country's military aircraft to land at Irish airports are governed by very strict conditions which stipulate that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives and must not engage in intelligence gathering. The conditions also stipulate that the flights in question must not form part of military exercises and operations. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade considers requests to permit the landing of military aircraft, including those that can operate as refuelling aircraft, on the basis of these very strict conditions. Permission is not granted for the conduct of military operations in Irish air space. This is Ireland's policy and it is strictly enforced. The Deputy raised some questions about the operation of the Civil Aviation Authority in Shannon. Although I do not have the answers to hand, I will take up the matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and seek responses from him. I know the Deputy has put down many questions to the Minister on these issues. Irish neutrality has been and remains a core part of Irish foreign policy.

My party is absolutely committed to it.

Mick Wallace: The rhetoric does not match the actions.

Mick Wallace.

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Dáil Diary no 53 – 3rd December 2014

 

Homelessness - Still No Government Housing Strategy…

 

No matter what the Government says about Homelessness, the truth remains that Government policy is a major contributor to the prevailing crisis for the homeless. Here's my short contribution on the issue in the Dáil last night with Minister Kelly -

 

“The death of Jonathan Corrie is shocking but not surprising. I thought Rory Hearne of Maynooth University put it well when he said recently:

 

When our financial system was in peril there was no obstacle too large for our political establishment and the state to overcome. Now we face an equivalent crisis in terms of the fundamental housing needs and rights of hundreds of thousands of our citizens. It is legitimate to ask why the same radical approach that determinedly did 'whatever was needed to be done' is not applied to the housing crisis. It appears it is because the government is unwilling to stand up to the financial and property investors and transform the residential property market into a system to meet housing needs.”

 

 Rent supplements were capped but rents were not, and never the twain shall meet. The system does not work. We were told NAMA was to have a mandate to contribute to the social and economic development of the State, but that has not happened. It has not contributed to the public good, despite the significant potential it had to do so. In fact, the manner in which it has sold assets to large investment bodies, particularly real estate investment trusts, has significantly worsened the housing crisis.

 I know of a development in which apartments were sold for less than half of what it would cost to build them today, and where rent two years ago for a two-bedroom apartment was €1,000 per month, which has increased to €1,200 or €1,250 and now, tenants have been told their rent will increase to €1,400 a month.

  In its so-called housing strategy the Government told us that 75,000 of the people in need will be at the mercy of the private rental market. If it allows that, and does not control and monitor the private rental market, we will have the same fiasco. It will not work.

 

 

 

Minister Alan Kelly : The reasons many people are homeless are complex, and sometimes the solutions have to be. If there were an easy solution to deal with every individual who is homeless, I would have made sure it happened. There is no best practice for homelessness. I have taken a number of actions as Minister and have prioritised this issue. Meetings about social housing and, in particular, homelessness, take place with Dublin City Council at 9 a.m. every Monday. A Cabinet sub-committee meets to discuss this issue on a regular basis. Many fairly positive actions have been taken.

 

For instance, in the next few months another 655 voids - social housing units that have been closed up - will be opened up. This alone could provide enough units for people homeless in this city. It is scandalous these units have been left void as they are the quickest way to turn around the situation in this city. I prioritised the return to use of these units immediately I took on this role.

 

I have changed the allocation policy in regard to homelessness. For instance, I have told local authorities in Dublin that 25% of allocations should be based on the homeless. I have increased the budget by 20%, bringing it to over €55 million, the highest ever. Just 12 or 14 days ago, I provided a further €4 million to Dublin City Council for homelessness, despite the fact that the council rejected a proposal to increase the budget for homelessness. We are all aware supply is the critical issue and we must ensure we have a greater supply for the future. Hence the policy announced last week and the €3.8 billion to provide for the new strategy in the medium and long term. We have also announced the Housing First service, which is being provided through Focus Ireland and the Peter McVerry Trust and will provide support for the homeless and those with specific needs. Some 164 more emergency beds will be supplied in the coming weeks, bringing supply to in excess of 1,500 beds

 

Mick Wallace: Nobody doubts that this is a serious challenge, but for a number of years most Government action, of this and the previous Government, was geared by a neo-liberal ideology. That is part of this scene. When the Minister said he was introducing a housing strategy, I thought we would get a real housing strategy, but what he has given us is a budget plan. What has he done about rent control. In Germany, rent is linked to inflation. Here it seems it is linked to the sky. Rent has gone up 30% in two years.

 

The Government seems prepared to walk away from interference in the private market. What is the Minister doing about quality social housing and about where it is being built? Half of the young people looking for housing in Ireland in the next ten years will be looking for social housing, because they will not be able to afford to buy homes. The buying of homes by young people will be a thing of the past.

 

 What are we doing about land banking and about developer-led planning? What are we going to do about ghettoisation? These are all issues I thought were going to be part of the Government's housing strategy. The Minister can talk all he likes but the Government is not dealing in a holistic manner with the challenges of housing in Ireland.”

 

Mick Wallace.

 

 

 

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Dáil Diary no 52 – 1st December 2014

Irish Government must recognise State of Palestine…

At Ministers Questions for Foreign Affairs last week I raised the issue of the failure of the Irish Government to recognise Palestine, despite the fact that over 130 countries have done so, the most recent, Sweden. Minister Charles Flanagan made the weak argument that such recognition had not brought peace to the region, while ignoring the elephant in the room – Israel may continue with its campaign of genocide in Gaza as long as it has the support of the World’s Super Power, the United States of America. Israel could only do what it does with US backing – which makes the US Military machine complicit in this act of genocide, and sadly, given that the Irish Government allows Shannon airport to be used as a US Military airbase, we too have blood on our hands. I was given very little time in the Dáil Chamber to discuss the issue, merely to introduce the subject, which went as follows –

“In 1948 the Jews expelled, massacred, destroyed, and raped in that year, and generally behaved like all the other colonialist movements operating in the Middle East and Africa since the beginning of the nineteenth century.” “As a result of that campaign, five hundred Palestinian villages and eleven urban neighbourhoods were destroyed, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were expelled, and several thousand were massacred. 

It was a genocide at the time. What is happening today is not very different. The Minister said he has not ruled out recognition by Ireland of the Palestinian state, which would be a step towards a two state resolution. Why should we wait any longer? Sweden did not wait. Does the Minister not believe that it is urgent that we do this now?”

Minister Charles Flanagan:  Ireland as a state has always looked forward to being in a position to recognise a state of Palestine but in reality and not only as a symbolic gesture. I refer the Deputy to the statements and stances of successive Governments in that regard.

Our position is not set in stone. Against the background of the deteriorating situation on the ground, I will continue to consider any option, including early recognition of Palestine, which may advance the prospect of peace and help ensure that the two state solution still has a chance of being realised. On the question of international recognition of Palestine, while that is important, it is not a magic wand to resolve the conflict. I acknowledge what happened in Sweden and that discussions are under way on this issue in many of the European capitals. I contributed to the debate at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels last week. In spite of the fact that many states have formally recognised Palestine, the conflict continues. The talks process is not currently under way. I am sure the Deputy will agree that only a comprehensive peace agreement will end the occupation and allow the full establishment of a Palestinian rate, in reality as well as in theory. That is the goal and the objective. I will continue to ensure that Ireland's plays its full part in this debate.

 

Mick Wallace: In November 2013, the UN General Assembly decided to proclaim 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. But how has Palestine felt our solidarity this year? On the contrary, instead of solidarity, in 2014 we witnessed a brutal 7-week David and Goliath style bombardment by a US-backed Israel on the Gaza Strip, killing 2,100 Palestinians (mostly civilians); the ongoing 7-year siege of Gaza; and the continuing illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Indeed, the 2014 onslaught on Gaza was followed by Israel’s greatest land grab in 30 years, with almost 1000 acres in Gush Etzion in Greater Jerusalem annexed in clear violation of UN Security Council orders. Where is the solidarity in this?

According to Noam Chomsky, Palestine’s path forward will likely follow one of two paths – either an internationally backed two-state settlement, or, more realistically, the continuation of the status quo where Israel will continue to brutally suppress the freedom of the Palestinian people, with the support of the US. 

In the midst of all the brutality and apathy that the Palestinians have suffered in this year of “solidarity”, Sweden has decided to formally recognise the state of Palestine, becoming the first Western EU state - and 135th country in the world - to do so. Sweden has taken an active decision to confirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination – a right entrenched in the UN Charter. At a time when peace talks have stalled, not only is recognition an essential step forward in making the parties to this conflict a little less unequal, but it is also key to a two-state settlement. Although a two-state settlement is hugely dependent on the actions of the US, it is an aim which countries that profess solidarity with the Palestinian people should be actively striving to achieve. 

There are those who will argue that recognition is premature, but it is imperative that we take a stance on it before it is too late. One only has to look at the ongoing and illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestine, which is a clear, physical obstacle to the two-state solution.  

 

According to Chomsky, the Israeli Palestinian conflict follows a distinct and repeating pattern of ceasefire followed by an Israeli attack on Gaza, a continuing siege, intermittent acts of violence, the construction of illegal settlements, violence in the West Bank, a ceasefire observed by Hamas and recognized by Israel until an Israeli escalation elicits a Hamas response. This then leads to a “mowing the lawn” exercise by Israel, such as Operation Protective Edge, Operation Cast Lead, and the list goes on. It happened in 2008, 2012, 2014 and will continue to happen unless the international community changes its approach. To quote Albert Einstein, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Even if one puts aside the historical debate about why what happened in 1948 in fact transpired, no one seems to question the enormity of the tragedy that befell the indigenous population of Palestine as a result of the emergence and success of the Zionist movement. The Palestinians have been suffering at the hands of a brutal colonial oppressor and its superpower ally for decades, and it is time for the international approach to the conflict to change. Ireland should follow Sweden’s example and take active steps to improve the plight of the Palestinian people.” 

Mick Wallace

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Dáil Diary no 51- 27th Nov 2014

We Need ‘Policing by Consent’ of the People…

The Political appointments of Nóirín O’ Sullivan as Garda Commissioner and Josephine Feehily as Chair Designate of Garda Authority, are further signals that the present Government have little or no interest in genuine reform of An Garda Siochana. It now looks as if the removal of the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the Department of Justice Secretary General Brian Purcell, and the former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, were more a case of crisis management, than a sign of any appetite for real reform. If we are ever to have a Police Force that is accountable to the people, rather than to the politicians controlling the Government of the day, a lot more Independent monitoring and supervision is required and less political control and influence. Here’s my Ministers Questions piece in the Dáil with the Taoiseach, on the issue–

 

For more than two years we were confronted with seemingly endless scandals of Garda malpractice. For a year and a half we heard total Government denials. Then a few heads rolled and we were given promises of reform and loads of reports. The Garda Síochána Inspectorate report insisted that a complete radical cultural change was required but the Government has decided to appoint an insider. This insider sat on the shoulder of Martin Callinan when he appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts to answer questions and at which he described the whistleblowers as "disgusting". She was doing the whispering in his ear, as his right-hand woman.

Six months ago, a whistleblower from Athlone, Nicky Keogh, was mentioned in this House. He presented indisputable evidence of Garda involvement in serious criminal activity related to drugs. Six months on, there has been no information forthcoming. Meanwhile, the garda who made the complaint has been subjected to constant weekly harassment by senior management in Mullingar, manufacturing complaints against him, monitoring everything he does and making constant demands for his source of intelligence. This has all been on her watch. The blue wall of silence has not gone away.

 

 The Taoiseach has done a very good job of taking the heat out of the Garda issue by getting rid of the Garda Commissioner, getting rid of Shatter and getting rid of the Secretary General.

 Legislation has been delayed and reform has been promised but not delivered. It is the same policing policy but a different PR policy which has worked well for the Government. The appointment of the Garda Commissioner and in particular the appointment of the chair of the independent policing authority has been shrouded in secrecy rather than transparency.

The Government has bypassed proper protocol.

How many people applied for those two jobs? How many people were interviewed for those jobs? Did anyone from outside the State apply for the Garda Commissioner job?

 

The Taoiseach: I note Deputy Wallace's comments of today and yesterday. I congratulate Commissioner O'Sullivan on her appointment by the Government as Garda Commissioner. She was recommended as the sole candidate for appointment, following a rigorous and independent scrutiny, analysis and interview process. This selection was part of an international competition for persons who considered themselves sufficiently competent to carry out these responsibilities and to fill this role. The selection committee comprised a number of very competent people, including the former chief of police in Boston and Seattle, Kathleen O'Toole, together with the appointed chairperson of the independent police authority and the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.

 

 This is a reform process. Deputy Wallace's remarks are an insult to the Garda Commissioner. I note the comments of Sergeant Maurice McCabe who has been working with Commissioner O'Sullivan during her interim period as acting Commissioner in dealing with penalty points. He welcomed her appointment as Commissioner.

The Garda Síochána (Amendment)(No. 3) Bill is currently before the Dáil. The Bill proposes to strengthen the role and remit of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The independent review mechanism, consisting of a panel of counsel, is examining more than 300 complaints alleging Garda misconduct or problems with investigating misconduct. The Fennelly commission of investigation is continuing its work. The report of Mr. Justice Cooke's inquiry into reports of unlawful surveillance of GSOC, has been published. The review of the Garda Síochána under the Haddington Road agreement, which is expected to be concluded shortly, encompasses all aspects of the administration and the operation of An Garda Síochána. The report of the independent review of the Department of Justice and Equality was published in July and the Minister for Justice and Equality is working closely with that senior management team to implement those recommendations. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 has amended Garda legislation to allow Garda members to make protected disclosures to GSOC in confidence in respect of alleged Garda misconduct. The recently enacted Freedom of Information Act 2014 extends to An Garda Síochána.

 

Mick WallaceThe Taoiseach speaks about insults, but with regard to the independent review mechanism, it is an insult to all of the people who have filed complaints and have come to us with complaints, some of which are not filed, that someone from the existing hierarchy would be appointed.

What has been going on since Shatter left? I knew I would miss Shatter but I did not think I would miss him this much. How much legislation have we seen since Shatter went?

 

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shatter, please.

 

Mick Wallace: Sorry, Deputy Shatter. We were told we would have the terms of reference for the commission of investigation, as recommended by the Guerin report, within six weeks of the report, but that was seven months ago. We were told that by the end of the summer we would have the results of the independent review mechanism on what sort of process would take place. How many months ago was that?

It is crazy. Professor Dermot Walsh, probably the leading individual on policing in Ireland, has said all along that if we want to reform policing in Ireland we must go outside the State and clean the slate. The existing hierarchy are all from the one crew. The Government will not get reform from the existing hierarchy. Why does the Government not want change? Why has the Government not published the terms of reference for the commission of investigation as recommended by the Guerin report?

 

The Taoiseach: With regard to the file of complaints, some of them came to me. Some of them have dragged on for up to 20 years in various forms. Some have been before various assessment or court procedures. In many cases people look for particular elements of justice, as they see it, arising from these complaints. They are being examined by a panel of legal experts. The legislation in respect of GSOC is before the House. The terms of reference arising from the Guerin report will be dealt with next week.

The interview panel was completely independent. I saw the Deputy's statement that he had applied for the position as the chair of the independent policing authority, which it is in order for him to do.

It seems to me as if the Deputy has very different view of how the system should work, as he says, from the bottom up. I expect Commissioner O'Sullivan will follow through on the Garda Inspectorate's report in terms of the agenda of reform that must be set out. The Government has responded to the requirements of gardaí in terms of new vehicles and facilities for them to do their job. The Garda force has had a lot of work in the most recent past in protecting innocent citizens from those who might have other things on their mind.

It is not true for the Deputy to say this was some sort of inside job. The appointment of the Garda Commissioner was conducted through a rigorous and completely independent process of interview and scrutiny, and the name that came through to the Government for appointment as Commissioner under the Act was that of Commissioner O'Sullivan, and I wish her the very best of luck.

Mick Wallace: She still remains answerable to the Government and not to the people.”

 

Mick Wallace.

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