I regularly update this blog with reflections on current events, issues I’m dealing with in the parliament or important trips I make. I welcome feedback, and encourage you to comment on the blog posts.
Press statement – Joe Higgins TD and Paul Murphy MEP (Socialist Party) – 24 January 2014
Commenting on the upcoming Reform Alliance conference this weekend Joe Higgins TD stated:
“The Reform Alliance TDs are on record for opposing workers rights such as the right to strike. At a time of continued austerity we need a political voice for workers that fights for wage increases and maintaining decent pension rights. All the politicians involved in the Reform Alliance supported Property Tax and will support the introduction of the water charges later this year. Clearly they are not a political alternative to the failed policies of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour”
Paul Murphy MEP commented:
“The Reform Alliance was formed from a ultra-right split from Fine Gael on the issue of abortion. The legislation passed was highly restrictive for women with health problems, fatal foetal abnormalities and victims of rape and incest. The fact that they wanted an even more restrictive regime for women indicates that the Reform Alliance are backward on social issues and belong to another century. Indeed Lucinda Creighton is opposed to full marriage equality for same sex couples. It is incredible that the media have promoted them massively and remain uncritical on their regressive views towards women and gay people.”
On my initiative, 15 MEPs from 8 different countries have written to Minister of Justice Alan Shatter TD calling on him to release anti war campaigner, Margaretta D’Arcy who is imprisoned in Limerick Prison for her protests against the use of Shannon Airport by the US military.
My colleagues from the European United Left (GUE/NGL) where shocked to hear that the Irish government had imprisoned a 79 year peace activist, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
The utter hypocrisy of the Irish government, who are happy to jail Margaretta while refusing to inspect US military planes, is clear for all to see.
The government have it within their power to allow a Presidential pardon, Margaretta should not be in prison and this pardon should be immediately permitted. The Labour Party while in opposition made much of being against the use of Shannon by the US military. The ongoing detention of Margaretta D’Arcy seriously calls into question Labour’s anti war credentials. I call on them to release her immediately.
It is important that pressure is kept up on the government. I applaud those who are campaigning for her release and urge people to continue the protests and keep highlighting her case.”
Copy of letter below.
Mr Alan Shatter TD
Minister of Justice and Equality
94 St Stephen’s Green
24 January 2014
Re: The detention of peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy
We are writing to you as Members of the European Parliament regarding the sentencing of anti-war activist and well known writer from Galway, Margaretta D’Arcy, to three months in prison by the Ennis District Court in December 2013.
Margaretta D’Arcy was imprisoned on charges related to her peaceful protest against the use of Shannon Airport by the US military and her refusal to commit not to stay away from so-called ‘unauthorized zones’ at Shannon airport. We believe her actions were justified in that they have served to highlight the crimes of the US Military and complicity of the Irish government despite its supposed “neutrality”.
We have also been informed that she is currently receiving treatment for cancer. Given the circumstances and the humanitarian concerns, we think it entirely inappropriate for her to be incarcerated. We believe therefore Ms D’Arcy should be granted a Presidential Pardon under Section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 or her sentence be commuted or remitted.
We would ask you to respond to our concerns.
Paul Murphy MEP (Ireland)
Nikolaos Chountis MEP (Greece)
Cornelia Ernst MEP (Germany)
João Ferreira (Portugal)
Sabine Lösing MEP (Germany)
Marisa Matias MEP (Portugal)
Willy Meyer MEP (Spain)
Helmut Scholz MEP (Germany)
Søren Søndergaard MEP (Denmark)
Alda Sousa MEP (Portugal)
Marie-Christine Vergiat MEP (France)
Nikola Vuljanić MEP (Croatia)
Sabine Wils MEP (Germany)
Gabi Zimmer MEP (Germany)
Inês Zuber MEP (Portugal)
The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to approve the Tobacco Products Directive today. Every year 700,000 people die in Europe from tobacco-related diseases. This includes 7,000 people in Ireland that die of smoking related disease every year. This is an exploitative industry that profits on addiction and ill health.
Today’s vote endorses health warnings that take up two-thirds of the packaging and a ban of flavourings which are used to appeal to appeal to young people. This is a step forward and is to be welcomed.
Although tobacco lobbyists have been able to chip away at some of the earlier stronger proposals, today’s vote represents an important victory against tobacco lobbyists. In the run up to the original debate in the Parliament – nine tobacco firms, 22 tobacco industry lobby groups, and 12 PR firms, including former senior Fine Gael advisors, spent millions of euros in lobbying.
A leaked document revealed that just one of these firms, tobacco giant Philip Morris, had meetings with 233 MEPs, one-third of the Parliament. Likewise, the European Commission failed to abide by the WHO’s ‘Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ which places limitations on the interactions between lawmakers and the tobacco industry. This has exposed the intimate relationship between corporate lobbyists and the EU institutions.
This Directive has been endorsed because of the hard campaigning work of health campaigners. Despite their limited resources they were prepared to challenge the tobacco industry.
After this victory, more must be done to stop the unwarranted influence of big tobacco companies. Pressure must put on governments to ensure that this Directive is properly enforced and that they are put under pressure to implement further measures such as larger health warnings, plain packaging, public information and assistance to those that wish to quit.
Ahead of the third round of negotiations for an EU-US Free Trade Agreement (TTIP – Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement), The Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, announced a partial suspension in order to hold public consultations.
The Commissioner´s announcement to suspend the talks for three months in order to hold public consultations is an important partial victory for trade unions, environmental organisations and left MEPs who have consistently criticised the European Commission for its secretive way of holding trade talks in the interest of big multinationals on both side of the Atlantic.
In the summer of 2012, a public campaign brought down the controversial ACTA Agreement (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) where similar concerns about the non- transparency of the talks were raised. This was a huge blow to the Commission and they are trying to avoid another defeat by seemingly paying more attention to the concerns of the public.
However, the suspension of the talks does not change the character of the talks. The intention of the European Commission to come to what they see as a successful agreement that will contain strong protection mechanisms for big corporations remains. The suspension is an attempt to calm things down. It is a partial concession to save the Agreement in the long run.
Opponents and critics of the Agreement should use the three months to continue to campaign against the agreement and to spell out who will benefit from it. The so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism (ISDS) would give big corporations the right to sue governments for loss of profit. This represents an undermining of democracy which fills the pockets of big business. At the moment, tobacco giant, Philip Morris is using such an arrangement to sue the Australian state for plain cigarette packaging. This pro big-business agenda needs to end.
EU foreign ministers toda voted to deploy EU troops to the Central African Republic. This deployment offers no way forward for ordinary people in the Central African Republic. Various European armies have engaged in conflicts throughout the world and nowhere have they delivered real stability.
Time and time again we see the same pattern of western military intervention. Military action is initiated under the guise of ‘humanitarian assistance’ or ‘stability’ but in reality the overwhelming motivation is the assertion of power in a given region in order secure their interests. We can see here in Central African Republic that the control of mineral wealth is key.
Last month’s intervention by France shows that a military intervention is incapable addressing the problems. The French government said its military intervention would stop the country collapsing into anarchy. The facts however, speak for themselves – in a country with a population less than the Republic of Ireland, nearly a million people have been displaced and over 1,000 people have died in the last six weeks alone.
Eamon Gilmore has stated that it is “unlikely,” that Irish troops will be involved in this military adventure. However, it would seem that Eamon Gilmore voted in favour of this intervention at the Council. I call on Eamon Gilmore and the Irish government to come clean and be honest to the Irish people and immediately clarify if they support this military adventure or not.
The Central African Republic has valuable natural resources which are effectively pillaged by Western based big business and the local ruling elites. As a result, this massive resource wealth in the Central African Republic does not benefit the masses of the country who are living in poverty. This massive poverty and inequality are a motor that is driving this conflict.
Although largely ignored in the western media, there are workers’ and trade union organisations in the Central African Republic. Last year saw important struggles that united Christian and Muslim workers and poor. Rather than EU military, it is the workers’ movement in Central African Republic that has a crucial role to play in cutting across sectarian division and uniting ordinary people in a common struggle against their exploiters, poverty and for control of their country’s natural resources.