Our sovereignty is being wrested from us as we take 3rd place in the OECD unemployment league table

At the time the bank guarantee was provided in September 2008 the Minister for Finance said in this House that a compelling argument in favour of the Government’s actions was that it would protect our economic sovereignty. In truth, our economic sovereignty and room for manoeuvre have been steadily eroded since.

In a radio interview yesterday the Taoiseach was asked about the Government’s budget strategy for next year. He said the Government had received no formal or informal indication from anybody in the European Commission that a particular course of action “would be expected of us”. Is it all about what the European Commission “expects” of Ireland?

A Government has a greater role than simply carrying out the instructions of the European Commission. I believe in the European project and pooling sovereignty in the greater interests of the Irish people and people all across Europe. However, I do not believe in our sovereignty being wrested from us, which is essentially what has happened. By our own actions, inactions and policy failures in the past ten years, especially regarding the banks, we have greatly limited the economic independence of this country.

I accept it is not peculiar to Ireland. A major debate is coming in Europe in the next few years about what level of economic independence any member state will have. The hand of the Irish Government and people will be very considerably weakened as a result of what has happened in recent years. All the debates about tax harmonisation, and about what economic independence this country has, will change radically in the coming years. It will be extremely difficult for this country to maintain any serious level of economic independence. I really regret the Taoiseach appears to be almost exhibiting a defeatist attitude towards this.

When he describes economic and budgetary policy, he talks about what is “expected of us” by the European Commission instead of taking a strong, robust and independent line on job creation and the development of the economy, thereby coming across in a positive way, as the Opposition has, with actual proposals as to how we, as a sovereign Irish Government, could turn around the economy. It is lamentable that he is not doing that, particularly on the day when we have been informed that Ireland has the third highest unemployment rate in the OECD.