Forthcoming General Affairs Council: Minister of State- Thursday, 25 September 2014

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Murphy, and congratulate him on his appointment. I wish him well. I agree with the Chairman’s remarks on the extremely impressive quality of his report to us, which is appreciated. I agree with the Minister of State’s remarks that an item at the top of the agenda will be to strengthen relationships with his counterparts in other countries. It is important that we continue to build and solidify strategic relationships and areas of mutual interest. I salute this.
It would be inappropriate to let today pass without congratulating our Irish Commissioner-designate, Mr. Hogan, on the fact that he is Commissioner-designate for agriculture and rural development, which is a hugely important appointment for the country. It reflects very well on his renowned abilities and enormous political experience and on the standing of the country in the European community. It is heartening for all of us and we are very pleased. It merits recognition on this occasion.
With regard to the Minister of State’s remarks on climate change, he is correct that it is important that Europe shows a lead and that we agree on targets and a strategy. As the Minister of State is acutely aware, the big issue is to bring India and China on board. We must provide moral leadership and coax and encourage. I am interested to hear the Minister of State’s response on this. Money spent on innovation and research is critical. We must accept that nuclear power must be a major part of the solution. We must all accept the recent UN reports on climate change. If one accepts the gravity of the situation and the imminent danger to our people, and if we believe what we are being told, when my 13 year old son is my age he will have catastrophic climatic and food conditions. This is how imminent, graphic and serious the matter is, and with this in mind, there is no way we can resolve the issue without nuclear power being part of the solution. There has been much development in nuclear fusion, nuclear power has become a much safer option and the waste matter is being dealt with. What are the views of the Minister of State on this issue? How are we looking at it? The nuclear dimension cannot be left out if we are to resolve the problem, although perhaps it is not politically correct. There have been big developments and innovation in the area and it must be examined.
This country is a shockingly bad example of the not in my back yard, NIMBY, factor. We must get over this with regard to issues such as wind turbines. We must become much more courageous and patriotic with a greater sense of posterity. We can no longer use the NIMBY syndrome to deny a generation already born a proper living and proper environmental conditions. We cannot continue to block progress with affectations and fanciful objections to every development in the country. We must bite the bullet on this, as it must be bitten throughout Europe.
This country has huge potential for wave energy, which is an underexplored resource for dealing with climate change. Will the Minister of State comment on this? To what degree do we have an input in the area? Climate change is such a serious matter it merits emphasis. We must consider the nuclear option and examine it comprehensively without inhibition. In my view there is no avoiding it. We must also examine the NIMBY syndrome and whatever planning changes must occur so that jumped-up individuals with affectations can no longer stop progress which will save a future generation. This can no longer be allowed and we must stand up to it. This country must show leadership. We must also examine wave energy, and other energy sources such as solar, as natural ways to deal with the issue.
The Minister of State made the point we have grassland agricultural production and that we must balance the climatic appalling vista – to use the hackneyed cliché – with feeding our people. The Minister of State’s point on grassland production was relevant and I agree with him.
We need a holistic approach.
The second major theme of the Minister of State’s address was the greatest moral imperative, apart from climate change, confronting the Minister of State and this and every committee of the House, namely, joblessness throughout Europe. Would the Minister of State accept that we need stimulus packages across mainland Europe and a Keynesian solution to create jobs? Would he agree that we need the initiative, suggested by Mr. Lorenzo, about keeping capital expenditure on infrastructural development that would lead to job creation outside normal budgetary arithmetic so that it would not be subject to the strictures of the fiscal compact, as our esteemed Chairman stated? It is very important. We need this measure and the stimulus.
The Minister of State’s opening statement, report and priorities are very impressive. He and the Government have two jobs to get done in Europe, namely, action on climate change and job creation. Every job we create gives dignity to a person and his or her family, saves on welfare, makes more money available to those in need, and creates a better society. I take the Minister of State’s point about stalling, and that is why we need a stimulus package. It is nonsense to do a bookkeeping exercise that does not have job creation at its centre. The barometer of whether we are succeeding at European level is the number of people working and, particularly, youth unemployment, which is a travesty. Where are we regarding the Youth Guarantee scheme and the initiative that was meant to be taken? While it is happening to some degree, we need greater input. I commend the Minister of State on an extraordinarily impressive start.
Minister Dara Murphy
I share Deputy Joe O’Reilly’s views with respect to Deputy Phil Hogan. The Deputy focused on wind energy. It is interesting that the European Investment Bank, which is stepping into the stimulus area, as the Chairman mentioned, has already invested in Ireland within the wind energy sector. It is noteworthy that following the incident in Japan, the largest economy in Europe, Germany, is moving from nuclear energy.
Many members discussed climate change. With regard to carbon emission targets, credits can be applied by virtue of how much renewable energy we have. While we maintain and argue strongly that agricultural emissions are different from industrial emissions, by virtue of the importance of food security and so on, equally, we can and must strive to use renewable energy as a source not just of our own energy security but also to help achieve the sort of climate targets we must meet. The Deputy is right in that we want to meet the targets not just to achieve a European target but to maintain the sustainability of our environment for future generations. The Deputy is spot on with his reference to India and China. There will be a big push at the next European Council meeting to agree targets within Europe so we can take a leadership role for the Paris negotiations. Europe does not wish to follow, trying to sort out its own position before talking to the rest of the world. We want to agree our position first so that the European Union can take that leadership role.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website