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Green Party to push for postponement of Dáil vote on EU-Canada free trade agreement

TD Neasa Hourigan has told the party that she will vote against the motion if it goes ahead tomorrow.

Anti-CETA activists at a protest in 2016.
Anti-CETA activists at a protest in 2016.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE GREEN PARTY is expected to seek postponement of a Dáil vote on a controversial free trade agreement in order to allow for a full debate at a later date.

Tomorrow, the government is due to introduce a motion to the Dáil proposing the ratification of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will remove the vast majority of trade barriers between Canada and the European Union.

Once ratified, CETA will, among other things, allow corporations to sue the Irish State through a new ‘Investor Court System’ over regulatory decisions that negatively impact their profits.

The government says the deal — which came into force on a provisional basis in 2017 pending full ratification by member states — gives Irish and European producers, manufacturers and exporters unprecedented access to the Canadian market.

It has been ratified by 14 EU member states so far but the agreement has been met with stiff opposition here from environmental campaigners, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and opposition parties.

Now, Green Party TD for Dublin Central Neasa Hourigan has told her party leadership that she will not vote in favour of the motion if it is brought to the Dáil tomorrow.  

Tomorrow’s Dáil proceedings are due to take place in Leinster House. 

Because of social distancing guidelines, attendance would be capped at 45 TDs, meaning only three Green Party deputies would be allowed to attend instead of the full complement of 12.

With Hourigan being one of the three Greens scheduled to attend tomorrow, a no vote from her could effectively scupper the motion.

In a statement, the Green Party said, “The membership has called for greater discussion on CETA in line with the ongoing debate between our EU Green network, and updated information since 2016 from the [European] Court of Justice. The parliamentary party will provide further information, leading out on next steps later today.”

The Green Party’s European affiliate, the European Green Party, has long opposed CETA. 

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan has also written the Ceann Comhairle calling for tomorrow’s vote on CETA trade deal to be postponed “as there is not sufficient time for proper debate and scrutiny”.

He has asked for the Dáil to provided with “a full cost-benefit analysis of the agreement and analysis of its potential impacts”.

‘Bad deal’

Sources say that Cabinet signed off on a Dáil vote on CETA ratification during the last cabinet meeting in November.

It’s understood that the government is of the view that because it has been ratified by 14 EU member states already, it will need to be ratified by Ireland.

But opposition TDs have accused the government of trying to ‘sneak’ through the vote this week.

Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights said she was “shocked” that the government has “scheduled a short vote to ratify the trade deal this week”.

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The Dublin Fingal TD accused the government of “using crunch Brexit negotiations as a cover to sneak this bad deal through”.

“The issue here is that CETA is not a trade deal like we traditionally know them,” she said.

“It’s about eliminating what are called ‘non-tariff barriers’ – which is just another term to describe the protections that are in place to defend the rights of workers and progressive policies of a state, including environmental protections and policies for climate justice.” 

“At the heart of the CETA deal is the inclusion of an Investor Court system which would give foreign multinational corporations the right to sue national Governments in Europe for compensation for the loss of expected future profits when government actions impact on their profits.

“Previously, courts like these have been used to target vital workers’ rights such as minimum wage increases.”

Earlier today, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett called on the Greens to reject the government motion.

“I have stood on platforms and participated in debates with Green Party TDs over recent years and together we have highlighted the profound threat to our environment and public services posed by this deal,” the Dún Laoghaire TD said.

“I am appealing to them today to reject this vote on Tuesday. This deal will enormously strengthen the rights of corporations over the needs of the public to access key public services and it will make it impossible to achieve the kind of measures we need to take to deal with the climate crisis.”

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

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