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1 July 2015 Edition

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EU panic as public rejects TTIP

Chaotic scenes in European Parliament as vote on controversial free trade deal postponed amid protests by Sinn Féin and GUE/NGL MEPs

• Demonstrators protest against TTIP at European Union House in Dublin

Ireland South Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada accused Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly MEP of betraying the farming community

A KEY EU VOTE on the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Parntership (TTIP) free trade deal – being negotiated between the European Commission and the United States – was postponed amid dramatic scenes in the European Parliament in June. 

The debate on TTIP was also suspended in what Sinn Féin MEP for the North, Martina Anderson, described as “a stunt” amid reports of large-scale objections to TTIP inside some of the larger centrist political groupings.

While the decison to postpone a vote on the report and amendments was a top story on news channels across Europe, it barely featured in the Irish mainstream media. 

Critics of the controversial trade deal say it will seriously damage workers’ rights; force down environmental, food safety and animal rights standards; hit the viability of small farms; and damage democracy. 

The deal includes an Investor States Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which would allow large mulitnational companies to sue governments in private courts should the Government do anything (like raising the minimum wage!) which companies feel would damage their profits.

Reacting to the postponement, Midlands North West Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said it shows that public pressure on the EU is working:

“The report on TTIP, as currently presented by the Trade Committee, is wholly insufficient to address the concerns of citizens across the EU. From an Irish point of view, it does not include the necessary provisions to protect our agriculture sector or other vulnerable sections of our economy.”

Fine Gael Dublin MEP Brian Hayes complained that campaigners are derailing the trade deal “for political reasons” and claimed the failure of  the trade deal would be “suicidal”. Speaking to EuroParl Radio, Hayes said he was “disappointed we can’t get this through” and claimed it was being exploited by “anti-globalisation and hard-Left” activists.

But Matt Carthy hit out at Hayes and his fellow Fine Gael MEPs, as well as the Irish Government, for failing to look into the legislation themselves and instead simply taking the word of the EU Commission.

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Protests during the Strasbourg plenary session of the European Parliament in June

Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said the EU was “rattled” by the consistent and widespread opposition across Europe to the deal:

“The thousands of citizens protesting, emailing and petitioning their politicians has certainly made an impact and I would encourage them all to keep up this pressure to help deliver a strong ‘No’ to a deal which will benefit the corporations at the expense of the citizens.”

An online consultation carried out by the European Commission received over 150,000 responses of which 97% were opposed to TTIP. Over 2million people from every part of Europe have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative campaign opposing the deal.

Following the vote, Ireland South Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada accused Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly MEP of betraying the farming community. She described the unwavering support for TTIP by him and his Fine Gael colleagues as “an extraordinary selling-out of the Irish people on an international scale”.

Kelly had even called for an ISDS secret court to be located in Ireland. Liadh Ní Riada described the ISDS as a “shady, behind-closed-doors forum for corporations to sue governments” and said Fine Gael’s desire to have such an entity located in Ireland as “scandalous”. 

“It shouldn’t be located anywhere as its existence would be an affront to democracy,” she said.

As An Phoblacht goes to print it is still unclear if the report and amendments on TTIP will be debated at the EU plenary session underway in Brussels at the end of June or a later date.

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