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13 February 2017 Edition

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Another Europe is possible – Treo eile don Eoraip

Funded by the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) - Aontas Clé na hEorpa / Na Glasaigh Chlé Nordacha Crúpa Paliminta – Parlaimimt na h Eorpa

EU committee has ‘huge concern’ at Brexit impact on Ireland 

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• Ireland North MEP Martina Anderson

A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT report has warned that the British Government’s Brexit agenda will require the Good Friday Agreement to be altered, Ireland North MEP Martina Anderson has said.

Speaking after the publication of a report from the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, the Irish MEP said that the document identifies a number of issues specific to Ireland.

“Central to this is the threat Brexit presents to the Good Friday Agreement and associated institutions,” the Derry-based MEP said.

“This report acknowledges the positive impact European Union funding streams have had in the North and concludes that Brexit will have more than a financial impact on Ireland.”

She quoted the report as saying:

“The impact [of Brexit] will be political, in particular since the Good Friday Agreement, an international agreement, will require alteration . . . and economic/technical as the re-establishment of a hard border between the North and the South could provoke a reversal of improvements in cross-Border trade.”

Martina Anderson said that the report’s conclusion “flies in the face” of comments made by the British Government in relation to Ireland and the question of a ‘hard border’. 

“The only way to ensure that the devastation that will come with Brexit is avoided is if the democratic wish of the people of the North of Ireland is respected and we remain in the EU,” she said.

Martina Anderson has also led a delegation of MEPs to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. 

“He is acutely aware of the unique situation we face in Ireland in relation to Brexit in terms of its impact on the Peace Process, the Good Friday Agreement and on EU funding,” she said later.

“We presented our case that the people of the North voted to remain in the EU and that we need to secure Special Designated Status for the North within the EU.”

The Ireland North MEP has also met the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu, and key officials to discuss EU funding and the possible impact of Brexit. 

“As a result of the British Government’s reckless Brexit agenda, the North stands to lose at least £3.5billion in funding across communities,” she said. 

GUE/NGL MEPs grill PwC official in Panama Papers hearing

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 Ireland North West MEP Matt Carthy

THE European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) has discussed the role of intermediaries as revealed in the Panama Papers scandal.

The hearing heard testimonies in late January from academics and European Banking Federation officials as well as from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

MEP Matt Carthy challenged the PwC representative on behalf of GUE/NGL about the role of the ‘Big Four’ auditing firms – PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG – in advising EU governments on tax issues and the potential conflict of interest issue that this raises.

“In Ireland, PwC’s managing partner has been involved in advising Google, Apple, Facebook and others on how to use the country as the centrepiece of their global tax avoidance strategies, including by setting up the corporate loophole; the ‘Double Irish’,” the Ireland North West MEP said.

“But this same leader of PwC is also the Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce’s tax group in Ireland. In this role, PwC successfully ensured the withholding tax that required the ‘Dutch Sandwich’ to be used in conjunction with the Double Irish was scrapped,” Matt Carthy added. 

“Of course, there is also the role played by PwC in the LuxLeaks scandal. So, in at least two member states of the EU, we can see that PwC has played a major role not only in facilitating massive tax avoidance by multinationals but also in directly designing the whole system, even at the government level.

“How can the Big Four justify the conflict of interest between advising multinationals on how to avoid paying tax whilst at the very same time, playing a major role in designing states’ tax laws?” 

Addressing the panel on the issue of tax havens, globalisation and the role of wealth managers, GUE/NGL MEP Miguel Viegas was adamant that “the capacity of tax administrations in EU member states must be reinforced so that they can prosecute illicit activities more effectively”.

Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou also intervened and queried:

“How can anyone establish and register a company without your name appearing anywhere? What other reasons can there be to justify this if it isn’t to do with tax avoidance? Unless there are other reasons, why don’t we know?”

EU must deliver on income inequality and social justice 

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• Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan

EU CITIZENS will suffer further and the EU will be “the recruiter in chief” for Euro-sceptics unless the EU shows people a willingness to change, Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has told the European Parliament.

Speaking in January on the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), she called for the European Union to draft an EPSR that delivers in a way that will combat poverty, income inequality and other serious social injustices.

“If the EPSR is to be successful and deliver on its stated aims then it has to represent what the citizens of Europe need and want,” the Irish MEP said.

“It is time the EU works to ensure that social policy is not considered a burden to economic growth but rather the two are considered to be symbiotic. I hope that the EPSR will achieve this.”

The EPSR provides a great chance for the EU to move in a new direction, “to prove it has the capability to change in how the EU works post-Brexit”, Lynn Boylan said.

“It is of the utmost importance that the European Union does not let European citizens down and that it seizes the opportunity which the EPSR presents.

“However, if the EU proves incapable of change and it continues in a business as usual manner, then European citizens will suffer further and the EU will be the recruiter in chief for Euro-scepticism.”

NUJ call for media mogul to face Oireachtas committee 

LYNN BOYLAN MEP has supported the call by the National Union of Journalists for billionaire media mogul Denis O’Brien to appear before the Oireachtas Communications Committee in relation to Independent News & Media’s proposed acquisition of the Celtic Media Group.

INM already controls five national titles and 13 regional papers. A takeover of the Celtic Media Group would increase INM’s influence to 20 major local newspapers.

Last October, Lynn Boylan published a report on media ownership on behalf of the GUE/NGL group that describes Ireland as having “one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy”, with the two main controlling entities being RTÉ as state broadcaster and “individual businessman Denis O’Brien”.

She echoed the NUJ’s call at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom’s ‘Newsocracy’ conference in Dublin on 31 January.

New President of European Parliament meets Liadh Ní Riada on Brexit

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• Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada with the new President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani

THE NEW President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, met Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada within days of his election to hear Irish concerns about Brexit, the planned British withdrawal from the European Union, and its potential impacts on the whole of Ireland.

The Ireland South MEP had called for the meeting to discuss a number of issues including Brexit, the effect it will have on the Irish economy and the need to protect the democratically-expressed will of people in the North.

Their meeting concentrated on Brexit “and I informed Mr Tajani of the disastrous effect it will have on the Irish economy, North and South”, Liadh said.

“British Prime Minister Theresa May has absolutely no regard for people in the North of Ireland and the particularly disastrous effect a ‘hard Brexit’ will have on them. She is happy to claim that joint authority in the North would be regarded as a constitutional change and would require the consent of the people but at the same time she is taking the North out of the EU against the expressed will of the people there.

“Theresa May seems content to not only sacrifice the economy in the North at the Brexit altar but also to allow the Good Friday Agreement to be collateral damage in this disastrous scheme.”

She said she reminded Mr Tajani of the integral role that the EU plays in the Good Friday Agreement and urged him to use any influence he has in conferring a Special Designated Status on the Six Counties. 

“I asked him in his dealings with the Irish Government to argue for that position and to remind Taoiseach Enda Kenny of the Irish Government’s special position as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, and to encourage them to adopt this position.

“I am glad to say that Mr Tajani took on board all my concerns and has agreed to call a meeting of all of the Irish MEPS to discuss our red line issues on these matters.”

Israel and international law debate refused at UCC

CORK-BASED Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada said she is concerned at University College Cork preventing an academic conference on Israel and international law from taking place on campus.

The conference, ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’, was due to take place at UCC from 31 March to 2 April and would have featured speakers from all sides of the debate.

The Ireland South MEP said that this event was previously banned from a university campus in England after a high-profile campaign from pro-Israel lobbyists. More than a dozen Irish academics have published an open letter expressing their concerns that the Israeli Embassy was trying to prevent UCC from hosting the event.

Liadh Ní Riada hoped that UCC would reconsider their position “and retain their long-standing reputation for courageously examining complex subjects free from outside interference”.

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