Brian Hayes MEP

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Government should activate EU Solidarity Fund to deal with cost of Ophelia damage – Hayes

Government should activate EU Solidarity Fund to deal with cost of Ophelia damage – Hayes

EU Commission should make itself available to assist Ireland

Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Tuesday) said the Government should apply for EU financial support to assist with the costs of the damage caused by ex-hurricane Ophelia. Speaking in Dublin, the Fine Gael MEP said the EU Solidarity Fund was established to help EU Member States affected by natural disasters.

ophelia-for-crop

“Yesterdays’ storm has caused significant damage across the country. While the full value of the damage will not be known for weeks, the Government should immediately notify the European Commission of their intent to apply for EU financial support. The relevant section of the Commission is DG Regional Policy and they have significant experience in dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters in Europe. I am calling on the European Commission to make themselves available to the Irish Government for the purposes of providing financial support. I will be meeting with the European Commission this week in Brussels to see what supports are available to Ireland.”

“The EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up in 2002 to respond to natural disasters including storms in EU Member States. It has been used for 76 disasters across Europe since then. For example in 2009, €521 million worth of damage was caused by flooding in Ireland and the State received €13 million from the EU fund. Given the damage caused yesterday the final bill will be significantly higher than the flooding event in 2009.”

“The fund will not cover the total cost of the damage as the amount of aid paid is linked to the wealth of the country by way of a complicated formula. The total damage must also exceed 0.6% of our GNI. It will take some time to estimate the total cost of the damage caused by Ophelia.”

“From today the Government has 12 weeks to submit an application for financial support from the EU. Given the widespread damage that Ophelia has caused there is no reason why our application would not be successful. The European Commission assesses the application and if successful proposes an amount of aid to the European Parliament and the Council who must vote to approve the financial support,” concluded MEP Hayes.

EU electronic immunisation record needed to manage vaccination

An electronic immunisation record system is required to help EU member states enhance their cross-border cooperation and simultaneously enhance prevention of infectious diseases, said Brian Hayes MEP.

16-09-21 Brian Hayes portrait Bxl-41 (1)

“We are experiencing hesitancy with regard to the uptake of vaccines, both here in Ireland and in other EU member states. For example, the rate of uptake for HPV cervical cancer vaccination has fallen 15 per cent over the past two years among young girls, this is concerning.

“As well as putting the future health of our citizens at risk, we are insufficiently prepared against infectious diseases and we must minimise the outbreaks risk,” he explained, adding that the measles outbreaks in the EU are on the rise and have caused 42 deaths in EU countries between 2016 and 2017.

“In Ireland, we have a Child Immunisation Tracker App, which parents can use to manage their children’s immunisation schedules. However, language barriers and differences in the vaccine schedule from one region to the next mean such documents are not always useful when travelling

“An electronic immunisation database for EU states, which the European Commisson is in favour of, will  provide a history of all the vaccines adults or children have received. Through this data gathering, EU countries will be able to properly monitor the vaccination of the population and upgrade cross-border cooperation in the event of diseases’ outbreaks.

“Citizens will want to be assured that their data will not be misused, so strong governance around this will be essential.

“However, if implemented, such a system will also help EU citizens, who need treatment or move to another country, be able to present their whole health record, while helping policymakers encourage vaccination as well as monitoring its proper implementation.”

Mobile providers’ needs to do more to explain Fair Usage Policy when roaming – Hayes

Mobile providers’ needs to do more to explain Fair Usage Policy when roaming – Hayes

54% do not understand their network providers’ fair usage policy

Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Thursday) said that mobile network providers need to do more to explain their fair usage policy. The Fine Gael MEP was commenting following an online survey he conducted over the last month.

Roaming

“In June when roaming charges were abolished across the EU, an optional fair usage clause that mobile providers could apply on data usage came into force.  While calls and texts will always cost the same as at home, the use of data can be limited. The idea behind this clause was to prevent abuse of the system. When you “roam” with you mobile, it costs providers. Therefore, the clause was established to prevent, for example, a person living in Ireland obtaining a French phone but never being in France.”

“The survey I carried out over the last month found that 56% of respondents know that a Fair Usage Policy exists. However, 54% did not understand how the Fair Usage Policy works.  This is a worrying and evidence that more needs to be done by network providers to inform their customers.”

“While 65% of respondents said they had sufficient data while abroad, many reported to me that their data expired after a short period of time. Several respondents also said that they had to increase their monthly bills as their data expired to quick. The amount of data a person has is linked to the cost of their monthly bill or in the case of Pay as You Go the amount you top up by.”

“The new ‘Roam Like at Home’ rules are very welcome. However, there is confusion around the use of data that needs to be rectified. I will be contacting COMREG, who has responsibility for implementing the EU rules on roaming, to ask them to examine how this situation can be improved. Consumers need to know what exactly they get and how much it will cost”, concluded MEP Hayes.

“It’s time to move to second stage of Brexit – trade talks”

“It’s time to move to second stage of Brexit – trade talks”

Fine Gael MEP, Brian Hayes, speech to the 8th JP Morgan Annual Multinational Pensions Forum in Paris on Wednesday 11th October.

“Brexit negotiations are not a tennis game. Both sides need to get serious.

“In her speech in Florence and in her statement to the House of Commons on Monday the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has shown a willingness to compromise on Brexit. There is now an onus of responsibility on the EU to respond in a positive fashion.

“It would be an economic and political disaster if no agreement came from the Brexit negotiations. A cliff edge is the worst outcome.

14-10-22 Brian Hayes portrait STR-2

“Brexit has the potential of being a new, unquantifiable systemic threat to the financial system in Europe. Britain leaving the EU without a proper divorce settlement and without a future trading relationship with the EU, represents in my mind, an unmitigated political failure for the EU and for the UK. Countries caught in the middle of that, countries like my own, would pay a heavy and unfair price for such a failure of politics.

“It’s time for some realism to be injected into the talks. I believe that we need to begin a scoping exercise on the outlines of a future EU/UK trade deal with a view to beginning trade negotiations as soon as possible. I agree with Kristian Jensen, the Danish Finance Minister when he recently said it’s time to stop the games and get on with the deal.

“Certainly, the British Prime Minister is in a difficult position and there are genuine concerns at EU level regarding the reliability of the current British government as a negotiator. There are open divisions in the British cabinet. There is an insurrectionist element in the Conservative Party, which is opposed to any deal with the EU. The British press will of course make life virtually impossible for everyone in these negotiations.

“However, I think it is important to ignore the hysterical headlines in much of the British press and focus on the facts, as we now know them. Despite the rhetoric to satisfy the hardliners, it is now obvious that Theresa May is edging towards a softer Brexit.

“In the House of Commons on Monday the Prime Minster made it clear that the proposed transition period of around two years will operate under “the existing structure of EU rules and regulations”. I have repeatedly said that the longest possible transition period is in everyone’s interest, politically and economically. She also made it clear, much to the disappointment of some within her party, that the European Courts will have jurisdiction during the transition period. This represents a significant softening of the UK position.

“In fact if the EU moves onto the trade talks already, it makes the duration and early negotiation of the transition phase easier to get agreement which will help EU and UK business.

“Economic realities are beginning to have an impact on the politics of Brexit. The political uncertainty created by Brexit is beginning to weigh heavily on UK investment, productivity and growth.

“The British government is at last recognising its financial responsibilities to the EU after 40 years of membership. Boris Johnson has lost that argument.  Reaching agreement on the final sum is essentially a matter for accountants and arbitration by an independent body if necessary. Some progress has been made on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU and a possible role for the European Court in determining such rights.  With a minimum of goodwill, issues regarding citizens’ rights can be readily resolved.

“On the Irish question some progress has been made on maintaining traditional British/Irish relations, particularly as regards the common travel area. The situation is not helped by the ongoing failure of the parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on a power sharing executive. Ireland, the UK and the EU are committed to finding solutions which do not include a hard border on the island of Ireland. That will depend of course on the shape of the final EU/UK trade deal.

“So returning to the facts as we currently know them; the UK will leave the EU at the end of March 2019 but could remain a shadow member for at least two additional years. If there is no deal – effectively a cliff edge – there is no transition period and no possibility of an orderly future trading relationship with the U.K. Are we really going to risk that?

“There is an urgency about commencing negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. What is needed to allow the talks to proceed past the divorce stage is a commitment on general principles that might ultimately shape a new relationship. If we don’t get movement on the divorce settlement – we reach an impasse and the real possibility of a complete breakdown. That would come at an enormous cost.

“Wolfgang Schauble leaving the Finance Ministry in Germany to become President of the Bundestag is a clear sign of major political and generational change obviously in Germany but also in Europe. He has been the stand out politician over the past 10 years and has helped steer the Eurozone economy especially to calmer waters. When the economic and banking crisis came, he was determined to defend the fledging euro currency by whatever means necessary. His comments this week about emerging debt and liquidity risks in the global economy need to be heeded. But a far bigger risk – a risk that faces us all now – is the risk that the UK and the EU would fail to settle Brexit.

“Speaking as an Irish man and as a committed European I hope that the outcome of Brexit negotiations will be the closest possible relationship between the UK and the EU. As an MEP of the largest political group in the European Parliament, I will work towards that end.”

Budget 2018

Opinion Piece by Brian Hayes MEP, published in the Herald on 11th October 2017

Budget 2017 Opinion Piece

Budget 2018 should not stray an inch from EU fiscal rules – Hayes

Budget 2018 should not stray an inch from EU fiscal rules – Hayes

Brian Hayes MEP said that tomorrow’s budget delivered by Minister Paschal Donohoe should stick firmly to the EU fiscal rules.

14-10-22 Brian Hayes portrait STR-6

“As part of the EU fiscal rules, the Irish government has agreed to various targets and benchmarks that ensure we are on a sustainable fiscal path for the years ahead.

“We came through the financial crisis well but we are still dealing with legacy issues, especially in terms of debt and deficit levels. This means that our budgets cannot go overboard on spending or tax cuts; we need to be prudent in how we use the fiscal space available to us. We still have to remember that we are still running a budget deficit, we do not have surplus funds.

“For Budget 2018, we should not stray an inch from the EU fiscal rules. We are on track to deliver a balanced budget next year, a remarkable achievement given that we only exited our bailout programme less than 4 years ago. Any move to go beyond the fiscal rules could put this in jeopardy.

“In Ireland we should embrace the fiscal rules. They have made our economy more stable and helped us get back on the right track after the crisis. No longer can we have giveaway budgets designed to win elections. The fiscal rules ensure that extra spending has to be in line with GDP growth and should be geared towards our Medium Term Objective (MTO).

“Politicians of all parties are blaming the EU and the fiscal rules for what we can and cannot do because of the fiscal rules. This is a cop out. It’s what we in Ireland have agreed to and put into national legislation.

“What many fail to realise is that if we reach a balanced budget by next year, then we will have reached our Medium Term Objective under the fiscal rules. With a balanced budget, we have a great deal of flexibility to spend and ramp up capital investment. But removing our deficit by 2018 has to be the key priority.

“We can’t go back down the route of pro-cyclical fiscal policies. We cannot go back to the old mantra ‘when you have it, spend it’. Guarding our adherence to the fiscal rules should be the priority of every Finance Minister into the future.”

Liam Cosgrave: A life defending the state in public service

Liam Cosgrave: A life defending the state in public service

Any understanding of the life and times of Liam Cosgrave has to be seen as a personal and political continuum with that of his father – W.T Cosgrave. They both lived long lives. They both lead their party and obtained the highest political office in the state. They both believed that Ireland’s independence was rooted in democracy, the rule of law and in defending the institutions of the state at all costs.

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Liam Cosgrave never denied the nationalist and revolutionary background of his father. Every year, he honoured the men of 1916 and their sacrifice in winning Irish independence.  But he always made clear – both in public and private – that his father had joined Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Fein! It was a very pointed reference to highlight the difference from those who use the name of that party today.

Liam Cosgrave loved his father and what his father’s generation had achieved.  He saw the success of WT’s government as moving the country from chaos to order after the destruction of the early 1920s. And I think he saw his time in politics – a career in the Dáil of 38 long years – as building on the legacy of his father, a legacy of nation building. He stoutly defended what his father had done to bring the madness of the civil war to an end.

While Liam Cosgrave retired from politics in 1981, as someone who met him quite a bit over the years, I know that he still kept a close eye on the political landscape. On becoming OPW Minister in 2011 he rang to congratulate me and reminded me that he had appointed Henry Kenny (Enda Kenny’s Father) to the same position in 1973. “I wouldn’t mind, he did a good job too”. It left me in no doubt of what was expected!

Indeed it was his clipped Dublin accent and wit which made you take note of what he had to say. When he spoke you listened. In recent years he spoke out more, but exclusively on the history and the political personalities of the time. He often settled a few scores! But never spoke about current events. When Liam Cosgrave retired he retired. But he always took duties as a member of the Council of State over many years very seriously.

Liam Cosgrave was first elected in 1943 at the age of 23. He was very critical of Fine Gael’s rather amateurish approach to party politics.  He strongly supported the development of the party organisation with a more robust Dáil performance by Fine Gael TDs. He rapidly rose through the ranks of the Party and became Minister for External Affairs in the Inter-Party Government in 1954. His big achievement in that office was Ireland’s accession to the UN in 1955.

He contested the leadership of Fine Gael in 1957 but was defeated by James Dillon. Eventually in 1965 he took over from Dillon as party leader and remained in that position until 1977.

The 1969-73 period saw Cosgrave face down internal party dissent and he supported the Taoiseach Jack Lynch in facing up to the growing threat from the IRA. It was a period of intense rivalry within Fine Gael between liberals – led by Costello and Fitzgerald – and more traditional conservative views.

He famously backed Lynch on the Offences against the State Bill in 1972 despite the fact that FG were opposing the Bill. His finest hour came in May 1970 when he forced Lynch to confront the threat of subversion to the state from those within his own cabinet.

In 1973 Liam Cosgrave finally became Taoiseach, leading a government of all the talents, as it was called. He had a close working relationship with Brendan Corish, leader of the Labour Party. He was fearless in his opposition to the growing threat from the IRA and other subversives. At the same time he and Garret FitzGerald, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, worked closely with the British on Northern Ireland.

The Sunningdale Agreement of December 1973 was a public acknowledgement by the British government that direct involvement by the Irish government was essential to any resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland. If anything the Sunningdale Agreement was too ambitious for its time but it did provide a template for future negotiations.

In 1973 the world economy was rocked by the first OPEC oil embargo which caused a deep recession. The Irish economy was badly hit. During the same period however major improvements were introduced in unemployment insurance, sickness benefit and pension entitlements. While Cosgrave is often seen as an economic conservative it was his government that introduced Capital Gains Tax and a Wealth Tax. Liam Cosgrave’s loyal no. 2 and Finance Minister was famously christened “Red Richie” (Richie Ryan). It was also the government that was satirised in a devastating way by Halls Pictorial Weekly on RTE.

Liam Cosgrave like most men of the time was socially conservative. He famously voting against his own government’s legislation on contraception in the summer of 1974.

When the 1977 election took place, the mood of the country had shifted against the Cosgrave government and of course Fianna Fail bought the election with its promises to abolish rates, car taxes and the recently introduced wealth tax.

I met Liam Cosgrave for the last time in August in Tallaght hospital with my two sons. Despite his years and his remarkable recall, the conversation that day was all about the Galway racing festival and how the new Taoiseach was doing. At 97 years young he was as inquisitive and as probing as ever.

It’s hard to think that Liam Cosgrave is no longer with us.  And while that loss is felt most acutely amongst his immediate family, I cannot help believing that for many people, especially for older people in Ireland, his death marks the end of an extraordinary era.