Dáil Éireann 9 March 2004: Leaders’ Questions

Joe Higgins condemns the planned Bush visit

Joe Higgins: When the Taoiseach leaves Dublin airport next week to visit the United States, unfortunately I cannot be on the tarmac to wave him off. Therefore, I must ask him now, if it is his intention to confirm the invitation to President Bush to visit Ireland at the end of June and, if so, on whose behalf will he extend that invitation? Does he presume to do so on behalf of the Irish people, a large majority of whom opposed his criminal invasion of Iraq on a basis that was obviously fraudulent and has been proved now? As he is President of the EU, does the Taoiseach delude himself that he is doing it on behalf of a majority of the citizens of the EU who also massively opposed his bloody invasion? We know the Taoiseach has been a willing tool for US imperial ambitions. He allowed President Bush use our island home as an aircraft carrier for his bloody invasion of Iraq and he proposes to allow him use it again as a platform for his re-election campaign next autumn. No doubt President Bush's publicists are already working out the soft focus images of the mists blowing in to Sliabh Mish or the waves breaking on the Cliffs of Moher to push for a few nights off the American TV networks, the awful images of the killing fields in Iraq, for which he is responsible.

What right has the Taoiseach to demand that the Irish people do not protest in large numbers against this cynicism? Is the Taoiseach a part of the disgusting and sinister move by Dublin City Council, backed by Fianna Fáil councillors, to ban the Irish anti-war movement from legally placing posters on lampposts to notify people of legitimate and peaceful protests, as was done last February when 100,000 people came out in opposition to his policy?

At what location does the Taoiseach intend to meet President Bush? Will he invite him to the Dáil where we can plan an appropriate reception for him?

The Taoiseach: The EU-US summit is taking place in Ireland in June. This has already been confirmed and the President of the United States is travelling to Ireland to participate in that summit where we will discuss EU-US summit issues, particularly the transatlantic relationships and improving transatlantic relationships. The agenda is not finalised but a recent parliamentary question gave a number of issues in which we will be involved. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, set this out and they have been well reported.

The Government's position on Iraq has consistently been that we support Iraq with the transfer of power as soon as possible to a democratically-elected Iraqi Government. We recognise, as does Kofi Annan, that elections cannot be organised in the present circumstances. We received the United Nations Secretary General's report on the recent electoral commission in Iraq late yesterday and we are broadly supportive of its conclusions and recommendations. The Secretary General said that consensus among the constituents is the best guarantee of a legitimate and credible transitional Government in Iraq. Our position on Iraq remains one of support for the role of the UN as it has been throughout and will continue to be one of support.

Michael D. Higgins: He refused to give a resolution justifying-----

An Ceann Comhairle: It was the Deputy's namesake who submitted the question.

M. Higgins: He spoke very well on it too. He deserves an answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is no need for the Deputy to try to embellish it.

M. Higgins: The Taoiseach's speech was provocative.

The Taoiseach: We commend the efforts of UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to maximise within the existing political and physical constraints the role of the activities of the United Nations in regard to Iraq and we continue during our Presidency to support it and we will continue to support the aim of reaching a consensus on a way forward. That, among other issues, including international issues, will be discussed during the US-EU summit in June.

J. Higgins: The Taoiseach did not give any clue as to the location of his talks with President Bush. May I be helpful and suggest he meet him in An Blascaod Mór and in the house of Peig Sayers. Peig was a noted teller of fairytales. This is an entirely appropriate location for the Taoiseach to meet the man who spun him what will become the most notorious fairytale of our epoch, except that the consequences were anything but fairytale. [Mr. J. Higgins continuing] Muintir an Bhlascaoid knew a good fairytale when they heard one but, apparently, they were unlike the Taoiseach, who continues to be mesmerised by the tall tales coming out of Washington. Will the Taoiseach continue to be mesmerised by Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld, who might as well have been the fiddlers of Dooney so compulsively has the Taoiseach continued to dance to their tune? He gave them our airports, diplomatic cover and anything they wanted. Now, he intends to do another jig for them, to help the President back into the White House again. If the Taoiseach does not withdraw this invitation, will he affirm the democratic right of the people to protest against it and to advertise that protest?

Pat Rabbitte: Will the Taoiseach support it in advance this time?

The Taoiseach: People have the right to protest. While I would have no influence on Deputy Joe Higgins, I remind him that individual Presidents of the United States change from time to time. It is an office that is well respected in this country and in Europe, and one that is part of the free and democratic world. The United States is friendly towards Ireland and has given employment and a good life to millions of people.

J. Higgins: What has that to do with my question or the situation in Iraq?

The Taoiseach: I have listened to the Deputy's non-colourful rant and am simply providing a few facts.

J. Higgins: The Taoiseach will not answer a straight question.

The Taoiseach: There is a considerable amount of American investment in this country. When the President of the United States visits Europe during the Irish EU Presidency to have a meeting on international business------

J. Higgins: What does the Taoiseach say about weapons of mass destruction?

An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to allow the Taoiseach to answer without interruption.

The Taoiseach: ------I do not think it becomes any Member of the House to be so negative about it. It does no good whatsoever.

J. Higgins: What will the Taoiseach say about the fraud perpetrated by Bush and Rumsfeld?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should resume his seat or I will have to ask him to leave the House.