Market volatility highlights need for bank structural reform

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has commented on the global volatility in stock markets, saying that it demonstrates the urgent need for structural reform of the largest banks.

Carthy was speaking in Strasbourg following the sell-off that started on Wall Street last Friday before spreading globally, and saw the Dow Jones index fall by almost 1,200 points on Monday.

Carthy, a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said:

“The sharp fall in global markets over the past few days has been blamed largely on fears of central banks hiking interest rates in response to economic growth and the potential for inflation.

“Claims that the massive sell-off was in part a result of automated trading programmes tied to volatility is worrying, but even more worrying is the fact that we don’t know if this is true and don’t have a way of measuring this influence in an opaque and complex market.

“Such a massive sell-off being prompted by what should be good news is an indication of the weak level of confidence in the economic recovery.

“In the US, this might be the bursting of the Trump bubble – his tax reforms and drive to once more de-regulate the financial sector have contributed to a year of steady rises in Wall Street, which has finally been interrupted.

“Most importantly, it is an indication of how deeply dependent the markets have become on the constant flow of easy money from central banks over the past decade; the very idea of a normalisation of interest rates has caused panic.

“In the EU, economists have repeatedly warned that the ECB’s monetary policies, and particularly its Corporate Sector Purchase Programme, risked fuelling bubbles in high-risk assets and would significantly increase inequality by distributing ECB funds directly to banks and corporations rather than to the real economy.”

Carthy continued:

“This market volatility has brought back fears of a repeat of the global financial crisis, which leaders of financial institutions are quick to reject.

“Hopefully the sell-off will steady today before it affects the jobs and pensions of ordinary people. But it drives home just how vulnerable the economic recovery is – and in particular how vulnerable our banks are to another shock.

“Despite the promise of fundamental financial reform in the EU, the banking system is in many ways in the same situation as it was before the 2007-08 crisis.

“Yesterday bank stocks in the EU fell by 2 per cent, while the sector is still loaded up with close to one trillion euros in non-performing loans.

“There have been some improvements in supervision, but the promise of serious reform – structural separation of the ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks’ retail and commercial banking from their investment banking activities – has been blocked for years by conservatives.

“In recent months the Commission openly abandoned its EU-wide proposal on Banking Structural Reform.

“As a result I have proposed amendments to the Capital Requirements Directive currently being revised in the European Parliament, by inserting a new chapter on the structural separation of the largest banks, which would prevent them from gambling away the savings of their customers and protect ordinary people in the event of a future financial crisis.”

Time for Government to halt Mercosur sell out of Irish Farming

Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has called on the Irish Government to demand an immediate halt to Mersocur trade talks after it emerged that the EU has increased its offer on beef quota to the South American bloc to 99,000t.

Carthy said that news of the inflated offer means comes at the worst possible time for the Irish beef industry who are already dealing with the uncertainty created by Brexit and with volatile market prices.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee said:

“Since the publication of the EU’s initial offer of 70,000t, which was irresponsibly high, we have witnessed crocodile tears from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil representatives who have promised to support Irish farmers in the Mercosur process.

“At that time of that offer I wrote to Commissioner Hogan requesting that he insist that Irish and EU farmers be protected by removing sensitive sectors, such as beef and poultry, from the negotiations. He refused and instead later set a ‘red line’ for beef quota at a 100,000t.

“I don’t even think Commissioner Hogan will be brave enough to claim that allowing the offer to be 1,000t short of his supposed red line has done farmers any favours. It is an utter insult to set a red line at 100,000t but accept 99,000 as a reasonable compromise.

“The fact that a new increased offer has been made proves that neither Fine Gael, or their appointed EU Commissioner, can be trusted to defend Irish interests in EU trade deals.

“Their support, and that of Fianna Fáil, to the CETA trade deal with Canada (which includes an annual beef quota of 50,000t) proves that they are willing to sacrifice indigenous Irish industries, farmers and our democratic institutions rather than stand up to the European Commission or corporate vested interests.

“The truth is that the Mercosur talks are progressing at the behest of German car manufactures in the knowledge that Irish and EU farmers will be sacrificed.  The Irish government can and should call halt immediately.

“It is clear that we cannot trust sentiments such as those expressed by lead EU negotiator Sandra Gallina who has acknowledged in the context of Brexit this is not the time to be jeopardising Irish beef further.

“Seventy five percent of imported EU beef already comes from the Mercosur countries, this new offer makes oversupply inevitable causing a race to the bottom on prices that Irish farmers simply cannot win.

“The time for rhetoric is over.  Irish political representatives can support dangerous trade deals such as Mercosur and CETA or they can support Irish farmers.  They cannot support both.

“Sinn Féin are steadfast on the side of our farming families and the communities that depend on them.

“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to join us and demand that the EU’s regressive trade agenda is scrapped in favour of sustainable, fair and progressive trade deals.”

Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil obsession with privatisation at heart of Broadband chaos

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has said that the Government’s ideological obsession with privatisation lies at the root of the current chaos in the National Broadband Plan. His comments followed the withdrawal of Eir from the Broadband Plan procurement process.

Matt Carthy said:

“The Government’s ideological obsession with privatisation lies at the root the current chaos in the National Broadband Plan.

“Public faith in this government’s ability to provide high speed broadband to rural Ireland is now at an all-time low, following the withdrawal of Eir from the tendering process. Once again, businesses, homes, students and workers across rural Ireland are the victims.

Sinn Féin has repeatedly warned the Government about the fundamental flaws in the procurement system it was following and its determination to hand over control of this project to private interests.

“Eir’s sudden withdrawal follows the withdrawal last year of SIRO. The Government has now completely lost credibility on this issue, with the likelihood of broadband access in rural Ireland now even further away.

“However, it’s a bit rich to hear Fianna Fáil TDs decrying the latest development. In 2009 Fianna Fáil representatives across the state assured us that broadband access to every home in rural Ireland would be a reality within 10 months.

“Communications strategy in this state has been a shambles for decades and Fianna Fáil have been centrally involved in creating the mess.

“Fianna Fáil shares Fine Gael’s obsession with privatisation and abdicating the responsibility of the state to provide essential services.

“This should be borne in mind when we hear Fianna Fáil lecture anyone about rural investment. The truth is that neither Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael can be trusted to deliver for rural Ireland.

“What is now required is the implementation of Sinn Féin’s progressive vision for real investment in rural Ireland and the empowerment of rural communities.”

Carthy calls for UN summit on financial secrecy following new report

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy welcomed the publication of the Financial Secrecy Index by the Tax Justice Network, updating its previous index published in 2015.

Carthy, who has been a member of the European Parliament’s inquiry into the Panama Papers, noted that he participated in fact-finding missions to the two jurisdictions topping the list during the course of the inquiry – Switzerland and the US.

Matt Carthy said:

“The scale of the financial secrecy problem revealed by this index and report show the need for urgent internationally coordinated action to stop tax dodging and money-laundering.

“I fully support the call by development agencies, NGOs and tax justice activists for an urgent summit to be called under the auspices of the United Nations to deal with financial secrecy decisively.

“The Tax Justice Network has published its first Financial Secrecy Index since 2015 after monitoring major global trends in illicit financial flows.

“This index is unique as it ranks states not only according to their level of secrecy but also by the actual volume of the offshore financial activities taking place there.

“Two EU member states – Luxembourg and Germany – as well as British dependencies the Cayman Islands and Guernsey are all in the top 10 of the worst jurisdictions for financial secrecy.

“This is another demonstration that the lists developed by the European Commission for identifying tax havens and jurisdictions at risk of money-laundering are not fit for purpose as they automatically exclude EU member states

“The US has jumped again to second place in the list, with states such as Delaware successfully marketing itself to 66 per cent of Fortune 500 companies as a financial secrecy centre.

“The 2018 index demonstrates two important facts – firstly, it is not only small tropical islands that are facilitating illicit financial flows. The major financial centres of the world, including the US and the EU, are major players in the offshore game. Secondly, they have failed to clean up their act under the current international legal framework.

“We urgently need a dedicated summit to be convened by the UN, to involve every jurisdiction in reaching real solutions to the financial secrecy scam that affects us all.”

Carthy hears afforestation concerns at first hand in Leitrim

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy visited Co. Leitrim on Monday, 29 January to meet various groups and individuals.

Carthy met local representatives of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) in Ballinamore, where he heard of the growing concern at the impact afforestation and the impact on farmers and the wider community.

The Midlands North West MEP then viewed for himself plantations in the Corraleehan area and heard of the problems of farmers unable to acquire land to make their farms viable while residents feel overshadowed and surrounded by Sitka Spruce afforestation.

In Mohill, he met with Western Forestry Co-Op representatives who outlined their vision for forestry in Leitrim.

Commenting on the issue Carthy said:

“There are deep and growing concerns right across Leitrim about the severe and negative impact of sitka spruce afforestation.

“A Government established, low-cost loan scheme allows foreign investors to buy up land in Leitrim for forestry without any accompanying scheme to ensure plantations bring employment or other benefits to the county.

“Vulture funds and pension firms are taking over land from local farmers, local forestry cooperatives and communities. This is unfair and unjust and is detrimental to community life, sustainable farming and tourism.

“Investors are receiving 100% exchequer-funded forest premiums, while the Government has made absolutely no effort to make sure their investment stays in the County.

“This untrammelled planting of Co. Leitrim risks pushing the local people off the land and out of the county. It risks making the county uninhabitable, killing local villages and towns and destroying the social fabric of this wonderful county.

“The environmental and social concerns can no longer be avoided and I will be consulting with my party colleague and Sligo/Leitrim TD Martin Kenny and others about how this situation can be addressed at a national level.”

While in Leitrim, Carthy also met the James Gralton Memorial Committee. to hear of efforts to preserve and restore the homestead of the socialist republican figure who was the only Irish person deported from their own country, and who is the central character in the film Jimmy’s Hall by Ken Loach.

He offered the group his full support, saying:

“I want to commend the work of the Gralton Memorial Committee in keeping alive the memory of Jimmy Gralton and the principles of social justice and liberty for which he sacrificed so much. Jimmy’s home place should not be allowed to disappear and should be preserved as an educational, community resource and I will work with the committee to ensure that their visions for the site are realised.”

Applications for EU funding of free public Wifi hotspots open in February

As Shadow Rapporteur of the Wifi4EU file, Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, recently provided an update on the process to apply for free public wi-fi hotspots.

Matt Carthy said:

“The European Commission has reported that it is working on an online portal which will be available in the coming weeks so that local authorities and installation companies can apply to the Wifi4EU scheme.

“I am told that the European Commission expects that the launch of applications will take place in February.

“The Wifi4EU funding amounting to €120million will provide up to 8000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the EU.

“The scheme will give local areas, especially those who do not have a high level of internet connectivity currently, the opportunity to avail of grants for free wifi-hotspots in public areas.

“I would encourage all those local authorities who are interested in applying to the scheme to stay up to date and watch out for the launch of the scheme.

“The funding will be granted on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis but, crucially, will prioritise rural and remote communities, who do not currently avail of public Wi-fi hotspots.  This should obviously mean that communities within the Midlands North West constituency which I represent will be considered if applications are submitted.

“Increased internet connectivity benefits the promotion of tourism, which is an essential sector in many rural areas. Additionally, the development of local domestic economies, particularly those dependent on small and medium businesses, rely upon a decent infrastructure and reliable internet connectivity in order to develop.

“The level of internet connectivity in rural areas is trailing that of urban areas, as a result of the lack of investment from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments.  It is unacceptable for a digital divide to exist between rural and urban areas.

“Families residing in rural areas deserve to be able to live and work in their communities and not have to move to where internet connectivity and other resources are accessible. It is unacceptable that rural broadband is not a norm across the fifteen counties of the Midlands North-West constituency, unlike other EU regions.

“The approach of the Wifi4EU initiative provides an opportunity for rural areas to avail of internet connectivity in public spaces, as the Irish Government has absolutely failed to do so.

“I will endeavour to ensure rural communities are aware of the developments to apply to the Wifi4EU scheme”.

Further information on the Wifi4EU scheme can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/wifi4eu-questions-and-answers

Carthy calls for resistance to the erosion of Irish neutrality

MEP Matt Carthy has called called for a campaign by all concerned parties, groups and individuals to defend Irish neutrality.

Addressing a meeting of the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM), Matt Carthy said:

“With almost zero public debate, the Fine Gael Government with the full support of Fianna Fáil recently signed Ireland up to The EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

“In the European Parliament Fine Gael MEPs have voted in favour of the militarisation of the EU, demonstrated their commitment to increased defence spending, and voted in favour of removing the national veto on common foreign and security policy decisions.

“This makes smaller EU member states like Ireland virtually powerless when it comes to foreign policy decisions

“PESCO will see the Irish Defence Forces integrated into an EU military apparatus under which is totally at odds with Irish neutrality.

“PESCO is an EU mechanism to bind nations into commitments to increase military spending in the EU, to increase co-operation and collaborations between national armies and making them dependent on each other.

“PESCO will see Ireland participating in EU military operations and funding EU military research which is intended to ‘complement NATO missions and strategic goals’.

“We have all seen the disastrous role that NATO members’ intervention has had in Libya and Iraq.

“This is not something that the Irish people want and it is not in Ireland’s interests.

“The decision by Independent Alliance TDs and Fianna Fail to back Fine Gael’s plan for Ireland to join PESCO is shameful.

“Despite the Taoiseach’s recent comments in the Dáil, the Irish people did not sign up for PESCO when they voted for the Lisbon treaty.

“In fact, as part of the Treaty’s ratification, the constitution was amended to explicitly prohibit Irish participation in PESCO therefore Ireland cannot participate in European common defence.

“The Irish Government has shown a complete disregard for the Constitution, and has attempted to mislead people as to what PESCO is and what Ireland agreed to by ratifying the Lisbon treaty.

“PESCO is the latest in a series of developments aimed at establishing a European military union. It is no coincidence that this push is taking part concurrently, but entirely separately, to discussions on the Future of Europe.

“All of this is part of an agenda by a small group of powerful, federalist idealogues within the EU. Basically, they want an EU empire. And as we know, all empires require armies. I do not believe that any of this is what EU citizens want.

“Citizens want an EU that delivers for them, for their families, for their communities, for their countries.  There is no evidence that they want EU military expansion.

“It is time for the EU for engage with citizens, it is time to reinforce Irish neutrality – not to hammer the final nail in its coffin.

However, the threat to Irish neutrality is just coming from an increasingly federalist EU.

Recent footage of US Vice President, Mike Pence, greeting US troops, in full combat gear, while on a stopover in Shannon Airport shows how much our neutrality has been undermined by successive Irish Governments.

“Those images were another reminder that the civilian Shannon Airport has virtually become a forward base for the US military to carry out exercises in the Middle East in particular.

“Sinn Féin has always stated that the US military’s use of Shannon Airport makes a mockery of Irish neutrality and the Irish Government’s supposed commitment to neutrality.

“Sinn Féin will continue to seek to uphold and defend the wishes of the Irish people for this country to remain neutral and non-aligned and we believe that neutrality should be enshrined in the Constitution.

“We also need to see a wider campaign on this issue by all concerned parties, groups and individuals to push it up the domestic political agenda.”

Government has abandoned the West of Ireland

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said the Fine Gael Government has effectively abandoned rural Ireland, particularly western counties.

Demanding an end to the closure of vital services in rural towns and villages, he said rural Ireland must be made a sustainable place to live and work and that this required a fundamental change in Government policy.

Speaking at a recent public meeting in Maam Cross, Co. Galway , which was also addressed by Sinn Féin’s Galway West representative, Cllr Mairéad Farrell, the Midlands North West MEP said:

“Rural Ireland is under attack as never before. The current Fine Gael Government has effectively abandoned rural Ireland, particularly western counties.

“Rural schools, Garda stations and post offices have been closed at an alarming rate.

“Meanwhile small and medium business have been starved of credit and neglected by the Government so that many rural towns are simply dying on their feet.

“Successive governments have made living in rural Ireland more difficult. They have cut rural transport programmes, raised costs for private car users and inflicted cuts on Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.

“There is now a major threat to 800 more post office branches across the state. This cannot continue.”

Calling for a fundamental rethink of government policy, Carthy said all parties had to recognise the need for significant investment in rural counties:

“Crucially, this means thinking big for rural Ireland and for the West. There is no reason why parts of many rural counties haven’t got decent broadband, no prospect for international investment or why so many young people continue to leave home in order to get jobs.

“There is no reason other than the fact that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments haven’t and won’t invest adequately in the infrastructure and services we need.

“Sinn Féin has a vision for the west of Ireland Ireland. A vision to make it a sustainable place to live and work. A place where the quality of life is matched by the quality of public services.

“This includes a policy commitment to keep rural post offices, libraries and Garda stations open and to maintain services that connect people with their local towns.

“The West needs to become a place where young educated graduates have the opportunity to stay and build their future and a place that welcomes back emigrants including those forced to leave over recent years.

“Unfortunately, Government policy continues to prioritise the east coast. But there is no economic justification for this – all of Ireland would benefit from balanced regional development.

Sinn Féin believes that fair recovery must mean a balanced recovery – it must mean a recovery in the West.”

Carthy presses EU Court of Auditors for review of Irish LEADER Funding

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, has raised the issue of the backlog of LEADER Funding in the European Parliament.

Speaking at a special hearing with the European Court of Auditors in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Carthy said:

“The report presented to the Committee shines a light on the very slow implementation of the Rural Development Programme.

“A common theme with many EU funding programmes, the report specifically mentions the lengthy application process for many schemes that means that funding is pushed back through the budget period, causing a knock-on effect on the quality of projects delivered.

“While the report focussed mainly on the overall programme itself and not the individual Member State projects, I pressed Janusz Wojciechowski from the Court of Auditors on the need for a specific report into the massive backlog of funding in Ireland which is depriving rural areas.

“Delays in spending mean an accumulation of money at the end of the funding period, resulting in a higher risk of spending on undeliverable or untargeted areas. It also means that funds may be re-absorbed into the next programme period without ever reaching the communities they are intended to help.

“The stark results show that at the beginning of 2017 90% of the EAFRD financial plan was unspent.

“In Ireland the latest figures show that while 429 projects have been approved by the LAGs for LEADER funding worth €10.5m, only €157,444 of this has been drawn down. This is frighteningly low considering we are 3 years into the funding period and it is an issue that my colleague MEP, Liadh Ní Riada, has been consistently highlighting in the Budgets committee.

“The entire brand and philosophy of the Rural Development scheme is in jeopardy, and vital rural projects are being deprived of funding as a result.

“I am pleased that Mr Wojciechowski has agreed to look into the specific issues related to Ireland regarding LEADER and will be following up on this issue to ensure the Court is aware of the depth of the situation”.

Minister’s hypocrisy on forestry value chain tour a disgrace

MEP Matt Carthy has labelled a recent tour by Minister of State for Forestry Andrew Doyle in County Leitrim as “hypocritical” and a disgrace. Speaking from Brussels Carthy said:

“The Fine Gael Government have never prioritised balanced Rural Development. Furthermore, they have never shown the slightest ambition for a job creation strategy for the West of Ireland.

“There are a number of forestry dependent employers in Leitrim, and these jobs must be not only protected, but given the maximum level of support available. I commend all Small Business owners in the region who have made an effort to create sustainable jobs.

“However for the Minister to conduct a tour of businesses in Leitrim in the knowledge that Leitrim received zero IDA funding last year and had only one IDA organised site visit is hypocrisy at its worst.

“The truth of the matter is that job creation in this area is solely thanks to indigenous industries and individuals with a vision for the region.

“The Government was quick to set up a low-cost loan scheme to allow foreign investors to come in and buy up land for forestry on the cheap, however there was no accompanying scheme to ensure that these plantations brought employment to the region. What is this if not the highest level of hypocrisy?

“If the Government were genuinely serious about putting in place a forestry “value chain” then they wouldn’t be enabling vulture funds and pension firms to come in and take over land from local farmers, local forestry cooperatives and local communities.

“I ask the Minister, where is the end of his so-called “value-chain”? Is it in Leitrim? Or is it in the pockets of foreign investors such as Finnish Capital Investment firm Dasos?

“Let me repeat that it is an absolute disgrace that these foreign investors are receiving 100% exchequer funded forest premiums, while the Government has made absolutely no effort whatsoever to make sure that any of their investment actually stays in the region in the form of employment”.