Credit: Gript File Image: Labour Party TDs

Labour Party: Yes, we’ll vote against the CETA deal we negotiated!

Another entry in the very large file of evidence that exists for Aodhán O’Riordáin being Ireland’s most shameless politician:

The CETA deal, for those of you who do not know, is a free trade agreement between the European Union, and Canada. Negotiations for the CETA free trade agreement concluded in August.

Not August last year, mind you. August of 2014.

You might recall that in 2014, Ireland was governed by Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael, in coalition with the Labour Party. One of the Ministers of State in that Government was one Aodhán O’Riordáin.

EU trade negotiations, to be fair, are not conducted by Ministers of State in the Irish Government. But make no mistake: The Irish Government, of which he was a member, was fully briefed by the EU, which was doing the negotiating, well before the deal was concluded. You may not remember this, but let me assure you: Labour raised no objection to the deal then.

But of course, Labour was in Government all the way back in 2014. And everybody knows, in Ireland, that in Government you have to make tough decisions, and in opposition, you can say what you really think.

Now that the Green Party is in Government, it’s their turn to make tough decisions. And so, they’re lining up, sheepishly, to vote for CETA. Labour, meanwhile, is in opposition, so they’re lining up to vote against it.

If you have half a brain at all, you should be able to figure out that were the two parties’ positions reversed, they’d be voting the opposite way. Though the Greens, to their credit, might be a little less sanctimonious about it.

The victim in all of this nonsense, of course, is the anti-CETA voter. Some poor eejit out there who feels passionately that CETA is bad for the environment will see these exchanges, no doubt, and think that O’Riordáin and Labour are the conviction politicians they’ve waited their whole life to encounter, and give them their vote at the next election. If you’re reading this, my friend: don’t do it. This is fools gold.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for actual conviction politicians, you’re more likely to find them in the fundamentalist wing of the Green Party. The Party will vote for CETA, but it seems likely to lose at least two TDs as a result. Here’s the Sunday Times from the weekend, if you missed it:

Senior figures in the Greens fear the party could lose two of its 12 TDs over a forthcoming Dail vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between the EU and Canada.

Neasa Hourigan, the party’s TD in Dublin Central, and Patrick Costello, a TD for Dublin South-Central, have both said they will vote against the motion to establish investor arbitration courts as part of the deal.

“I’m not voting for it,” said Hourigan, who was one of the party’s chief negotiators in government formation talks last year. “It’s a massive reorientation of power. It makes sure corporations and investors always win. This is high-stakes environment policy stuff.”

What’s odd about that, of course, is the bit in bold. Hourigan actually negotiated the Programme for Government. And the Programme for Government, while saying nothing about CETA specifically, does commit the Government to endorsing EU agreements. CETA is an EU agreement – according to the letter of the very programme for government negotiated by Deputy Hourigan, it must be supported.

If you don’t believe me, by the way, here it is, right out of the Programme for Government:

For the Green TD who actually negotiated this document to announce that she’ll vote against something that it commits the Government to doing is a bit much, to put it mildly. For Labour to vote against it, having negotiated the thing to begin with, is worse again.

Incidentally, why does the PfG endorse all new EU trade deals like this? Isn’t that just writing the EU a blank cheque? The Irish Government, effectively, has committed itself to supporting any old nonsense with “EU agreement” stamped on it, hasn’t it?

Nothing new there, though, a cynic might say.

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