Coalition expected to ratify EU-Canada trade deal in new year

Green Party remains opposed to Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between EU and Canada

The Government is expected to proceed with the ratification of the EU-Canada free trade deal in the new year, according to senior Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sources.

But it is understood that the Green Party will want to examine the judgment before agreeing to any way forward.

The Supreme Court’s judgment on Friday in the case taken by Green TD Patrick Costello, when it ruled that the Dáil could not vote to ratify the trade deal, has opened up fresh rifts in the Coalition on a troublesome issue for the three parties.

While the Supreme Court in its judgment outlined a way out for the government to secure ratification of Ceta without a referendum by amendments to the Arbitration Act, opposition to this course of action is already apparent in the Green Party.


Senior Green sources last night advocated pausing to consider the issue before bringing any votes to the floor of the Dáil.

And the Green Party TD Nessa Hourigan has said she will not be able to vote with the Government on any proposed legislation introduced to amend the State’s judicial processes in relation to ratifying aspects of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between the EU and Canada.

But other Government sources said that a proposal to amend the Arbitration Act, and so clear the way for ratification of the treaty would be brought to Government in the new year.

“It’s difficult for Eamon,” said the source. “But he’s in Government and this is in the programme for government.”

It’s expected that three party leaders will discuss the issue in a meeting this evening.

Ms Hourigan who recently lost the Green Party parliamentary whip for voting with the Opposition in relation to a separate matter said it was still her hope to be readmitted to the parliamentary party. She said, “it is the ratified policy of the Green Party to object to Ceta and that has not been overturned at any time”.

She said she saw no difficulty with her being readmitted to the parliamentary party, particularly as there was as yet no proposed legislation being put forward by Government. But she acknowledged she would not be able to vote with the Government on any legislation to facilitate a Ceta arbitration process.

Public policymaking

She urged the Government to pause and consider what needed to be done, claiming many EU countries had not as yet sanctioned the arbitration processes proposed by Ceta, to which she and others have objected, claiming they allow commercial interests to interfere in public policymaking.

“We are already trading under Ceta, but it’s this arbitration part that is not in place — not just because of Ireland, but because of many countries in the EU have not voted it through,” she said.

She said the Supreme Court had “upheld the idea that it currently is not constitutional to enter into an agreement like this that would effectively remove power from our judiciary”. And she criticised the Government for what she described as an attempt to “sidestep” the Constitution.

Calling for a referendum she said: “I think we have some other referendums coming down the track, not least the referendum on the woman’s place in the home, and that this could be added to that slate of referendums. It would be possible and I think it is of such importance, that it would be worthwhile doing that.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist