Green Party ministers have told members that the party must ratify Ceta due to the sensitivities of Brexit.
The letter, sent on Tuesday night, was signed by Ministers Eamon Ryan, Catherine Martin, Roderic O’Gorman, and Pippa Hackett after the party became mired in controversy after two of their TDs openly admitted they would not vote for the bill, which was due to be voted on on Tuesday after just 55 minutes of debate.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is a free trade deal between the EU and Canada signed in 2016, much of it has been “provisionally applied” since 2017, removing custom checks and taxes on trade.
"Ratification is politically important for Ireland," the letter says.
"The rationale for ratifying Ceta now was to send a clear signal to the EU and the world that Ireland would work with other countries at a time when international co-operation is under threat. It also comes at a time when Brexit negotiations require co-operation on similar trade and dispute resolution issues."
The most contentious issue for environmental campaigners is "investor courts", in which companies can sue a State for damages if they introduce new policies that the company thinks will reduce its future profits.
The letter claims this mechanism "has been improved".
"Canadian companies will not be able sue the Irish government simply for making new laws around environmental protection. This is made explicit in the text of the trade deal. The Joint Interpretative Instrument signed after the deal was finalised clearly outlines the right of national governments to regulate for public policy objectives such as ‘public health, social services, public education, safety, the environment, public morals, social or consumer protection, privacy and data protection and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity’.
"We have been reassured about the climate impact of the deal."
The letter acknowledged Ceta "is a sensitive issue" for the Green Party because they have actively campaigned against it.
The ministers also claim that the programme for government affirms support for trade agreements.
However, Neasa Hourigan points out that Ceta was actively discussed in negotiations and is not mentioned in the document: "Ceta is simply not referred to in there and as politicians our words mean something. Everything isn't mutable and open to interpretation for our own ends."
The party are to hold a parliamentary party meeting to further discuss the issue. The vote has been pushed back until January, when all Green TDs will be expected to vote for it.