The AEJ hosted a European Parliament election debate on Wednesday, May 21, which was moderated by International President Eileen Dunne. Taking part were Paul Murphy MEP (Socialist Party), Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fáil), Eamon Ryan (Green Party) and Brian Hayes, TD, Minister of State (Fine Gael).
Each candidate spoke for 5 minutes followed by a general Q&A session. Paul Murphy said the new Parliament would be very different for that which has gone before with a huge variety of MEPs elected to the 751-strong Parliament. In Ireland he said the collapse of the Labour party would be “guaranteed” and the aim now in Dublin was to have two of the three successful candidates anti-austerity. Mr Murphy said the biggest challenge facing the new Parliament would be the EU/US trade agreement but this had hardly featured at all in the domestic debates.
Mary Fitzpatrick said that as somebody who had travelled and worked extensively abroad, both Europe and Dublin had changed dramatically in recent years. She said it was important for Ireland to have a good relationship with Europe and Ireland and the Irish people were much better today because of their involvement in the EU. She said in the new Parliament Fianna Fáil would be part of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats (ALDE) which would be a strong voice in Europe.
For the Green Party, Eamon Ryan said the European Parliament was key in shaping new thinking and in securing change on major issues such as climate change and migration. He pointed to the EU’s vulnerability in that 80 per cent of its energy needs comes from outside as does 80 per cent of its food requirements.
Minister of State Brian Hayes said the average income per capita in Ireland when we joined the EU was 60 per cent of the average but today, despite the recent recession, was still 25 per cent higher than the average. Ireland had done very well from its membership which was shown by the simple fact that the average income today is € 33,000 compared to € 16,000 in Portugal. He said the new Parliament would be dominated by the centre right and centre left parties and not by extremists on either side. Ireland’s 11 MEPs would face tough challenges in the new environment.
Questions from members concerned the issues of the Ukraine, Ireland’s island nation status and the Parliament’s relationship with the Houses of the Oireachtas.