Week’s events: St. Patrick’s Day in Brussels, Foreign & General Affairs Councils (Ukraine)

22nd March, 2014

The week kicked off this week travelling to Brussels, which I did, not once but twice this week. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was in Brussels for St. Patrick’s Day, the Foreign Affairs Council and the General Affairs Council. (See Brussels blogpost)


Thursday and Friday, I returned for the European Council summit with An Taoiseach.


As expected, events in Ukraine dominated all Council meetings. The escalating situation saw agreement early in the week to go to phase two in terms of sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU. This involved a targeted asset freeze and travel ban on 21 individuals deemed to have direct responsibility for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.


Thursday and Friday’s Council meeting focused on Ukraine and the agreement of conclusions in relation to climate change and energy security. A memorable part of this was the signing of the political elements of the Association Agreement with Ukraine. I was present for this signing and it was quite striking to see so many governments sign up to this commitment.


The seriousness of the events of the week sat alongside my greening of the Grand Place in Brussels and unveiling of the Manneken Pis for St. Patrick’s Day. I felt equally proud to be representing Ireland abroad on our national feast day, as I did deputising for the Tanaiste at the Foreign Affairs Council and accompanying the Taoiseach at the summit at the end of the week.


On Wednesday, my only day at home this week, I met with NAMA, had a courtesy call from the Estonian Ambassador and separately the Indian Ambassador. Rest of day focused on catching up on constituency and ministerial office work.


I spoke to Cathal McCoille and Rachel English on Morning Ireland on Monday, followed by an interview with Ivan Yeats and Chris O’Donoghue on Newstalk’s Breakfast that same morning. On Friday I was back on Morning Ireland outlining the decisions taken by the Council the previous evening and other events of the day.


Any spare time this week – and there wasn’t much -was spent re-reading ‘The Widest Circle’, a collection of essays remembering Michael Sweetman, in advance of a speech I am giving at the inaugural Michael Sweetman Memorial Lecture next week. This beautiful book is edited by his widow Barbara Sweetman Fitzgerald. A life so well lived.