Week’s events: Blue Star School, Grangegorman, Model Council of Europe & EPP Congress

8th March, 2014

Monday began with a visit to the Eurocampus in Clonskeagh with the French Minister for European Affairs, Thierry Repentin. There I met the school soccer team who are off to Brazil in June to represent Ireland at the World Cup of French Schools. The children, many of whom have dual citizenship with other countries, and all of whom were bilingual, spoke of their excitement at having the chance to play soccer for Ireland, and travelling to the other side of the world to do it. I wish them every success.


The school also took the opportunity while we were there to sign an agreement with European Movement Ireland to engage in the Blue Star programme; the aim of which is to promote an understanding of what it means to be a member of the European Union and to celebrate the diversity that comes with it.


Then it was off to Grangegorman with Minister Howlin, to see the progress being made on what will be a central campus for all of our DITs. The project is flying along and with a local employment charter in place 16% of the jobs being created are going to the local community. A target of 20% is being set for the future.


I then hosted a lunch with Minister Repentin where we had an opportunity to discuss banking union, climate change and Ukraine, among other things.


On Tuesday, I attended the Model Council of the European Union which was excellent. Seeing the level of engagement among the students who replicate Council debates is both entertaining and encouraging for the future. The debate was on fracking; a topical and worthwhile issue for discussion.


As the situation escalated in Ukraine during the week, and in advance of the extraordinary Council meeting that was called for Thursday, I had a topical issue debate in the Dail on Wednesday. I also had statements on the Government’s priorities for the year ahead to mark the three year anniversary of the formation of the Government. I think this was important in setting out the progress the Government has been making and the plan for the years ahead.


Thursday and Friday were action packed as the EPP Congress arrived in Dublin. This saw 17 European Heads of State, the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, 13 European Commissioners, 73 political parties from 39 countries across Europe, 274 MEPs, 2,000 delegates and 500 international media convening at the Convention Centre in Dublin Central for the largest political event of its kind.


High profile members of the Ukrainian Opposition, Julia Tymoshenko and Vitaly Kiticscho were in attendance and gave very powerful speeches about how Ukrainians have died in Kiev in the previous weeks while waving European flags. An emergency resolution on Ukraine was passed during the Congress. So too was the manifesto for the European Parliament election campaign. Jean Claude Junker was also selected as the EPP ‘s candidate for the role of next President of the Commission.


I addressed the EPP Group Study Days on Thursday morning on the topic of Restoring Confidence in Europe, which was well attended and chaired by Corien Wortmann. I also met with my Norweigian counterpart, the Minister for Europe, Viker Helegsen, during the Congress to discuss trade, fisheries and the best means of tackling youth unemployment.


On Friday I hosted a breakfast meeting with EPP Ministers for European Affairs in the morning, saw Bono address the Congress in the early afternoon and engaged in the bilateral meeting with Chancellor Merkel and the Taoiseach later that day. Ukraine dominated much of the meeting with recognition also being given to the progress the Irish Government, and the Irish people, are making in getting Ireland back on a sustainable path.


I spoke to Morning Ireland, Drivetime and Clare Byrne on all of the activities of the week. And canvassed Broombridge Road in Cabra and Glenbeigh Road finding out about the issues close to the heart of the people I represent.


Didn’t get a chance to open a page of any book across the week. Started listening to the new Elbow album on Saturday. Doesn’t have the same drama as the previous albums but will give it time.