The Irish in Strasbourg

EU-ParliamentIts been a busy two days so far during this plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Following the re-election of Martin Schulz (DE, S&D) as President of the European Parliament the focus turned to the election of the 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament.

The Vice Presidents make up the Bureau of the Parliament, along with the President and Quaestors of the Parliament. They also chair sessions of the Parliament when the President is not present.

Of the 14 Elected Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG) was elected on the first count along with five of her colleagues from the European People’s Party. McGuinness actually had the 2nd highest number of votes with 441 votes only being beaten by her Italian EPP Colleague Antonia Tajani (452 votes).

Tomorrow the focus turns to the committees where much of the work of MEPs take place and much horse trading and bartering goes on. The size of the committees where set yesterday for the 20 committees and Irish MEPs will sit on 9 of those. The committee with the highest number of Irish MEPs is of course agriculture with three MEPs on it followed by Environment committee on which two Irish MEPs will sit.

  • Budgets (BUDG): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF)
  • Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON): Brian Hayes (EPP, FG)
  • Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL): Marian Harkin (ALDE, IND)
  • Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI): Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, SF), Nessa Childers (S&D, IND)
  • Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE): Sean Kelly (EPP, FG)
  • Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO): Brian Crowley (ECR, IND/FF)
  • Transport and Tourism (TRAN): Deirdre Clune (EPP, FG)
  • Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI): Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG), Matt Carthy (GUE/NGL, SF), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IND)
  • Fisheries (PECH): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF).

No Irish MEPs sit on Foreign Affairs, Development, International Trade, Budgetary Control, Regional Development, Culture and Education, Legal Affairs, Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, or Petitions. How ever they may be appointed as supplementary members of those committees at a later point.

For reference here is the list of which Committees Irish MEPs were members of in the last parliament.

Crowley set to join ECR

European_Conservatives_and_Reformists_logoIreland South MEP Brian Crowley, Fianna Fails sole MEP, is set to announce that he will be leaving the liberal ALDE Group in the European Parliament and instead will join the European Conservatives and Reformists according to Press Reports today.

If this does happen it will put in doubt Fianna Fails membership of the pan-European ALDE Party to which the party leader, Michael Martin is firmly in favour of.

Crowley’s decision to join ECR will mean that Irish MEPs are now spread across 5 European Parliament Groups.

  • EPP: 4 MEPs (Fine Gael)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 MEPs (3 Sinn Fein, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan)
  • ALDE: 1 MEP (Marian Harkin)
  • ECR: 1 MEP (Brian Crowley)
  • S&D: 1 MEP (Nessa Childers)

With Crowley joining the ECR they are now represented in 15 countries. The UK (Conservatives) and Poland (Law and Justice) make up the largest delegations with 20 and 19 respectively and the rest of the group made of MEPs from Belgium (4), Bulgaria (1), Czech Republic (2), Denmark (4), Germany (8), Greece (1), Croatia (1), Latvia (1), Lithuania (1), Netherlands (2), Slovakia (2) and Finland (2).

Crowleys transfer also solidifies ECR as the 3rd largest group in the parliament with 69 seats and pushing ALDE back to 66.

It will be interesting to see now what happens to Fianna Fails membership of the ALDE Party and how often Crowley will be voting with his colleagues.

 

The New European Parliament

eu flagsFollowing last month’s European Elections the European Parliament will meet on July 1st to constitute itself and elect its new President. Most commentators expect that the two largest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialist and Democrats, will continue their alliance and split the presidency again between them.

So how did the groups fair? 

The European Parliament now consists of 751 MEPs down 15 from the 766 MEPs in the last parliament. There has been some changes of Group compositions with newly elected parties and independents joining groups and some parties changing groups. The Groups now stand as follows:

  • EPP: 221 (-53)
  • S&D: 191 (-4)
  • ECR: 63 (+7)
  • ALDE: 59 (-26)
  • Greens/EFA: 54 (-4)
  • GUE/NGL: 52 (+17)
  • EFD: 32 (-1)
  • NI: 79

In Ireland Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have remained with their respective groups (EPP, S&D & GUE/NGL) and Independent Marian Harkin has also remained with ALDE.

Independent Nessa Childers has been readmitted to the S&D Group ensuring they are represented in every member state after Labour’s wipe-out at the elections. Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagen has joined Sinn Fein in the GUE/NGL group. The Socialist Party failed to retain it’s MEP.

That means the groups stand as follows in the Irish Delegation:

  • EPP: 4 (-)
  • S&D: 1 (-2)
  • ALDE: 2 (-2)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 (+4)

Commission President – Parliament v European Council

After electing the President and 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament the next task will be voting for the European Commission President. While the EPP and S&D leadership are backing Jean Claude-Juncker they dont have complete control of their groups. With UK Labour opposing Junker’s candidacy, neither party can afford to lose support on this vote.

  • Needed for a Majority: 376
  • EPP + S&D: 412
  • EPP + S&D -UKLab: 392

16 votes would be quite close. But of course Junker will have to emerge as the European Council Nominee first, a battle in itself, before any such vote will take place in the European Parliament.

ELDR Party Changes name to ALDE Party.

 

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the recent European Liberal Democrats Congress in Dublin, the delegates voted to change the name to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe Party (ALDE) to match its grouping in the European Parliament.

Sir Graham Watson MEP, President of the ALDE Party, said: “In 2004, other centrist forces joined with ELDR MEPs to form the ALDE Group in the European Parliament. Today, we create one Party to provide a home at EU level for all these forces and more.”

Guy Verhofstadt MEP, leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, said: “It makes sense for the ALDE Group in the European Parliament to be reflected in an ALDE Party, uniting the EU’s centrist forces under one umbrella.”

Fianna Fail is the Irish member of the ALDE Party (its going to take a while to get used to calling it that). The ALDE Party have 75 members in the European Parilment who join 10 other MEP’s (including Marian Harkin of Ireland-North West) to form the ALDE Group in the Parliament.

Their new website is aldeparty.eu

 

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The European Year of the Volunteer 2011

2011 has been designated the European Year of the Volunteer by the European Union. This is following a campaign led by Marian Harkin MEP (Ireland/ALDE). She worked with the unofficial “EP Volunteering Interest Group” to lobby the Parliament, the Council and the Commission on this initiative.

Volunteering is very important in many Member States. Across the EU 92 to 94 million adults are involved in volunteering in the EU. That is 23% of all Europeans over 15 years of age. But is that enough?

Also it varies widely among the member states. In Austria, Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have volunteering rates of over 40%. In Denmark, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg volunteering is between 30%-39% of over 15 year olds. Estonia, France and Lithuania have rates between 20%-29%. In Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Sweden and Spain it is between 10-19%. And in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Latvia volunteering is at less then 10%.

While each country does have different definitions of volunteering and some have legal definitions, the disparate figures go to show that volunteer in most member states could do with a helping hand.

This is especially important in our current economic times as volunteering can add to GDP. For example, volunteering accounts for between 3% and 5% of GDP in Asutria, Netherlands and Sweden. In Ireland it contributes between 1-2% of GDP. This is a resource that we can build on and may help us overcome some of our difficulties.

There are a number of websites out there to highlight the year,

So get out there, and volunteer. Help make a difference to someone else’s life and your own!

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List: Irish MEPs and their Committees

If your like me, you will want to know what committees in the European Parliament the Irish MEPs have been assigned to. I have gleaned this information off the europarl website and some of ye might find it interesting.

Committee on Development

  • Gay Mitchell (FG/EPP – Dublin)

Committee on International Trade

  • Joe Higgins (SOC/GUE-NGL – Dublin)

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

  • Proinsias De Rossa (Lab/S&D – Dublin)
  • Marian Harkin (Ind/ALDE – North West)

Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

  • Nessa Childers (Lab/S&D – East)

Committee on Industry, Research and Energy:

  • Brian Crowley (FF/ALDE – South)

Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

  • Alan Kelly (Lab/S&D – South)

Committee on Transport and Tourism

  • Jim Higgins (FG/EPP – North West)

Committee on Regional Development

  • Sean Kelly (FG/EPP – South)

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

  • Mairead McGuinness (FG/EPP – East)
  • Liam Aylward (FF/ALDE – East)

Committee on Fisheries

  • Pat “The Cope” Gallagher (FF/ALDE – North West)

Committee on Petitions

  • Mairead McGuinness (FG/EPP – East)

A boring list, but usefull information.

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Fianna Fail to loose 2 MEPs?

The latest predictions from Predict 09 are out and they make for interesting reading for the Irish predictions. According to it Fine Gael will remain the largest party with five MEP’s and 30% of the vote. They say the Fianna Fail will loose two MEPs. And I have to agree with them. They predict that Fianna Fail will get 28% of the vote.

Labour look to be the big gainers and will gain a seat at the expense of Fianna Fail increasing there MEPs to two and increasing their share of the vote to 13%. Sinn Fein will drop in its vote share to 7.6% but will retain an MEP, but I doubt in Dublin. Sinnott and Harkin will keep there seats. I know Harkin will keep her seat and have said it from the start of this prediction. Sinnott on the other hand is vunerable to Labour.

Greens won’t pick up a seat but will poll at 6% and Libertas also will not pick up a seat and will get about 7% of the vote.

Where will Fianna Fail loose their seats? North-West is certainly at stake and Sinn Fein could pick up a seat there. As for the Labour gain? South is the most likely in my eyes at the expense of Sinnott. Could Fianna Fail loose in East or Dublin? Maybe.

Predict 09 will next be updated on May 21st, so that will be my next post about the Irish predictions!

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Irish MEP Candidates and Some Predictions

Here is a round up of the Candidates for the 4 European consitituencies in Ireland with a few predictions.

Ireland – Dublin

Dublin is the big battlegorund this year with the number of seats being reduced from 4 seats to 3. The Greens, with Senator Deirdre De Burca, are also hoping to gain a seat in Dublin. It will be a tough campaign.

  • Eibhlin Byrne (Fianna Fail) Website
  • Deirdre de Burca (Greens) Website
  • Proinsias de Rossa MEP (Labour) Website
  • Joe Higgins (Socialist) Website
  • Mary Lou McDonald MEP (Sinn Fein) Website
  • Gay Mitchell MEP (Fine Gael) Website
  • Eoin Ryan MEP (Fianna Fail) Website
  • Caroline Simons (Libertas) Website

Prediction: Ryan, De Rossa and Mitchell to hold their seats with McDonald loosing out. Of the others I think the Greens will poll best.

Ireland East

East is going to be an interesting campaign with Fine Gael out to hold on to its two seats it won in the 2004 elections. This time round, Avril Doyle MEP is standing down and Sen. John Paul Phelan has taken up the reigns to hang on to the seat. Fianna Fail will also be hoping to hang on to its seat. They have yet to announce their second candidate in the constituency. Sinn Fein are also running two candidates here. Greens have no candidate announced  here at the moment.

  • Liam Aylward MEP (Fianna Fail) Website
  • Nessa Childers (Labour) Website
  • Kathleen Funchion (Sinn Fein) Website
  • Mairead McGuinness MEP (Fine Gael) Website
  • Ray O’Malley (Libertas) No Link Found
  • John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael) Website
  • Tomás Sharkey (Sinn Fein) Website

Prediction: Unless Fianna Fail can get another candidate in the ticket soon, the seat could be in danger, but to who is the question? Sinn Fein if it can manage its vote could be the threat to Fianna Fail. Fine Gael will hang to its two seats.

Ireland North West

This will be an interesting constituency. This is the constituency that Libertas founde Declan Ganley will be running in. Will people back him and his party? Fianna Fail are in a spot of bother here as Sean O’Neachtain won’t be running this year and they have no one to replace him. Sinn Fein came second on first perferences here in 2004, but will they be as strong this time out? Fine Gael are running two candidates and could do the job and win two, but at whos expense? Will it be Fianna Fail or Independent (ALDE) MEP Marian Harkin?

  • Declan Ganley (Libertas) Website
  • Marian Harkin MEP (Independent/ALDE) Website
  • Jim Higgins MEP (Fine Gael) Website
  • Padraig Mac Lochlainn (Sinn Fein) Website
  • Paschal Mooney (Fianna Fail) Website
  • Susan O’Keefe (Labour) Website
  • Fiachra O Luain (Independent) Website
  • Joe O’Reilly (Fine Gael) Website

Prediction: Harkin to keep the seat. That is going against what everyone else is saying, but im going out on a limb here! If Fianna Fail can get a well known figure, either TD or outsider then they may keep the seat, but I know they will be slow to run a TD due to possible by-election defeat. Fine Gael will win at least one seat and depending on second Fianna Fail candidate could win two.

Ireland South

In Ireland South Fine Gaels Colm Burke is fighting for the seat he inherited from Simon Coveney in 2007. Fine Gael are also challenging for a second seat. Kathy Sinnott (Independent/Democracy) is also fighting to keep her seat. Fianna Fail is running two candidates here, with sitting MEP Brian Crowley being joined on the ticket by Ned O’Keefe TD. Libertas aren’t running in Ireland South so that they don’t threaten Sinnotts anti-EU vote.

  • Colm Burke MEP (Fine Gael) Website
  • Brian Crowley (Fianna Fail) Website
  • Dan Boyle (Green) Website
  • Toireasa Ferris (Sinn Fein) Website
  • Alan Kelly (Labour) Website
  • Sean Kelly (Fine Gael) Website
  • Ned O’Keeffe (Fianna Fail) No Link Found
  • Kathy Sinnott (Independent/Democracy) Website
  • Alexander Stafford (Independent) No Link Found

Prediction: Crowley and Burke will hold seats and it will go to the last count between Sinnott and Sean Kelly. I think Kelly will win it though.

The night of the count will be very interesting in each of the constituencies! I’m looking forward to it.

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Opinion Polls – 6 MEPs and 10% ahead for Fine Gael

Well Predict 09, the Burson – Marsteller study by Simon Hix (London School of Economics), Michael Marsh (Trinity College Dublin), and Nick Vivyan (London School of Economics), has updated its predictions. It is now predicting that the EPP will win 251 seats, up three from last prediction, the PES are predicted to win 211, up two from the previous predction.

They have also updated the country predictions. For Ireland they are forcasting the following.

  • Fine Gael 6 MEPs (31%) +1 (+3.2%)
  • Fianna Fail 4 MEPs (31%) -1 (+1.5%)
  • Labour 1 MEP (14%) nc (+3.4%)
  • Sinn Fein 0 MEPs (7.8%) -1 (-3.3%)
  • Green Party 0 MEPs (6.6%) nc (+2.3%)
  • Independents 1 MEP (9.2%) -1 (6.3%)

They predict that Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald will be the one to lose out in Dublin considering she holds Sinn Feins only European seat in the South. The independent they forcast losing the seat is the ALDE independent which is Marian Harkin in Ireland North-West. They are predicting that Sen Joe O’Reilly will take a second seat for Fine Gael in Ireland North-West. While this would be great, I don’t think it will be likely that Harkin will lose the seat. I think that Fianna Fail are in danger of loosing this seat since sitting MEP Seán Ó Neachtain will not be running. The current Fianna Fail candidate is Paschal Mooney a Leitrim Councillor but he would not be aswell known as many of the other candidates in the constituency. Last time out it took transfers from Dr. Jim McDaid TD to keep Fianna Fail in. I wonder will Fine Gael get the 6 seats?

The other poll is the Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post. The topline figures are as follows (from Irish Election):

  • Fine Gael 33% +2
  • Fianna Fail 23% -5
  • Labour 19% +2
  • Sinn Fein 8% +1
  • Greens 7% nc
  • Others/Independents 10%

This gives Fine Gael a full 10% lead over Fianna Fail. But should we be further ahead? When it came to the European and Local elections Fine Gael does lose out on votes to independents, but that is normal. Interestingly Libertas is only polling at 2%, so I doubt they will be gaining any seats in Ireland.

The poll was conducted earlier in the week before McGuiness’s outburst on the Late Late last night. I wonder will that effect how people perceive the Government?


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Predicting the European Election

I came across this site while checking out my new followers on twitter. The website is Predict 09.

Predict09.eu is a prediction of the outcome of the June 2009 European Parliament elections and the resulting make-up of the next European Parliament. The prediction is based on a statistical model of the performance of national parties in European Parliament elections, developed by three leading political scientists: Simon Hix (London School of Economics), Michael Marsh (Trinity College Dublin), and Nick Vivyan (London School of Economics).

The current prediction has the EPP staying the largest party with 248 seats and the Socialists the second largest on 209.

Despite the fact one of the researchers is from Ireland, Im not so sure about their predictions for Ireland. They ar epredicting Fine Gael five seats, Fianna Fail four seats, Labour one seat, Sinn Fein one seat and independents one seat, which would see Marian Harkin lose her seat as she is the ALDE independent. This cannot be right as Harkin is in North-West Constituency and the loss of a seat is going to be in the Dublin Constituency. The only way that this is possbile is which ever party loses a seat in Dublin, gains a seat in North-West. Will that happen?

Last time out Marian Harkin topped the poll on 15.82% of the vote followed by Pearse Dohery of Sinn Fein on 15.5% of the vote. Sinn Fein are within hope of a seat here but at the expense of Harkin? Im not so sure. If anything its the Fine Gael seat that is at stake as Jim Higgins came fourth on first preferences but got in mainly thanks to transfers from Madeline Taylor-Quinn. Will Jim Higgins and Senator Joe O’Reilly pull off the same feat?

UPDATE: This also posted on Thinkaboutit. Please read and rate!

Source: Elections Ireland – 2004 European Elections – Ireland North-West

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