MEP Maria Walsh has called for increased solidarity between Ireland and European Union.
The Midlands-North-West MEP was speaking at the ‘Galway at The Heart of Europe’ event in NUI Galway.
The event was organised by European Movement Ireland and was held in NUIG’s Aula Maxima.
Ireland at the Heart of Europe
Ms Walsh highlighted the importance of such events in creating better engagement between the EU and its citizens, saying that ‘business as usual’ politics had to end.
The former Rose of Tralee said that the European Union had Ireland’s best interests at heart and that her generation must not see the EU as “just an Erasmus Plus programme”.
“As a recently elected MEP, I know the passion that the Irish people have for the European project and what it means. The Irish people are determined to play a meaningful role in shaping the future of Europe we helped build since 1973.”
Also speaking at the event was Vice-President of the European Commission Dubravka Šuica, who echoed Ms Walsh’s call for more engagement with between EU and its citizens.
Both Ms Walsh and Mrs Šuica gave speeches and answered questions from the audience. Among the issues discussed were climate change, LGBT rights, rural decline and female representation in politics.
Speaking to Galway Pulse after the discussion, Ms Walsh re-iterated her message of greater engagement between the EU and the public.
“I think we need to see this across Europe. Life in the political world cannot exist in 144 characters of a tweet and we need to give people a forum. We need to listen and we need to learn from each other”.
Ms Walsh said that Brexit was far from over but praised the work of Simon Coveney and Helen McEntee in representing Ireland’s interests during the negotiations.
She also likened EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to “a long lost son of Ireland”.
When asked about domestic politics, the former Rose of Tralee said she couldn’t see a coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
“I support whatever my Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has in mind. The election didn’t go well for us. I think nine years in government and the successes we’ve had didn’t resonate. I can see Fine Gael going back into power again though. We hoped it would be in 2020, but as of now it won’t happen.”
Galway Ring Road
With oral hearings commencing this week on the long-proposed ring road for Galway city, Ms Walsh said that all objections and submissions regarding the road had to be listened to.
She said: “I would hope that if the European Union don’t fund the ring road, they would fund something that will benefit those that are sitting in traffic. We need to get people into work sooner and home faster”.
“A neighbour has left”
While the EU parliament was a quieter place without the Britsh MEPs, the Shrule native said it was also sad that “a neighbour has left”.
“On a personal front I’m glad to see the back of [Nigel] Farage, but we had so many good MEPs that were doing Trojan work. I’m still in contact with many of them. But now we have to pick up the pieces and continue on.”