I was honoured to represent the Balbriggan Electoral Area from 1983 until my retirement in 2004. During that time I enjoyed your support and confidence as I represented you and our community on the County Council and its related bodies.
When I left the Council, its focus was on service delivery and value for money. Sadly, it seems to me that its focus today has moved to somewhere else.
The Local Authority should exist to provide services, maintain and develop amenities and in general promote the best interest of the area. It should also be focused on making Fingal the best possible place in which to work and live.
Our area should be well positioned to benefit from a national economic upturn. Fingal is capable of attracting foreign investment and multinationals to locate here. We also have a real opportunity to grow our own local economy by supporting the ongoing development of the agricultural sector and related food processing. We can also create real sustainable jobs here through the proper development of our natural and historic resources.
We as a community must take the initiative and ensure that our district is developed. Together we must protect the integrity of the area to maintain the best of what we have inherited, maximising the benefit for those who live here today. In turn, we must also make it a great place to live for future generation too.
The Local Authority should help in developing strong communities creating conditions that help us all look after one another. The Council should make decisions that ensure the assets of the county are used to the advantage of every resident, young and old. These decisions should focus on providing better services, more employment opportunities and attracting more investment to the area. I’m passionate to ensure the Council face these challenges and make the decisions to allow us all to prosper.
Should you have a Special Project or concern for you or your community, I’d be pleased to hear from you.
Lynn Boylan, SF’s MEP is the lead author of a report ‘European Citizen’s Initiative Right to Water,’ which was commissioned after some two million people signed a petition in regard to this issue. Lynn is opposed to the payment of the new Water Charges and sees water as a human right.
She recently attended a conference on water pricing that was hosted by Aqua Publica Europea, after which she slammed the European Commission, after a representative of the institution asserted that Irish people don’t understand that they have to pay for water.
She said: “The Commission is once again demonstrating its arrogance. Irish people understand perfectly well what is happening in Ireland with the water charges. Irish people are so aware that they are refusing to pay for water twice. We already pay for our water through general taxation and the wholly inept and shambolic entity that is Irish Water has also been funded by Irish taxpayers.”
“The Irish government alludes to conservation being a factor in the introduction of this tax. It is appalling that 40 per cent of domestic water is being lost through leaking pipes. Instead of the government investing in the aged and decrepit infrastructure, it has spent half a billion euro of the National Pension Reserve Fund, in setting up a quango that is not fit for purpose and in the installation of water meters,” she continued.
It’s good to see our MEPs playing an important part in the development of policy in Europe, and one can expect that the Commission will get a pretty strong report from her. Just as the Government has gotten itself in real trouble setting up Irish Water in compliance with the dictates of Europe, we note that the Commission has extended by three months, the period in which France Belgium and Italy are required to demonstrate that they are working to bring their budgets into line with Budget rules.
The big question is will three months be enough, or will some further fudging of the margins be required. Berlusconi the former Italian PM thinks so, as he announces that the creation of a second currency is required thereby allowing Italy regain part of monetary sovereignty. What he means is money they can print themselves.
Juncker saw off the censure motion by the far-right in Parliament, tabled in response to the revelations of the Luxembourg tax deals. Having done so, he set out a call to arms to the Governments of Europe. He addressed Parliament providing details of his investment package and placing responsibility on member states to maximise investment by getting on board with his plan. He said clearly there is no money printing press and member states must step up to the plate, while Europe was an attractive investment option. That the slump was not just financial but also regulatory and there was a need to remove red tape. He set out the shape of a Juncker’s Europe.
Pope Francis was another visitor to Parliament last week he too set out a big vision warning that “As the European Union has expanded, there has been a growing mistrust of citizens toward institutions they regard as aloof, laying down rules that they view as insensitive to individual people’s concerns, if not actually harmful.” He could make the same speech in most member states and directly connect with the majority in each. But the Pope seemed a little out of touch with the modern Granny when he compared Europe to her saying, “We gain a general impression of weariness, of ageing, of Europe as grandmother – no longer agile and lively.” Most modern Irish grandmothers are fit, agile and far from weary and could give master classes to politicians in how to build trust and confidence, while also managing difficult budgets. But I do understand the message and hope that all politicians took note when he said, “The true expression of democracy must not be allowed to collapse in the face of multinational interests which are not universal but…in the service of unseen empires.
This week, the parliament meets in Strasbourg, and members will be addressed by Pope Francis. When a Pontiff last visited the Parliament some 26 years ago, the then Northern Ireland MEP, Ian Paisley protested, denouncing John Paul ll as the Antichrist.
On this occasion, humanist organisations have written to Martin Schultz, the Parliament’s President, stating that it is inappropriate for a religious leader to be invited to address a secular parliament. The address by the Pope will be watched with interest, as he sets out the church’s vision of Europe’s role for the twenty first century. Some level of protest is expected, which results in heightened security controlling the public’s access to the Parliament.
Ten days ago a topless protest against the visit was staged at the Vatican by Feman, a Paris based feminist organisation. They originated in Ukraine and appear to have a few hundred activists with a larger following on social media. Juncker’s troubles arising from the alleged tax avoidance schemes, which operated during the period when he was Luxembourg’s Prime Minister continue. He now faces a motion of censure tabled by the far-right, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, comprised mainly of UKIP and Italy’s Five Star Movement. They are joined by France’s Marine Le Pen, other far-right and non-aligned MEPs making up the 76 signatures required to sponsor the petition. The far-left GUE group, of which Sinn Fein and Luke Ming Flanagan are members, failed in their attempt to attract sufficient numbers for their motion. The two groups’ combined total fall well short of the number required to pass the resolution, so it is difficult to see how there is any real prospect of the motion attaining sufficient votes to be adopted. But the issue seems likely to continue to cause Juncker problems over the immediate future.
Palestinians continue to seek statehood for the West Bank and Gaza Strip and are intent on making Jerusalem the capital. The stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is leading to a growing sense frustration across Europe. If the talks are not re-launched, many EU States may follow Sweden’s example and commit to the recognition of a Palestine State.
Our own Seanad passed a non binding motion calling on the Government to recognise Palestine. The British parliament held an emblematic vote that recognised a Palestinian state. France also looks likely to follow. The new EU Commissioner and foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini has stated that it is her objective that by the end of this commission’s term that there will be a Palestinian state.
As one might expect, such moves are not welcomed in Israel. They say that recognition without constructive negotiations is detrimental to Israel. They say that recognition will not end the conflict and that it will be costly for Europe. Israel says that, to recognise Palestine which refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist is unacceptable. The EU seems prepared to give a lead on recognition but it will be interesting to see how the Americans play out the game.
Ireland, which regularly comes in for criticism of its taxation policy as applied to multinationals, seems to have some serious competition. This emerges from the release of secret files detailing advantages agreements between Luxembourg and many well known international businesses. The big issue that arises is that the EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker was the Prime Minister of Luxembourg between 1995 and 2013 the period most under scrutiny. When speaking in Brussels back in July Juncker, who was “working the room” in his effort to secure the Presidency, said he’d “try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape.” If it now transpires that he was a party to these special tax deals, his position may become totally untenable. This would lead to a major crisis within the Commission.
Many of us would be thankful for Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, in that he is not Jean-Claude Trichet, the author of “those letters” which many see as the trigger for the bailout. The Oireachtas inquiry Committee into the banking crash would like to have the ECB over for a chat. Unfortunately Draghi has said that while the ECB may accept invitations from national government the ECB is answerable to the EU Parliament not national governments. So if the ECB decides to reject the invitation its over to our nine MEPs to ask the questions which the Oireachtas and most of us would like answers to.
Last week, the Budget Committee considered two European Globalisation Fund (EGF) cases, one of which was Andersen of Limerick.
Lynn Boylan the Sinn Féin MEP said: “I was particularly delighted that the amendment I introduced was also passed. My amendment will ensure that the training offered to help find or create jobs for those made redundant will not be exclusive (in the same manner as the youth guarantee was) and will include everyone, including disadvantaged groups.” This decision is to be welcomed and now sets a precedent not just for Limerick for how such funds are used.
An interesting case in the UK which may have knock on effects of the labour market here in Ireland. The UK’s Employment Appeals Tribunal are due to give a ruling on the interpretation of the EU’s Working Time Directive which also applies here in Ireland. The core question is should overtime hours generate additional holiday entitlement. If they do the cost of overtime may increase by circa eight per cent. Employees may see an immediate gain but employers are likely to reorganise work practices to reduce regular overtime work.
Barroso and his College of Commissioners are now part of history. Juncker and team took over the shop on Saturday last and set about work. Juncker has commenced the process of change in how the Commission does its work and how it communicates with each citizen in every country. No small task, but one worth getting right.
The UK, whose payment into the EU is now twice what they paid in 2009, appear to want to rewrite the rules. They argue against making an additional payment of E2bn, of which E1bn would go to fund a rebate to France. David Cameron’s EU policy may now be dictated by domestic politics as he attempts to fight off the UKIP challenge. If he continues in conflict on all fronts in Europe, he will find it hard to campaign to stay in Europe, in his promised referendum, should he win next year’s General Election. The UK and the EU need each other. There is a real need for Juncker to spend time and effort in assisting the UK to find a comfortable slot in which to operate within the EU.
The Russian gas supply issue to Europe is resolved for the moment, as Ukraine and Russia reach an agreement, which sees Russia get back payments and an agreed price for their supply over the winter. The full dispute will go to arbitration in the spring. The EU is, in effect, providing the funds to make this agreement possible. In one of his last comments as president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso said: “I am glad that political responsibility, the logic of co-operation and simple economic sense have prevailed. ”The armed conflict continues and Ukraine is chopped up without a military response from Europe. But the trade sanctions imposed by both the EU and Russia are taking effect, yet when it comes to gas, all sides continue to do business.
The EU’s Committee of the Regions has launched a European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) Award Scheme. This is targeted at any EU City or Region irrespective of size or wealth, but which has outstanding, future-oriented entrepreneurial strategies. It’s not about past achievements, but rather forward looking. It will be of interest to those who have plans to help business develop in its area. LEO, the revamped Local Enterprise Office based within the County Council here in Swords, has just hosted a very successful Enterprise week. We will watch with interest how Fingal’s LEO performs in Europe.
Across the EU, there is concern at the success of political parties which push an extreme right or left agenda. This seems to have some governments reassess their budgetary strategies. Both Italy and France have breached the budget target rules. There is even a report that Mrs Merkel intervened with the outgoing Commission President forcing him to soften his proposed letter of strong rebuke to Renzi the Italian PM. This did not stop the Italian from publishing the letter and setting out battle lines before Barroso’s last Heads of Government meeting.
Following changes and compromises, the new Commission was ratified last week. Juncker confirmed that his Commission would present proposals on a E300b stimulus package for jobs, growth and competitiveness by the end of the year.
The Heads of State have charged the incoming Commissioner from Cyprus, Christos Stylianides, with the task of co-ordinating Europe’s response to the Ebola crisis. This follows the Health Ministers agreeing the generality of airport screening for the virus.
There are reports on the benefits which mobile phones can play in providing good information in tackling large scale crisis. Health advice can be communicated directly, while the networks tracking systems can provide important information in understanding the movement of viruses such as Ebola across countries and continents. In doing so, it is important that an individual’s information is not used inappropriately and that personal data is not abused. Currently operators are slow in making their tracking information available to researchers, so epidemiologists are denied access to an important modern medium in fighting large scale epidemics. It may be that Commissioner Styianides will have this matter addressed in a revised Digital Strategy and then push for a global protocol to be established.
On Budget day Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan, following a hearing on Youth and Employment in the EU Parliament, said “… that economic policies dominated by austerity are forcing young people into unwanted jobs and precarious employment throughout the EU. There is little employment available and when available there is little security.” She further said “Young people and their families are also devastated by the scourge of emigration. It is not only Ireland that has suffered in this regard, but as the poster-boy for austerity we are certainly the worst affected.”
Last Friday, speaking at the EPP’s Economic Ideas Forum, held in Slovakia, Brian Hayes the Fine Gael MEP called for “enhanced non-bank lending” going on to say that countries who have come through significant restructuring (like Ireland), can come out the other side.
As Ireland took to the streets to protest against Water Charges, some 400,000 people across Europe have signed on-line petitions against the EU US Trade deal (TTIP) many of them also street protesting. Irish activists say that proposed elements of the deal would have a damaging impact on Irish food standards, workers’ rights, public services along with digital information security. Those in favour, speak of the impact that other agreements have had in developing markets for Europe.
There are rumours of conflict within Juncker’s designated Commissioners on the provision within TTIP of dispute resolutions, relating to investments.
Some say that there may be a resignation from amongst the Commissioner nominees.
This would further add to Juncker’s problems in getting his Commission adopted by Parliament in time to take office on November 1st. Prime Minister Miro Cerar, on the withdrawal of the Slovenian commissioner designate, immediately nominated Violeta Bulc, his relatively inexperienced deputy PM, who first took political office a few short weeks ago. Whilst this maintained the ratio of females amongst the Commissioners, it forced Juncker to promote his Transport and Space nominee to the vacated VP for Energy position and placing his new commissioner designate in the Transport portfolio.
Throughout the confirmation hearings, the deal between the two big groupings in parliament continues to hold. They had some close calls, but succeeded in getting their people across the line. Some candidates whom it was expected would face difficulties, managed to come safely through the process. This resulted in part from good homework, connectivity with MEPs and the ‘what if’ factor.
Candidates such as the UK’s Lord Hill (Financial Stability, Financial Services, Capital Markets Union) and France’s Pierre Moscovici (Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation), while in difficulty perhaps were geographically too strategic to get the thumps down. Their success is a reflection of how their nominating countries may have responded should they have been rejected. The Hungarian Tibor Nauracsis (Education, Culture and Citizenship) ran into problems and is set to lose at least the Citizenship element from his job.
The controversial Alenka Bratusek, former Slovenian Prime Minister, ran into serious difficulties in the course of her hearing. Bratusek lost power in this year’s general election. As interim head of government, she added her name to a panel of four Slovenian Commission nominees from which Juncker choose Bratusek, nominating her for the prestigious role of a Vice President for Energy Union. Her performance at the committee was very poor, this resulted in the MEPs refusal to endorse her for the role while also rejecting her as a Commissioner. Last Thursday, she bowed to the inevitable and withdrew her nomination. Slovenian MEP since 2009, Socialist Tanja Fajon, is now tipped to be her country’ss replacement nominee. This will not go down well with ALDE, the Liberal group in parliament, of which Bratusek was a member.
Both the EPP and PES parties have expressed support for Fajon and suggest that they would back her as a direct replacement for Brattusek. But the nomination is now in the hands of the current Slovenian Government whose PM had favoured their outgoing Commissioner to continue for a third term.
The Vice President for Energy Union position is seen as important, as it is to be the supervising VP for the Spaniard Miguel Arias Cañete, whom many in the Parliament hold unsuitable for his role as Climate action and Energy Commissioner. To enable his adoption Juncker had to add Sustainability to the role of Frans Timmermans the Dutch Commissioner and Juncker’s senior VP.
Before ratification by Parliament of the full Commission on the 22nd next, Juncker now has to evaluate his team and make running repairs before his Commission takes office on the 1st November.
The Parliament is now in the second week of Commissioners’ designate hearings. Ireland’s Big Phil put in what can only be described as a very competent performance when he faced the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee last Thursday.
Despite considerable build up that he might be in trouble, the Irish issues including Childers’ complaint just did not travel. Well-schooled Hogan, showed an overall empathy with the brief, vision for the job and a little charm. Some other nominees did not fair quite so well with six perhaps in difficulty. UK’s Jonathan Hill faces a further hearing as he now struggles to win the support of his inquisitors.
Two candidates appear to be in real trouble. France’s Socialist nominee for the Economic and Financial Affairs portfolio, Pierre Moscovici, is viewed with a jaundiced eye. The EPP’s Miguel Arias Caríete (Climate Action and Energy) was not only forced to sell his shareholding in the oil industry, but also had to make adjustments to his financial declaration, while performing poorly at his hearing.
The Socialist Romanian Government assisted Juncker in upping the number of female Commissioners by withdrawing its support from their Agriculture Commissioner and nominating Corina Cretu, an MEP and former VP of the Parliament. The Romanians requested Junker to assign her the Regional Portfolio. Surprisingly, she failed to impress at her hearing, providing no depth in her answers.
The assignment of the Regional Portfolio to Cretu may have caused Czech Socialist Vére Jorova problems. Prior to Cretu’s nomination it was widely anticipated that Jorova would be the Regional Affairs Commissioner. The short time in which to prepare for her current brief is seen by some as the cause of her underperformance and her committee’s request for written answers to nine questions.
Hungarian, Tibor Navracacsis, is perhaps in difficulty because he is from Hungary. His nominator Orbán was the only PM to support David Cameron in opposing Juncker’s appointment as President of the Commission. But it is anticipated that he will be confirmed to the Education Culture, Youth and Citizenship role.
Junker may be forced to reassign portfolios and in some instance ask some to do a McNulty and walk. The six Vice President Commissioners faced hearings on the 6th and 7th, and the entire process is to be completed by the 22nd, when Parliament vote on ratification of the College of Commissioners.