A Classic Carve Up Or What?

Last week when I wrote of the scramble for members of the groupings within parliament, little did I think that Fianna Fail (FF) and their MEP Brian Crowley, would part ways. Crowley’s relationship with the ALDE group has not been good since FF left the centre right UEN group in 2009, which was jointly chaired by Crowley, to join the liberal focused ALDE group. Brian’s move has now pushed the ECR into third largest group ahead of ALDE. The three long established groups, the EPP, S&P and ALDE, formed a grand alliance last week, which ensures a majority for Juncker as President of the Commission and Martin Schulz as President of the Parliament. The question is what has ALDE got. Could it be that our old friend Ollie Rehn of ALDE, is lined up for the High Representative Post to replace Lady Ashton?
To get Juncker through, as the nominee for President of the Commission, has caused some problems for the Heads of States. Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Parliament has held a veto on the nominee for President of the Commission. The Lisbon Treaty changed the process, but it’s more cosmetic than anything else. There is now a requirement that account be had of the outcome of the EU Elections in making the nomination.
The big task now is to find a resolution of the British concerns, not only about Juncker’s suitability but also the direction in which he may take the EU. The concerns expressed by David Cameron are shared by other PMs and it seems some PMs have achieved a shift in the direction of the fiscal policy, which Juncker favours.

Scramble For Members

June 24th is a big day in the EU Parliament’s calendar. Those wishing to form “Groups” must nominate their numbers by then. Each group must have a minimum of twenty five members drawn from across seven individual member states.
There is a lot to play for. Each group receives funding, based on the level of membership, to assist their members in undertaking the duties as MEPs. Also the size of the group will determine the speaking order and more importantly, positions and chairs of committee.
The EPP of which Fine Gael are members is still the largest group in the assembly. The SPD retain the second spot, to which Labour with no Irish MEPs are affiliated. It appears that the Alde Group of which Fianna Fail are members will move from the third largest group to fourth as the conservative grouping attract new national members and edge ahead. This change in rankings will not only have an impact on the internal workings of the parliament, but may also ultimately play out in the shape and direction of the new commission and some of the key appointments which have yet to be made there.
The jockeying for the top job as President of the Commission continues. There is a real battle playing out between parliament and the national governments as to who will be appointed. Juncker the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) is seen by many as stale and too fixed in his ways to respond to a changing EU. It is said he favours continued centralisation of control and further expansion of the EU. To succeed in his current goal, he may have to commit to a some very real reforms and curtailment of his present budgetary policies. Once nominated, parliament will embrace him irrespective of policy as they will have won the day. The MEP’s will have triumphed, they have pushed the agenda that the Spitzenkandidat of the largest party should automatically be the nominee for the post.
On examination of the MEPs elected the message from across Europe is loosen the purse strings, get money circulating, create employment and improve economic prosperity for the masses. So it seems your vote really did matter.

New EPP Chairman Commits To Reform Agenda

CSU MEP, Manfred Weber was elected as the new President of the EPP Group. An MEP for the past 10 years, Mr. Weber is an experienced politician. His first task will be to ensure that his man, Jean-Claude Juncker becomes the Commission President. In support of this, Weber states that the EPP won the election, and that Juncker, as their “Spitzenkandidat” (lead candidate) is the democratic choice for the role. The EPP group does not have a majority in the parliament. There is a considerable rump of Prime Ministers, who are making it difficult for the Council of PMs to nominate Juncker. They say he is too conformist and wants only a bigger controlling EU. There are many names now floating about, most from outside the EU system, who have considerable CVs to support their claim. Parliament is insistent that the Council may nominate a candidate, based on the results of the elections, but that under the Lisbon Treaty, it falls to them to formally elect the president. They are of the view that, as Juncker represented the Group with won most votes, that he must have the first opportunity to see if he can get a majority. But what if he fails to do so? Surely then the logic is that the next Spitzenkandidat should be afforded the opportunity to find a majority. That Spitzenkandidat is Schulz, should he also fail to find a majority, then it may be time to look outside those who the political process presented to the European voter as their candidate for this key role. That is, if you accept what the politicians told us about the Lisbon Treaty which, if adopted, would result in a more open and transparent Europe. Just to reassure you in respect of reform and transparency, the vote in parliament on
the President will be in secret.

Decision On Commission Nominee Required Now

As the Government is waiting for the new Labour leader, it appears that no decisions on whom the next EU Commission candidate from Ireland will be. Long standing speculation that Big Phil Hogan was the man to go was in recent weeks thrown into question. With the resignation of Eamon Gilmore some suggested that it would be an ideal location in which to place him.
But while Ireland stalls, the rest of the Union are about business. The ongoing difficulties in agreeing the nominee for President of the Commission has afforded opportunities for a full scale lobby attack for key positions/portfolios by some member states. As a country it is important that we are at the heart of the commission and not just there making up the numbers. As the union increased to twenty eight members, each with the right to nominate a commissioner, the scale of the portfolios has reduced as the number of positions increased. Some of the positions are, in effect non jobs, just seats at the table. There is active consideration towards creating a two tier Commission along the lines of our senior and junior ministers, with only the senior commissioners playing a full role.
Ireland, in general was fortunate over our time in Europe to get reasonable positions at the Commission table. But if the Government does not act soon in confirming who their nominee is, they face the prospect that all the important jobs will already be assigned. The government needs to declare who they intend to send to Europe and allow that person to “work the room” and get the best possible role rather than accepting what’s left over.

Commission President Yet To Be Decided

With the election over, the power trading begins, and so it is in every assembly where there is no clear majority. The Lisbon Treaty provides that the Council of EU Prime Ministers, taking account of the results, nominates the President of the Commission to parliament, whose vote is required to ratify the nominee.
Jean-Claude Junker, as the lead candidate for the EPP, has the support of that group’s members, but their number is 213 of 766 MEPS, far short of the majority required. He is attempting to garner a majority to support his appointment. This will be difficult without the votes of the S+D, the centre left group, whose candidate in the election was Martin Schulz, current President of the Parliament. Junker, while having first cut at putting a majority together, has a major problem with the Swedish, Dutch, Hungarian and UK Prime Ministers opposing his nomination, while Ms Merkel does not appear bullish in support of him. A compromise candidate may emerge, such as Michael Barnier who is also a member of the EPP and who Junker defeated for the EPP nomination. Barnier, who is French, would prove far more acceptable to both London and Paris. Mr Junker may have a consolation prize available for him within the Commission, or as President of the Council. The Swedish PM has invited Cameron, Merkel and the Dutch PM to discuss the future of the EU. The German Finance minister responding to the election results says “We need a more intelligent Union, not the mindless pursuit of more Europe.” A satirical German Die Partei won a single seat in the election. They intend to rotate their MEP every month and say that their objective is to transfer as much money from Brussels to their party as possible. Winning the seat was a surprise to commentators and Die Partei. They may give us all a good laugh over the coming term.

Will There Be A Clear Decision On Friday?

The election of Dublin’s MEPs takes place this Friday. There is little or no appreciation of what people are now asked to vote on, other than elect three members to attend a distant and perceived irrelevant parliament.
Those elected will decide the next President of the EU Commission and should therefore be chosen wisely. The position is central to the direction which the EU takes over the coming five years. The President will assign the portfolios to the new Commissioners nominated by the Governments of the 28 member states. Their decision will impact on the social and economic policy of the union.
The two leading contenders are evenly matched. It would seem on the face of it that Junker of the EPP (Fine Gael) or Schulz the Socialist (Lab) will command in or about the same number of MEPS. In which case, will either be capable of reaching a coalition agreement with enough of the other MEPs to form a majority. Or will the two groups again find a common understanding to allow either candidate assume the office of President with key concessions made to the candidate in terms of what role they would play within Europe and what policy objectives would they influence?
The EU has traditionally operated under this grand coalition style agreement. We, the voters, can on Friday have our say, but it is still quite unclear what we are asked to vote on. So most people will ignore the bigger EU picture and those who cast their vote will, it seems, vote for the candidate who is best known to them here at home. But if you don’t vote, somebody else will elect your representatives in the parliament. So do take the time to go out and vote next Friday.

Who Cares Enough To Vote?

The election campaign across Europe intensifies with the centre right candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schultz of the centre left engaging in live televised debates on their vision for Europe for the next five years. Canvassers here in Ireland report that there is little interest in who is elected to represent us in the new parliament. These reports are in keeping with an Ipsos-MORI poll conducted across twelve member states, with some 9,000 respondents which suggests that 62 per cent state they are either “not at all” or not much interested in the elections, with only 35 per cent stating that they will definitely vote. The percentage turn out in Ireland will most likely be in the late 40s, due to the holding of the local elections on the same day.
Other surveys suggest that circa 220 of the members elected will come from anti-EU parties. This will perhaps polarise the parliament and squeeze those reformers who are currently the middle ground. Both candidates, Juncker and Schulz concede that reform of the structures and operation of the EU will happen. Both confirm that under their leadership the issue of migration will be addressed. They also confirm that in doing this, they will respect freedom of movement.
What happens in Europe is important to us here in Ireland. It is important that we have representation from those who are capable and who not only have the skill to work within the system, but who also have the ability to help mould a better EU for us all. So don’t forget to vote on the 23rd. I am looking forward to the results flowing in from across the 28 states when polling closes across Europe on the 25th.

Boland Calls For Historic Summer School

Thomas Ashe & Tom Kettle
Thomas Ashe & Tom Kettle

Independent candidate in Balbriggan Electoral area, Cathal Boland is calling for the setting up of a Fingal Summer School. This would commemorate the achievements of two North County men, Tom Kettle and Thomas Ashe, who played significant, but different roles in the political situation 100 years ago.
Boland told the County Leader, “I was forcibly struck by the visit of President Higgins to the United Kingdom, some weeks ago, with political representatives from all strains of both British and Irish politics, united in the celebration of that visit. Noting the Queen’s comments of members of her family standing with us in 2016, along with the invitation extended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, I am proposing that the North County should act on the opportunity which these events present, and host an inaugural Summer School in 2016.”

He continued, “It seems to me that such an occasion provides an ideal venue for all traditions and their senior representatives, to commemorate the contributions made in both 1914 and 1916, by Irish men and women. Such an event, away from the main state ceremonies, and those to be held at the GPO, would provide a calmness to allow proper reflection of these historic moments and their relationship to each other,” he said.

In the course of the President’s address in Westminster, he made reference to a man from the North County, the nationalist, poet, parliamentarian and soldier Tom Kettle.

Boland explains, “Kettle came from a family, who were at the épée centre of the politics of nationalist Ireland, whose father was a founder of the Land League. He was elected an Nationalist MP, he founded the Peace Committee during the 1913 Lockout, co-founded the Irish Volunteers, for whom he travelled to Belgium to purchase guns. When he was there, he acted as a war correspondent. As a result of what he saw, he joined the British Army and was killed in action in September 1916.”

“Thomas Ashe, a Kerry native was the most militarily successful Easter 1916 Commandant. He was a national school principal at Corduff, Lusk. He founded the Black Raven Pipe Band and established a branch of the Volunteers, whom he lead in the Battle of Ashbourne. He went on to be the President of the IRB, the defacto President of the Irish Republic. After the general release in 1917, he went on hunger strike, during which he died as a result of force feeding.”

“Both men were nationalist, one a poet the other a musician. These were men of conscience who made a real contribution. Both died for their beliefs. They just died on different battle fields. These are two great men of vision, of culture, of action, men who wanted the same thing. Both died seeking it in different ways.”

Boland concluded by saying, “Should I be fortunate to be elected on May 23rd, I intend formally calling on the incoming council to establish, and host an annual Kettle Ashe Summer School. This would be a fitting tribute to these great men, while providing a perfect platform for men and women of all traditions to join together in celebration of the role that Fingal played in both struggles. Such an occasion embraces all traditions and allows all to recognise the contribution made a hundred years ago.”

EU Battle For Power Within

schulz junkerThe European election campaign has only just kicked off here in Ireland, but the battle for power across Europe has been in full play for some time. The projections show both the EPP and the PES very close in the number of MEPs which they will return after the election. Their lead candidates, Schulz and Junker are fighting hard to become the President of the Commission. This job is expected to go to the candidate of the party with the highest number of MEPs returned. The Parliament must vote on the appointment and the smaller groupings may join forces with either the EPP or PES, to decide the issue or cause both Junker and Schulz to do a deal. Both candidates are campaigning across Europe and appearing in televised debates setting out their vision for Europe.

Parliament has taken the unusual step of passing a vote of censure on Martin Schulz, the Parliament’s President, for using his office to push through the appointment of close aides to civil service positions and of using his office improperly in his campaign. Junker is moving to a position of embracing reform and says he will find a way to keep the UK within the union and deal with their concerns.

This bigger picture does not appear to be a feature of the election here at home. There seems little or no interest among the voters in respect of the management of Europe. So it seems the election will be fought just on home issues. One way or the other, MEPs will be elected on the 23rd and your vote can help decide who they are.

Rush Play Ground Maintenance Required

Parents have spoken to me in respect of the poor ongoing maintenance of the children’s play ground at Kenure Rush.
Concerns as to equipment safety and ground surface conditions are among the matters raised. Please contact me with your issues.

There is a need for a further Playground sited within the immediate environs of the Town core. Many residents find that the Kenure location is not practical to meet the everyday needs of their family.

There is a need for the Council not only to improve the maintenance at the Kenure site, construct a central play area but they must provide within the proposed Balleally Park a full playground facility. Large numbers of families leave Rush for other locations at weekend to avail of such facilities in our Regional Parks.