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European Elections: Deirdre Clune – Fine Gael

Writes Ciaran Dineen

In just a few days the people of Ireland South will be asked to choose who they want to be represented by in the 2019 European Elections. One of the candidates who is seeking re-election on Friday 24thMay is Cork’s own, Deirdre Clune. Not long ago Deirdre called into The Carrigdhounoffice, where she made her case as to why she should take your No. 1 vote and what Europe does for you. 

There are few people in the country who are as embedded into Irish politics as Deirdre Clune MEP. The Blackrock woman comes from a family which has a historic background in the political system that few could match. Her grandfather, Anthony Barry and her well-known and liked father, Peter Barry, both have significant records in our national legislator, as well as Cork City Council.

Following in the footsteps of both men, it’s safe to say that Deirdre has carved out her own political path and has certainly emerged from any shadows of her forefathers that she may have at one time been placed in. 

Prior to being elected to the Dáil in our constituency of Cork South-Central for the first time in 1997, Deirdre graduated from University College Cork with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1980 and went on to complete a diploma in Management Engineering in Trinity College Dublin. Deirdre later returned to UCC in 1996 and went on to complete her HDip in Environmental Engineering.

The Cork native went on to serve two separate terms in Dáil Éireann, 1997-2002 & 2007-2011, while also serving in the Seanad between the years 2011-2013. Perhaps one of the greatest honours for Deirdre however came closer to home, as she became the third generational member of her family to be appointed Lord Mayor of Cork, a role she had from May 2005 – May 2006. The Fine Gael MEP’s European adventures began in 2014 when she was the fourth and final candidate to be elected to represent Ireland South. 

On What Europe Does for Cork: 

Over the course of the last five years, Deirdre has been the only Irish member to be a part of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism. During that time she has helped to develop a new aviation strategy, which has expanded on new connections to other countries, while also prioritising the development of regional airports. As part of the same committee, Deirdre was able to ensure that the Port of Cork was to be included in the new Connecting Europe Facility.

“The EU is Cork, the EU is Carrigaline”, Deirdre tells The Carrigdhoun. “People are probably not aware of how much the European Union is actually evident in their surroundings. The port of Cork which will be coming nearby to Ringaskiddy will be getting €13 million from EU grant money. If you look at European employment law, that has to be reflected here, for example in areas such as maternity leave. Environmental standards have to be met, keeping our water and our air fresh. There are major initiatives now in our coastal areas and on beaches here locally to keep them clean, reducing our use of plastics.”

“The European influence surrounds us all. Cork Airport is only 10 minutes away, without the EU we would not be able to get on a plane for a cheap price any day of the week, they abolished restrictions 30 years ago and introduced competition to the market. There is always room for improvement however and I have been in contact with Cork Airport as an MEP trying to lobby for routes to places like Brussels and increased service to Amsterdam, both are key European city hubs. I have personally written to Aer Lingus about Amsterdam because it is such an important route for businesses and promoting Irish business. It’s crucial that we in Ireland and in Cork have those connections to Europe.”

On the Prospect of a European Army:

Many people in Ireland are worried about the prospect of a federalised European Army, which would potentially pose a risk to Ireland’s long history with neutrality. Although major politicians in the past have dismissed claims that an EU army could materialise, it looks like Europe is heading in such a direction.

Speaking about this Deirdre says, “I think we’re going to have to have co-operation in certain areas as we go forward and Angela Merkel has said that Europe is going to need to be able to protect itself. We do need co-operation in fighting terrorism and cyber-terrorism but we are a neutral country, a military neutral country and it is important that is respected, but we should participate in missions that our Constitution allows us to. I can completely understand why it is a touchy subject for people but at the same time I point to our contribution in the UN, where we are very proud of our peace-keeping efforts and humanitarian rescue missions, they’re all areas where we want to participate in but we need to have fully-equipped services to do that. It’s about peace-keeping it’s about protecting ourselves, it’s about gathering intelligence, it’s about countering cyber security threats.” 

On Why People Should Vote in These Elections:

While Ireland’s turnout record for voting in European Elections isn’t as poor as other countries, Deirdre believes that it is more important than ever for people to have their voice heard in the ballot box. “What I would be saying to people is that Europe really matters”, the Fine Gael MEP tells The Carrigdhoun.

“I would be asking them to vote for me as someone who believes that our future is at the heart of Europe. These are difficult days for us because of Brexit but I am someone who understands the process and I want to work and make sure that our interests are represented at a European level, but also that we can contribute to the process. I think Europe has been good to us and that we have been good to them and I would like continue to represent the people of Cork and Ireland South on a European level, particularly when Europe is getting smaller and smaller. I see Europe shrinking in terms of its economic importance but I still think it will be a leader in terms of dealing with climate change, protecting workers and helping to promote democracy.”

“Closer to home in places like Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy I’d remind people of the investment in this area from international companies providing jobs and services, they wouldn’t be here if we weren’t members of the European Union. We are certainly stronger as a member of the EU than we would be if we were on our own and I would love to continue to work for the interests of people in Cork and Ireland South for the next five years.” 

Deirdre will appear on the ballot paper on Friday 24thMay alongside over 20 other potential European candidates. Due to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, Ireland South will receive an additional seat for these elections, increasing from 4 to 5. However, until the UK officially leaves the EU, the 5thelected MEP will not take their seat.

Read the remainder of the edition here: http://subscriber.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/subscribe.aspx?eid=c946bff2-f434-4a7b-a75d-621998d7e750

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