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JULY 2019
In her final week in o ce, MEP Marian Harkin looks back on her time in the European Parliament and
points to the future challenges that lie ahead for Ireland
Marian Harkin hasn't veered far from her original
motivation to take up membership in the European
Parliament over 15 years ago. Supporting local
communities and making a difference on the ground
is where Marian's interests remain. However, her
three terms in offices have coupled this commendable
motivation with a wealth of experience as to how the
system works ­ not offered to many considering the fast
turnaround at MEP level. In her final week in Brussels ­
having decided not to run in this year's elections ­ Marian
remains passionate about what she has achieved so far
and what is yet to be done.
"Looking back to why I first ran for election, there
were two things that motivated me... my work in the
community voluntary sector as a volunteer and the drive
for balanced regional development. I am a real believer
of the role the voluntary sector can play, for meaningful
participation ­ it is hugely important to me and one of
the ways I carried that into the European Parliament
is in my strong support of LEADER. A lot of people are
annoyed with the current Commissioner and what he
did with water charges... I didn't get in involved with
that, however I was annoyed with how he eviscerated
the LEADER project. It was meant to be community
led local development; we have not ended up with that.
We have ended up with LEADER being taken out of the
hands of local community and placed largely within the
remit of the Local Authority. Now, Local Authorities do
excellent work ­ this is not a criticism of them ­ but this
was not their function; and when Commissioner Hogan
stripped the Local Authorities of much of their powers he
had to give them something, but he took away from the
voluntary community."
Marian resigned her seat in the Dáil in 2007 to
concentrate on her career in Brussels, so what did she
believe could be achieved at MEP level that would serve
her constituency better than as a TD? "What I felt was
that as a backbench TD ­ independent or party ­ your role
was to provide constructive and determined opposition.
And that's a very important role but you didn't have the
opportunity to shape legislation in a meaningful way.
The work here isn't that visible but, given that two thirds
of legislation has been agreed at European level by the
member states, what is decided here is hugely important.
This is the most interesting place in the whole wide
The importance of compromise
Summing up what lies at the heart of progress at
Parliament level, Marian explains: "If I was to use one
word to describe the work this Parliament does I would
say `compromise'. You gain credibility from your work
ethic, people get to know you, you build trust and you
learn how to negotiate and find compromise. You can
JULY 2019