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JULY 2019
Interview
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
put anything forward, but it means nothing unless you
deliver and delivery comes from working with colleagues
to find compromise; and that isn't always possible. For eg:
there was a very contentious piece of legislation around
transport, which matters hugely... it's logistics; transport
matters to everyone, especially to Ireland. The products
we produce whether it's a side of beef or speciality cheese,
that has to be transported. Despite my best efforts, and
others, we could not come to a good outcome on the
mobility package... but all is not lost."
The EU has changed dramatically over the past 15 years,
so, what were the key changes Marian witnessed over this
time? "The Lisbon Treaty was a real milestone because
it allows the Parliament to act as co-legislator and that
has made all the difference in the world. Lisbon gave
this Parliament so much more influence and power. For
me the top thing [when canvassing for Lisbon] was that
this would allow people that you directly elected to have
more influence on EU legislation and they will be more
accountable to you. When we go to the final part of the
legislative process, the trialogue with the Commission
and Council, we are on an equal footing. This can bring
significant change."
Highlights
Identifying the personal highlights of her three-year term,
Marian notes some important successes along the way: "I
started up the Carers' Interest Group in the Parliament
with Kathy Sinnott and when she didn't get reelected I
continued that. We had meetings with the Commission
and various stakeholders and we succeeded in having
a Directive on Carers' Leave, which is now part of EU
legislation. I also received an MEP of the Year award in
2011 for my work with volunteers and in 2017 Sligo won
the award of European Capital of Volunteering... it's a
small thing but it mattered.
I have been involved as chair of the Credit Union Interest
Group and worked closely with Irish Credit Union and
the World Council to ensure that any legislative impact
on Credit Unions was proportionate there was a lot
of financial legislation after the banking crises so it was
important that any legislation was proportionate.
I was also the Parliament person in charge of the
European Globalization Adjustment Fund a fund set up
to help redundant workers who had lost jobs due to crisis
or globalization."
She is keen to note though: "If there is one thing I have
learned, it's this: when it comes to legislation, particularly
the way we transpose it in Ireland, the individual the
ordinary person is always at the bottom rung of the
ladder. And I have spent my time trying to ensure we have
a level playing field, with some considerable successes."
So why did she decide to not run for election in 2019?
"Fifteen years, fifteen countries," she states.
The family farm and climate action
With the spotlight on farming Marian is hugely critical
of Commissioner Hogan. "The 50m beef fund is
an example. I have a real issue that this is coming
with a caveat and that caveat is around production.
Commissioner Phil Hogan is the first-ever European
Commissioner to support the idea of reduction of
production as a solution. My problem with this is it is
a blunt instrument. There are issues here and I am not
denying them, but the suckler herd is hugely important
to Ireland. I came into this for balanced regional
development and the family farm playing its role in that.
I am sick of listening to politicians and some farming
organisations eulogizing the family farm when in fact
their policies and the way they act are not supporting it.
Over the next 5-10 years we could see a very significant
drop in the number of smaller family farms. That can
happen for many reasons, and age profile is one, but
policy can also impact on age profile. I feel the emphasis
has shifted totally to dairy production, which is hugely
important but it's not the only product that we need to
support. I don't want to see the farming enterprise that
underpins very significant parts of rural Ireland being
eroded on a systematic basis and I would be concerned
about that."
Commenting on the issue of climate action and the
role Irish farmers need to play here, Marian notes:
"Land has a value for different things: some for growing
and production and some for migrating the impact of
production we need to take that holistic view and
see the opportunities here, because the more we resist
the harder it becomes. I think Ireland is `gung ho' for
production and we do need to compete on the world
market. But equally we have to look at the implications
of that."
Brexit, migration and the euro
As she leaves her office, Marian looks to the issues that
remain on the desk, which the incoming MEPs from
Ireland will need to address over the coming term.
"Brexit is on the back burner for now, to some extent,"
she declares. "For quite a period of time is was front and
centre but because the British could not get their act
together there is nothing more to be done until they do.
The crucial thing though is that we need to watch out
for is that patience doesn't run out. I think there is still
enough patience and good will there though to try to
wait until the British are ready to negotiate in a way that
is meaningful and real."
"Nobody has broken ranks on the need for the backstop.
It has been a game of chicken to some extent but I
believe that even Boris Johnson would not take the UK
out with no deal I do not believe he would do that
much damage to the country he loves."
"Migration is still a significant issue... how to handle it in
a humane and pragmatic way. There has to be managed
migration if there isn't it will tear Europe apart. We
have a duty as human beings to offer shelter and some
kind of assistance to those fleeing terror or persecution
but that is not migration... one would hope that is
temporary rather than long term." Another key issue that
remains is the euro and the stability of it: "It was not
strong enough to withstand the global crisis and it may
not be strong enough to survive the next one."
"People need to realise the connection between EU
legislation and their daily lives: that connection can be
lost very easily."
JULY 2019
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Interview
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