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5 September 2016 Edition

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Another Europe is possible - Treo eile don Eoraip

MEPs Matt Carthy, Lynn Boylan, Martina Anderson and Liadh Ní Riada are MEPs and members of the GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament

Funded by the: European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Aontas Clé na hEorpa / Na Glasaigh Chlé Nordacha Crúpa Paliminta – Parlaimimt na h Eorpa

The European Parliament has been in recess until 30 August, so here’s a look at some of the key things your MEPs have been working on since September 2015.

Liadh Ní Riada MEP

FISHING CONFERENCE

In October 2015, Liadh Ní Riada hosted an international conference on fisheries in Waterford. A special emphasis was placed on the necessity for a specific focus on developing and investing in the Irish fishing industry and uniting fishermen as well as issues that are threatening and fragmenting the industry.

These are issues that Liadh has since continuously raised and battled in Europe as a member of the EU Fisheries Committee.

MENTAL HEALTH 

In June of 2015, Liadh Ní Riada hosted a mental health delegation to the European Parliament made up of participants from organisations such as Pieta House, Mental Health Ireland, Action Mental Health, SOSAD, 3TS and Mental Health Reform.

Later, Liadh hosted a follow-up conference, reiterating calls for improved mental health services but looking more specifically at the role of employment in the lives of people with mental health issues.

MULTIANNUAL FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK (MFF)

As a Co-ordinator on the EU Budget Committee, Liadh has been calling on the EU to update its long-term spending plan to cope with unforeseen crises such as mass migration, youth unemployment and now Brexit.

She has proposed that this is done during the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) mid-term review, which the Commission must prepare before the end of 2016. Within this, Liadh has been arguing for the protection of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and has been the only MEP to do so. 

In addition to this, in the wake of the results of the Brexit referendum, Liadh submitted an amendment noting that the result of the referendum creates grave problems for the Irish Peace Process and undermines the Good Friday Agreement. This amendment received overwhelming support during the plenary sitting of the European Parliament in July 2016.

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• Delegation of Irish-language students to European Parliament

LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION 

Irish was given official status as a working language by the EU in 2007 but has remained marginalised since then because of a derogation which means that institutions are not obliged to provide full translation services in Irish as they are in all of the EU’s 23 other official languages.

This is something Liadh has been active on since becoming an MEP. This year, two major events, organised by Liadh were hosted in the European Parliament on this issue:-

  • A delegation of Gaelscoil students taking part in the first-ever Role Play Games as Gaeilge to celebrate Seachtain na Gaeilge 2016;
  • On 1 June, Liadh teamed up with the European Language Equality Network (ELEN) to host a language hearing on language discrimination in the EU, focusing on lesser-used languages, including Irish, Catalan, Welsh, Basque, Breton and Occitan as well as Hungarian in both Slovakia and Romania.

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Martina Anderson MEP

PALESTINE

Martina led a successful vote to change the name of “the Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council” to “the Delegation for Relations for Palestine”.

The name-change gave the Committee, and Martina as Chair, a renewed impetus to move forward and advance a peaceful settlement and the evolution of a successful and viable Palestine in a two-state solution.

Martina led an EU cross-party delegation of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Palestine to the West Bank and Gaza from 8 to 12 February, during which time EU support to the rebuilding of Gaza, the illegal Israeli demolitions of EU-funded structures, and the overall cost-effectiveness of EU assistance to the Palestinians were discussed.

In June 2016, Martina met with Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine, during his visit to Brussels to address the plenary session.

REFUGEES

As a member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Martina travelled to Jordan to see first-hand the experiences of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. Martina visited the 80,000 people crammed into Camp Zaatari and witnessed water scarcity, electricity cuts, and food shortages.  

LEGAL HIGHS

Martina travelled to China to meet with the Narcotics Control Bureau of China’s Ministry of Public Security on the increasing number of so-called ‘legal highs’ being manufactured in China and then distributed in Europe. 

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• The Irish human rights delegation outside the Council of Europe before meeting with Representatives of the Office of Human Rights Commissioner

COLLUSION/HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 

Martina has made it one of her priorities in Europe to raise the issue of collusion during the conflict in the North of Ireland and assist families in securing truth and justice.

Since last September she has launched her booklet entitled Britain’s Dirty War in Ireland, highlighting the impact of British Government collusion with unionist death squads in Derry, Belfast and Newry.

Along with our colleagues in the GUE/NGL parliamentary group, Sinn Féin commissioned a legal opinion on the impact of Westminster’s proposed repeal of the 1998 Human Rights Act by the British Government would have on society. This was launched in Belfast, London and Brussels.

BREXIT 

The MEP for the Six Counties was part of a delegation from the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament to discuss Brexit with representatives from the British Government and the Opposition, including members of the Shadow Cabinet and representatives of the Scottish National Party.

A major Brexit conference was hosted by Martina in Belfast, which was addressed by Claude Moraes MEP (Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee).

The fall-out from the Brexit result led to a series of high-level meetings for Martina, including meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and President of the European Council, Donald Tusk – both of whom agreed that the vote of the people of the North must be respected. 

DISABILITES 

As Vice-Chair of the Intergroup on Disability in the EU Parliament, Martina hosted a major European Parliamentary hearing on the rights of persons with disabilities and called on the need for an ‘Accessibility Act’. 

The outcome of this hearing resulted in the submission of an opinion on the rights of people with disabilities to the Civil Liberties Committee. 

Martina will host a key disabilities conference in Newry in the coming months. 

TOBACCO 

Martina was key to the decision in getting graphic images printed on cigarette packages to discourage people from smoking.

This year, her report relating to the EU signing of the World Heath’s Organisation Protocol on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was passed in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Illicit trade in tobacco products is defined in the WHO Protocol as any practice or conduct related to producing, shipping, receiving, being in possession of, distributing, selling or buying tobacco products and that is prohibited by law.

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Matt Carthy MEP

TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

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• GUE/NGL MEPs show their opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal

Matt Carthy was granted access to a ‘Classified Information Unit’ where some TTIP documents are kept under lock and key and he called on the EU Commission to make public all documents relating to the ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. 

Matt also received commissioned formal legal opinion into the constitutionality of the European Investment Court proposed by the EU Commission.

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

Matt engaged in a Monetary Dialogue with the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, around the body’s failure to co-operate with the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry in Ireland. 

Unsurprisingly, the request to from Matt to Mr Draghi to apologise for the destructive and illegal actions of the ECB and for the contempt that the ECB has shown to the democratically-appointed banking inquiry and to the Irish people was unheeded.

Matt also co-hosted a conference in the European Parliament entitled “The ECB: Europe’s Unelected Government”.

Matt asked the ECB to investigate the extent of tax avoidance in the Irish state by vulture funds under the SSM banking supervision for Europe, and to investigate the relationship between the major vulture funds operating in the Irish state and the European banks under its supervision.

IRISH UNITY

On an invitation from Matt, London-based economist Michael Burke presented his recent paper "The Economic Case for Irish Unity" in the European Parliament in December. 

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Lynn Boylan MEP

WATER

The Right to Water European Citizens’ Initiative was the first successful example of this new mechanism, reaching almost double the minimum requirements with a staggering 1.8million signatures. 

In spite of this unparalleled success, the official response of the European Commission was vague, disappointing and did not properly address the demands of the Right2Water campaign. 

Lynn Boylan MEP brought a report in front of the European Parliament in September which (despite attempts by Fine Gael MEPs to block it) passed and the Right2Water movement finally got recognition from the EU institutions.

Lynn received confirmation that Ireland could still make use of the derogation, despite RTÉ being incorrectly and unofficially briefed from a Commission source.

LYDIA FOY

Dr Lydia Foy was nominated by the four Sinn Féin MEPs for the European Citizen’s Prize and in October last year was rightfully recognised by the European Parliament in a prestigious ceremony in the European Parliament where Lynn Boylan MEP presented Dr Foy with her award. 

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IBRAHIM HALAWA 

In October last year, Lynn hosted a public hearing of the case of Ibrahim Halawa in the European Parliament in Brussels. This led to the passing of a motion, by an overwhelming majority of 566 votes, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ibrahim Halawa in the European Parliament in December. This motion received cross-party support from all Irish MEPs.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Lynn, a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, has repeatedly called out the Irish Government for relying on JobBridge, and similar schemes as a cynical mechanism to reduce live register figures.

In doing so, it has failed to address the underlying issues facing young people attempting to access the labour market. In May, through information released to Lynn and her colleagues in Sinn Féin, through Priority Questions to both the Dáil and the European Parliament, it became clear that there was a possibility that Ireland may have to reimburse the European Commission €31.4 million in ESF funding. 

The inability to draw down this funding and put it to work will adversely affect young people in many areas, such as the work of youth clubs and community programmes to help young people to find jobs.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEAVE

A member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, Lynn Boylan proposed the introduction of paid domestic violence leave in Europe through a report she authored, key aspects of which were incorporated by the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee report that was adopted with overwhelming support by MEPs during the June Strasbourg session.

Lynn has now called on Irish policy-makers to take this on board immediately and act to introduce this leave in Ireland.

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• Liadh Ní Riada, Matt Carthy and Martina Anderson at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross for the GUE/NGL autumn conference

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