Monday 11 May 2009

Dublin EP Elections on TV3's Nightly News

Vincent Browne hosted a debate between some of the candidates in the race for 3 Dublin EP seats. (People Korp's site flagged this up).

Only one of them was a sitting MEP (Proinsias de Rossa - Labour/PES), but the programme was interesting none the less, with a Green candidate (and current Sentator - one of eleven who had been appointed by Bertie when he was still Taoiseach) Deirdre de Burca and a former Green Patrica McKenna (who lost her EP seat in the last election and campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in the referendum) arguing over their independence from the government should they win a seat. Caroline Simons, the Dublin Libertas candidate was also there, and gave a lamentable performance when Browne tried to pin her down on policy.

The debate raised 3 issues: the independence of MEPs from their parties when they're in government, MEPs expenses, Libertas' lack of policies.

De Burca and McKenna battled over the issue of independence. McKenna has just left the Green Party (she is at odds with the party's decision to go into government with Fianna Fáil) and is standing as an independent, and claims that she will be better placed to press for Ireland to properly implement environmental directives and fight for environmental and social policies when a Green candidate would be pressured into following the government line. De Burca rubbished this, but I think that all national party executives exert pressure on their EP contingent - especially when they're in government. I don't know how the Green party is in this area, but, as Jon Worth has explained, national party executives have divided the PES and effectively wrecked moves to run a socialist candidate for the Commission Presidency.

De Rossa and De Burca also highlighted the importance of political groups within the EP, and De Burca said she encourages people to check out the groups. It's good to hear candidates trying to communicate the politics of the EP, and De Burca deserves credit for calling on voters to support the left leaning parties to ensure an EP that will be strong on Green and social issues. It's not exactly a strong European campaign, but it's good to hear that some candidates are trying to communicate what votes can mean for the make up and policies of the parliament.

Simons was torn to shreds by Browne. It took a lot of waffle and increasingly impaticent interjections from Browne for Simons to give an example of what kind of powers the EU should return to member states - she settled on labelling: she believes it burdens businesses with too much cost. Browne wasn't impressed, and De Rossa easily asserted the value of labelling rules for consumer protection and the free movement of goods. It was a very poor choice by Simons - there are undoubtedly arguments for and against regulation in many areas, but it's a different argument to at what level the power to regulate should be vested.

Later, Simons went on the attack over the actions of the ECJ. She didn't do well here either - after raising the issue, Browne pressed for an example, which she had to admit she hadn't prepared and couldn't think of one off the top of her head. This is very damaging - after all, Simons is supposed to be a solicitor, and I imagine she was choosen as a candidate to lend credibility to Libertas' claims in areas of EU law. Not that's she's been very good on the subject before - as her performance in front of the Sub-Committee for Ireland's Future in Europe shows.

She did a bit better attacking De Rossa over expenses, but the blows didn't really land. De Rossa wasn't great at explaining his position over expenses, but he defused the issue by asserting that he's put information on his expenses on his website (here). It was still quite shocking to find out that he received €300,000 in expenses. It raises a lot of questions of the worth/need for this level of expenses. (The video showing this is the second half here).

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