Saturday 9 May 2009

Dublin MEP Debate

On RTÉ's Saturday view this afternoon (Here. If it's not the "latest show" anymore, look for the 9th May programme under the "current series"), there was a debate between the 4 Dublin MEPs: Proinsias de Rossa (Labour/PES), Mary Lou McDonald (SF/GUE-NGL), Gay Mitchell (FG/EPP) and Eoin Ryan (FF/ELDR).

The main topics were the Lisbon Treaty, MEPs expenses and work, and the economic crisis. McDonald faced a strong attack after she called for more transparency on MEP expenses, with the other 3 attacking her attendence rates and Committee participation - even pointing out an instince where she had been present at a plenary meeting, but didn't bother to vote. The effect of this attack may have been damaged since it could come across as ganging up on her. Mitchell subsequently backed McDonald's calls for more publication of MEPs expenses, but returned to the attack, saying McDonald's expenses may be lower since she wasn't there as much. (McDonald got the most "tumbs down" out of all of Ireland's MEPs on Parlorama - which has been closed down again).

On the interest in the EP, de Rossa said that the only attention he ever got for his parliamentary work was a proposal he made on the price of condoms. (That they shouldn't be considered luxery products).

De Rossa was quite downbeat on the influence of the EP, his ambition seemed to be limited to increasing the PES's share of the seats in order to get more socalist commissioners - quite defeatist when it comes to the question of who gets the Commission Presidency. Annoyingly, I didn't get the chance to send in a question to get a more explicit answer from him (and from the others on their attitudes to EP-Commission relations).

The Lisbon Treaty was naturally a noisy debating topic, though I think that it probably won't change anyone's opinion on the issue: the positions where listed off again, with the main point being the second referendum. McDonald attacked the others for voting in the EP in favour of letting the other member states continue with the ratification process. It was countered that the EP voted to respect the ratification choices of all member states, including Ireland.

The arguments over the validity of the second referendum haven't changed. Pro-re-run: the guarantees change the overall package, and if they address the concerns of the people raised in the original referendum, of course it should be put to the vote. Anti-re-run: we've had one, and decided, so there shouldn't be another. Because I've already taken a side (pro-re-run), McDonald's arguments seemed quite weak to me, but I'm sure there are quite a few who will stick to that position.

There was also the standard government-bashing, with a major point being the FF logo on candidates posters being particularly hard to see - the acusation was that FF-ers are ashamed of the government and their association (which is probably true).

Eoin Ryan and Mary Lou McDonald will be fighting for third place (I'd say it's unlikely that de Rossa and Mitchell have much to worry about) as the Dublin constituency will be reduced to 3 seats from 4 (Ireland's overall seats being reduced from 13 to 12). Ryan will be the embattled representative for the government, but McDonald has a fair battle on her hands too.

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