Monday 19 July 2010

Bairbre de Brún MEP: One Year On

[Part of the series on the Northern Irish MEPs' first year in the 7th European Parliament]

Bairbre de Brún (GUE-HGL [United Left]) (Sinn Féin). Member of: the Environment Committee, Petitions Committee and the Delegation to the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee. (Substitute on: the Regional Development Committee, Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, Delegation to the Euro-Mediterranian Parliamentary Assembly).

Attendance in plenary: 84.31%
Loyalty to Europarty: 89.88%
Loyalty to national majority: 53.02%
Speeches: 16 (In plenary, 14 [via VoteWatch, which wasn’t updated as recently])
Parliamentary Questions: 8
Motions for resolutions: 7
Written declarations: 0
Reports Amended: 8 (Mostly regarding reports on Climate Change, transport, biodiversity, and the treatment of animals (pets)).
Drafted Reports: 1 (Report on a proposed regulation on animal health requirements for non-commercial movement of pets).
Opinions: 0

De Brún’s speeches mostly cover climate change and animal welfare. On climate change she gave a speech in January advocating a binding international treaty on climate change, and urged for 40% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2020 and of 80-95% by 2050 for the EU, as well as funding for developing countries to combat climate change/clarity on the funding. These figures appear in several speeches and she has spoken for her political group on the matter a few times. Bairbre de Brún has also given speeches on the report on regulations for animal treatment (of pets while being moved) as rapporteur. The legislation concerns the transportation of pets and controls on rabies. In the end a few technical amendments were recommended.

[NOTE: A rapporteur prepares a report on a piece of legislation for the relevant committee and helps conduct negotiates between the political groups on it. The final report contains recommendations to accept, reject or amend the legislation].

When it comes to the Irish language, which is an important issue for de Brún’s national party, Sinn Féin, she gives her speeches in Irish. She has also made a speech on the legislation (now passed) on the access to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings criticising aspects of it where the native tongue might not be used/translated into [Text in Irish, but if you click on video and scroll down the speakers, you can find a translated video speech].

On Parliamentary questions, the 8 questions are on a range of topics. Though there’s no one topic, there is a theme of the environment for a few of the questions. Topics include: Lough Neagh Eels, Genetically Modified Organisms, Foreign Lecturers in Italian Universities (equal pay question), the movement of animals in Ireland, cross-border use of childcare vouchers and the failure of certain member states to implement EU law/questions on whether or not the law was being applied correctly in a certain case. Questions are asked regularly (i.e. roughly monthly rather than a bunch of questions at once), and tend to refer to specific situations and refer to a specific law.

The motions for resolutions are mostly procedural – motions to finish the debate on an issue, etc. The other resolutions are political declarations, and not legislation, on topics such as the Gaza flotilla incident and AIDs.

The reports that de Brún submitted amendments on mostly concern reports on climate change, transport, biodiversity, and the treatment of animals. This shows a specialised role that probably leads on from her membership of the Environment Committee.


Bairbre de Brún’s national party, Sinn Féin, is part of the GUE-NGL group (United Left-Nordic Green Left), so you could say that she plays the role of a party MEP. Groups get certain resources and being part of a political group increases your chances of forming alliances and getting high profile roles such as rapporteur, etc. So the role of the party MEP would be different to an independent MEP. On the whole, it looks like de Brún is asking specific, detailed questions, submitting amendments and motions that are around the same amount as most other MEPs (10 or less for each, though some few MEPs submit a lot more), and drafting/co-drafting a report. She seems very specialised in the environment policy area, and how good this is depends on your idea of the role of the MEP. Specialisation suggests that she is well positioned to influence environmental EU law, and has good party connections (whether or not the party has policies you agree with in this or other areas is another question). But perhaps this means that she doesn’t have as much time for questions/amendments in other policy areas (see the above linked video on the translation legislation, where she claimed not being on a Committee that dealt with that legislation meant that she’d less time to read it and come up with amendments). Other constituency work isn’t measured – we can’t say that these statistics and info show everything an MEP does/can do. Is she doing a good job in her area? Is she doing enough?

My personal opinion on the independent/party MEP aspect is that in a Parliament of 700+ MEPs, you need alliances on policies to get things done, and having them along ideological lines means that the voter can vote for a party that represents a broad line that they can support – pretty much like any other Parliament. Of course there are other advantages and disadvantages to each role. De Brún has voted with the United Left the vast majority of the time (shown by the high “group loyalty” percentage), so voting for Bairbre de Brún as an MEP is a vote to strengthen that party in the Eruopean Parliament, and their policies/ideology can be taken as a rough guide to her political behaviour as an MEP. In my opinion, Bairbre de Brún does a good job as a party MEP.

[For analysis on the other Northern Ireland MEPs and an overall analysis: link]

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