This article was originally published in the March edition of the West Cork People
As an MEP, the work that takes place in the European Union often seems too distant from the people who voted in the European elections back in 2019. It is something that has always bothered me, especially as too often the television and radio in Ireland focuses on American or British news, despite the fact that EU laws and the EU economy now plays a much more important role in our lives today. It is another reason why I am thankful to outlets like the West Cork People and local publications which give us the opportunity to bring Europe to you.
However, a physical presence is also vital. Now that we have all cancelled our Zoom subscriptions and we would rather not even think about the months and years spent on lockdown during the Covid pandemic which took so many of our friends and loved ones, I figured it was well overdue to open an office in Cork.
As a native of Tramore, I travel between Waterford and Brussels on a regular basis. Coming back to my three amazing daughters in Tramore or heading out to vote in Committees and Parliament sessions in Brussels. On the weekends I stay with my daughters or I will coach surfing down on the beach in Tramore with the local kids. But serving a constituency that stretches from Wicklow to Clare, and everywhere south of that, requires a lot more time listening and learning from constituents from every walk of life.
About a quarter of the population of the constituency of Ireland South live in County Cork alone and there is massive potential for Cork, and the West Cork coast in particular, to play a leading role in the climate transition.
With a great team assembled we set about finding the perfect spot in the centre of Cork City for a brand new office, and I am so grateful to the volunteers who turned out to put a fresh lick of green paint on the new space, inside and out. Local activists were on the ground in force, including local representative for Bandon-Kinsale, Dr. Marc O’Riain. We may have got a little overzealous though and at one point we accidentally painted some of the next door neighbour’s wall too!
There is so much happening now across Cork, and I would like to use this new space as an opportunity for people who care about the environment and the health of our ocean to use the space – a kind of a ‘green hub’ for fresh ideas on climate action. In particular I am thinking of the new Marine Protected Areas legislation that is passing through the Oireachtas this year, as well as the much needed expansion of our offshore wind energy production for which West Cork in particular is well placed. With the unmatched beauty of our south and west coasts, this county should be the leader in the protection of the environment and marine protection and we have a great team of local representatives there including Liz Coakley Wakefield from Bantry and Rory Jackson from Skibbereen.
So if you’re in the city in the coming weeks and months and you are interested in what we are doing in terms of environmental protection and social justice, stop by our new office on Washington Street in Cork City. The kettle’s already on!