WEST Cork voters do feel a disconnect with Europe and its parliament and it’s hard to blame them.
That’s according to sitting Ireland South SF MEP, and Ballyvourney native, Liadh Ni Riadh, but she starkly reminds voters her role is to ‘get as much from the system as possible’ for the area.
Ahead of the May 24th Euro elections, she acknowledges that most voters aren’t remotely aware of the work they do in Europe or what it means to be an MEP and that it’s still ‘parish pump issues like housing and potholes’ that they encounter when canvassing.
‘I have to be honest and say that I can’t help with those things but I can direct people towards funding schemes that are available to them,’ she said.
In fact, a failure to draw down vast sums of available funding she’s highlighting as part of her campaign. She specifically points to the challenges faced when trying to access the millions of euro of available Leader funding caused by over burdened administration.
‘But if money isn’t used or drawn down it’s a sin. I’m bringing awareness to that.’
Brexit is something that has pushed the European Parliament more into people’s consciousness and it has been a somewhat uniting force for the Irish MEPs, says Liadh.
FG MEP Deirdre Clune, living in Cork city but with a house in Baltimore, agrees: ‘I feel that after Brexit happened we got stuck in and did a good job of explaining the impact on Ireland and making sure our colleagues understood.’
While the politics of both women would be poles apart, Liadh says they have a friendly relationship.
‘Europe is different to Leinster House in that way,’ she said.
Both women point to the experience they’ve built up over the past five years, Liadh describes it as a baptism of fire, which they are keen to build on in another term.
Deirdre, whose father is the late former TD Peter Barry of Barry’s Tea, says: ‘Around 50% of the parliament will be new, there’ll be a huge change over so experience will really stand.’
While speaking to The Southern Star she was returning to her office in Brussels after a vote and says: ‘Every time we vote, we do it in Ireland’s interests; it’s important when you realise that what we vote on is ultimately what ends up back in the Dail.’
First time Ireland South candidate, TD Mick Wallace agrees: ‘Around 70% of legislation going through the Dail at the moment starts in Europe which is having more and more of a say in how we do things. Europe is more central now in people’s minds with Brexit.’
The Wexford man added: ‘I think things can be done better and I want to be where the decisions are being made.’
Fishing and farming, two of West Cork’s main industries, are very exposed to Brexit and Liadh Ni Riada’s, whose brief includes fishing, is only too aware of this.
‘In the event of a no deal it’s quite simple, fleets will be tied up,’ she said squarely.
Last year she said when she highlighted problems facing the industry post Brexit, she said there was absolutely no countenance of a ‘no deal.’
‘But even now I’m not confident of the measures that are in place,’ she said pointing to the displaced European fleets who will leave UK waters and ‘slice our cake up even further.’
Regarding her decision to run for President last year, it’s not something she regrets.
‘I didn’t just wake up one morning and think “I’ll run for president.” I was nudged by the party. I don’t regret it but I’m not so sure it’s something I’d do again.’
Meanwhile, a Red C poll has predicted that Ireland could return three FF and three FG MEPs after the May 24th elections.
The poll projects the 11 Irish seats will breakdown as FF (3); FG (3); Independents (2); SF (2), and Labour (1).
This compares to the current state of affairs: FG (4); FF (1); SF (3) and Independents (3).
In total, the European Parliament comprises 751 seats. Of the country’s 11 seats, Ireland South, which covers a vast 12 counties, is allocated five with 23 candidates vying for one of them.