20th February 2014

The 3 Independents_2
The 3 Independents – Anne Maree Quinn, Local Election Candidate for Pembroke South, Marian Harkin, MEP and Jennifer Whitmore, Local Election Candidate for Greystones

Whew, what a week. I have finally had a chance to sit down and try to digest everything that I saw and heard over my two days in Brussels.

On the trip, myself and the 19 other local and European election candidates were given an opportunity to visit the European Commission and Parliament, meet with a lot of the key players there and to learn about how the EU system operates. The two days were organised by Women for Election and the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

Over the two days, I got to:

  • Meet really inspiring women and men including Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission; Marian Harkin, Independent MEP and winner of MEP of the Year two years running; and Emily O’Reilly, the EU Ombudsman. All these people were incredibly open, honest, and welcoming of our group. And inspiring – really inspiring.
  • Learn more about how the EU Commission and Parliament operates;
  • Learn about funding opportunities that exist in Europe and how best to access them, particularly the new programme of Structural Funds for 2014 and Horizon 2020, a 7 billion euro funding programme for innovation companies.
  • And of course, meet other fantastic local and European election candidates from all parties and none.

And probably most interestingly, I learned that roughly 85 per cent of the laws that are passed in Ireland originate in Europe. That means the majority of the laws that directly affect you and me on a local level come from Brussels. This makes it crucial that local representatives have a good understanding of the EU Institutions work, and how Ireland and Irish politicians can best operate within these institutions. Luckily, I didn’t go into this cold, as I’ve studied some EU Law, but it was great to get a broader understanding of how the whole system operates.

And it was fantastic to get to spend some time with the co-founders of Women for Election again. Without this organisation, which supports and encourages women to go into politics, many, like myself would probably never had made the jump.