By Ann Marie Foley - 08 May, 2014
Dublin candidates in the forthcoming European Parliament election debated a range of social issues at a public meeting which was organised by Trócaire in collaboration with Social Justice Ireland and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
Eight of the nine MEP candidates outlined their positions on tackling child poverty, social exclusion, overseas development assistance, protection of human rights, and climate change.
“How Europe responds now to issues such as poverty and climate change will have an enormous impact on future generations. Climate change is causing increasing damage in Europe and is devastating communities in the developing world, leading to increased hunger,” Lorna Gold, Head of Policy and Advocacy with Trócaire, said.
She added that MEPs must ensure a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 55%.
One of the key concerns raised was that European politics is focused on economic and financial issues to the detriment of social and environmental issues.
“We have witnessed the impact that the crisis and austerity programme is having on struggling households across Ireland. Those least well off before the economic crisis remain so, and their difficulties have been worsened due to cutbacks to the supports and services on which they rely,” John-Mark McCafferty, SVP Head of Social justice and Policy, said.
He explained that further cutbacks of around €2 billion are to be made in Budget 2015, at a time when over 700,000 people (including more than 200,000 children) are living in poverty.
“We need political leadership at all levels – European, national and local – focused on people and allocating enough resources to allow all children in Ireland to grow up free from poverty,” he said.
Sean Healy, Director, Social Justice Ireland, told the candidates that those who are elected need to recognise that development of a fairer future for people will be possible only when priority is given to the common good.
“Futures based on the primacy of the market are not likely to be just or fair. Of course the market is important and an efficient market is crucial for development of the Union and the country. But there is far more to progress than getting the market right. A balance is required between the various aspects of life if the well-being of this and future generations is to be secured,” he said.
The election candidates present were: Brian Hayes, TD; Nessa Childers, MEP; Eamon Ryan; Paul Murphy; MEP; Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, Damon Matthew Wise, Emer Costello MEP and Brid Smith. Apologies were received from Lynn Boylan.
Separately Midlands-North-West constituency EU election candidate, Senator Ronan Mullen, has welcomed the appointment of a new Irish ambassador to the Holy See.
However, he cautioned voters that the Government is expecting some kind of ‘political reward’ for its decision to reopen the embassy.
“Whilst the new appointment is to be welcomed, it is an acknowledgement that what the Government did, in closing the embassy to the Holy See, was very wrong from a diplomatic point of view and was petty politics.”
“It certainly had nothing to do with economic considerations. The Government has now come back, in the run-up to the local and European elections, in order to win back the many voters who were appalled at the poor decision to cut diplomatic ties with the Vatican,” Senator Mullen said.
He added that the closure of the embassy had annoyed “a considerable section” of the community.