Attendance rate of Irish MEPs down and fewer questions asked
Number of speeches made at European Parliament also falls, research reveals
The European Parliament in Brussels: Ireland’s 12 MEPs had on average an 83 per cent attendance rate at European Parliament plenary sessions, a drop of 2 per cent from 2011, which places Ireland 19th out of the 27 EU countries, a report by the European Movement Ireland shows.
Irish MEPs attended the European Parliament on average less last year than they did in 2011, made far fewer speeches and submitted fewer parliamentary questions, a report published today shows.
While there has been an increase in the attendance of Irish Ministers at EU meetings, the Minister with one of the poorest attendances was Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the economic and finance council meetings, where important policy on the euro zone crisis is formulated.
Ireland’s 12 MEPs had on average an 83 per cent attendance rate at European Parliament plenary sessions, a drop of 2 per cent from 2011, which places Ireland 19th out of the 27 EU countries, a report by the European Movement Ireland shows.
Between 2011 and 2012, there was a 50 per cent drop in the number of speeches they made, down to 365 speeches last year.
They asked 455 questions, which is a drop of a third since 2011 and less than half the number of questions asked two years ago. The number of questions asked in 2012 works out at an average of 38 questions per MEP – in the Dáil there is an average of 268 questions asked per TD.
The report does not detail the activity of individual Irish MEPs but an EU-wide website votewatch.eu has this information. It shows Fianna Fáil’s Brian Crowley had the lowest electronic voting record in plenary sessions – the most reliable indicator of participation – at just over 20 per cent.
However this was down to his hospitalisation for over a year for treatment for leg wounds. “The only treatment for it was to lie in bed but my office was working away on my behalf during the time,” he said yesterday.
Labour MEP Phil Prendergast had a 72.6 per cent voting record, according to votewatch.eu. Ms Prendergast said yesterday two close family deaths last year meant she had to miss two plenary sessions out of 12.
The European Movement’s annual report measures the level of engagement between Ireland and the EU.
Executive director of the European Movement Ireland Noelle O’Connell said “room for improvement still remains in many of the ways in which Irish representatives work with Europe”.
Irish Ministers fared better in their level of engagement with the EU. An increase of 11 per cent attendance at EU meetings was registered, bringing Irish ministerial attendance up to 97 per cent.
But Irish ministerial attendance rate at the all-important economic and financial affairs council meeting was 92 per cent, with Mr Noonan attending 75 per cent of the meetings. Brian Hayes, Minister of State for Finance, attended 17 per cent of these meetings.
The economic and financial affairs council meets on Tuesdays when the Cabinet meets. The meetings are preceded on Monday evenings by the eurogroup meeting of euro zone states.
Of the 74 EU ministerial meetings held in 2012, Ministers briefed the relevant Oireachtas committees before 25 of the meetings. Only on two occasions did the Minister for Finance brief the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform ahead of EU meetings held by the economic and financial affairs council out of a total of 12 meetings.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar briefed the Oireachtas transport committee on just one occasion out of seven EU meetings.