European Parliament has no power to sanction absent MEPs

Brian Crowley has not attended parliament since re-election in 2014 due to ill health

Brian Crowley: His MEP substitute Kieran Hartley has called on  Micheál Martin to take action on his absenteeism. Photograph:  Mark Kelleher

Brian Crowley: His MEP substitute Kieran Hartley has called on Micheál Martin to take action on his absenteeism. Photograph: Mark Kelleher

 

The European Parliament has no powers to take any action against an MEP who does not attend its sittings, a spokeswoman has said.

On Thursday The Irish Times reported that the Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley has not attended the parliament since his re-election in 2014 due to ill health.

His MEP substitute Kieran Hartley has called on the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to take action on Mr Crowley’s situation.

“Three years of absenteeism from the parliament is a very long time,” Mr Hartley told RTÉ on Thursday. “Our vote is not being counted.”

Mr Hartley said it was a “leadership issue” for Fianna Fáil to deal with. However, senior Fianna Fáil sources say they are powerless to take any action against Mr Crowley. It is known that relations between Mr Crowley and Mr Martin have been cool for some time. Mr Crowley refused to join the group of liberals in the parliament that Fianna Fáil joined in 2014, and is instead part of the conservatives and reformists group. As such, he is not a member of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, although he remains a member of the party.

A spokeswoman for the European Parliament in Dublin yesterday said that “legally there is nothing that can be done if the member does not step down”. A substitute takes over only when an MEP voluntarily and permanently steps down and informs the parliament, she said.

Mr Crowley has been ill for some time and is currently in hospital. His office says he will issue a statement and answer questions when he is discharged from hospital, although a spokesman was unable to say when this would be.

He has not attended the parliament at all since 2014, and The Irish Times understands that Mr Crowley was also absent for long periods before that due to ill health.

Mr Crowley’s fellow Irish MEPs were reluctant to speak on the subject but one said that Mr Crowley’s office had “no links whatsoever” with the other MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry, John Brassil, has criticised the “insensitive and inappropriate” complaint about Mr Crowley’s non-attendance at the parliament.

“To me, Brian making a full recovery is the most important thing.”

Mr Crowley’s offices were open and providing as good a service as they could, the Kerry TD said.

Going to a national newspaper (The Irish Times) or going to Fianna Fáil headquarters and making a complaint was “insensitive and . . . inappropriate”, Mr Brassil said on Radio Kerry.