The Irish electorate and MEPs

Response from two elected members of the European Parliament to Stephen Collins’s Opinion piece

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – In his article “Electing ‘characters’ as MEPs could harm our country”, published on Friday, April 19th, Stephen Collins yet again patronises the Irish electorate.

The thrust of the piece seems to be that the electorate should be cautious of electing “characters” who don’t take their jobs in the European Parliament seriously. Ireland needs serious politicians, presumably kitted out in the obligatory suits. “Mavericks” endowed with the undesirable quality of a capacity for independent and critical thought are prima facie unserious, a waste of a good vote.

So are we nothing more than “characters”? Empty shells, all surface, no substance other than reactionary Euroscepticism, whatever that is?

The record tells quite a different story, and shows that we take our roles as public representatives in the European Parliament very seriously.


Indeed, the parliament’s own records show that we are the most engaged with the work here. MEPs appointed to lead negotiations for their group on laws and resolutions are known as “Shadows” in European Parliament parlance.

Clare (Daly) has acted as negotiator on more files than any other Irish MEP, working on 115 files. She has tabled more parliamentary amendments than any other Irish MEP, tabling 3,968 amendments to date. Mick (Wallace) holds the number five spot for number of amendments tabled. We hold the number one and two spots among the Irish MEPs for number of speeches in the parliament’s plenary sessions – at 599 for Mick, and 523 for Clare.

Just this week, leading environment and climate organisations, including BirdLife Europe, Climate Action Europe, European Environment Bureau, Transport and Environment and WWF, gave us the highest overall EU Parliament Scoreboard score of all the Irish political parties, based on voting records on climate, nature and pollution.

We approach our work in the European Parliament with the same seriousness as we did our work in the Dáil; it’s not a retirement home or a networking facility. It is, as Mr Collins says, “an important institution in the co-decision process which makes the rules and regulations that govern our lives”.

Mr Collins uses the labels “character” and “maverick” in the pejorative sense. His worldview is a rather peculiar one, in which independent and critical thought is a quality to be shunned, about which to feel embarrassed.

It appears Mr Collins would like the Irish electorate to send nodding donkeys to Europe. The type of politician, for example, who would support Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as president of the commission, despite her consistent, unequivocal and unconditional support for Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza, and the enormous damage that has done to what’s left of the EU’s reputation as a union of “values” and rights.

She has repeatedly acted ultra vires of her powers, engaged in unauthorised diplomacy on behalf of the EU – to howls of outrage from member state diplomats – and unilaterally participated in war propaganda spectacles for an apartheid, genocidal regime.

She has been engaged in a slow-rolling and persistent soft coup at the top of Europe for years, yet the logical conclusion of Mr Collins’s thinking is that any criticism of these actions is “Eurosceptic”. Similarly, any criticism of European initiatives and legislation that undermines civil liberties, or that privileges big business at the cost of social and economic rights, that, presumably, is “Eurosceptic” too?

It may have escaped Mr Collins’s notice, but the EU has changed, and not for the better.

Mr Collins describes the parliament’s European People’s Party (EPP), to which Fine Gael and Ursula von der Leyen both belong, as “an important group”. Mr Collins would like all Irish MEPs to join one of these “important groups”. The EPP group is certainly the largest in the parliament. However, as in any walk of life, influence can be wielded for good or for ill.

How does Mr Collins feel about the EPP’s attempt to kill the Nature Restoration Law, and its campaign of bullying and blackmail against its own members to achieve its goal?

What is Mr Collins’s view of Fine Gael, and indeed, Fianna Fáil’s awful voting record on climate and environment legislation in the European Parliament?

Mr Collins states that the Asylum and Migration Pact was “backed by the big parties in the parliament but opposed by the far right and the far left who sought to capitalise on Continent-wide fears about migration”. This is a bogglingly ill-informed take. Is the Irish Refugee Council, who called for a No vote on the pact, also “capitalis[ing] on Continent-wide fears about migration”?

We gave a quote to The Irish Times’s own European correspondent on the day of the vote explaining the reasons why we voted the way we did. We both made speeches in the European Parliament explaining the reasons why we voted against the pact. Where are The Irish Times’s editors when claims like this are made?

We are proud of the work we have done in the European Parliament over the past five years.

If re-elected in June, we intend to work just as hard, with exactly the same level of commitment to doing the job we were elected to do – of holding the powerful to account. – Yours, etc,


European Parliament.