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Blue-sash elitism.

By Lynn Boylan, MEP.

I am just over four months into my new role as a Member of the European Parliament and beginning to settle in, though I’m shocked by some of the sense of entitlement around here.
Sinn Féin is a member of the GUE/NGL Group which is a confederate group committed to a more socially equitable and peaceful Europe.
Sinn Féin’s track record in GUE/NGL was helpful in securing committee positions for me in the Parliament and it also ensured that all four Sinn Féin MEP’s secured our preferred ten Parliament Committees. The fact that Sinn Féin can now cover such a broad range of issues will be of huge benefit to Ireland.
I had set out my priorities during the election as being employment and workers’ rights. Given the growing inequalities in Ireland and the driving down of workers’ conditions and rights, it was imperative that Ireland have a left MEP on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. I am a member of the working group for the European Globalisation Fund through this Committee. The fund is to help redundant workers. It has been controversial in Ireland due to the Government’s mismanagement of monies allocated. The most infamous case was the Dell Workers in Limerick, where 40% of the funds allocated to support them getting back to work were returned due to mismanagement.
This cannot be allowed to happen again. I will be monitoring Irish applications coming through the committee for approval.  Even in the short time I have been on this working group it is clear that some countries are accessing the fund far more than Ireland. They include countries that were not as hard hit by the economic crisis.
I have participated in a Youth Panel Discussion organised by the Europe Youth Forum. I put forward a strong argument for the need to revisit the Youth Guarantee and to ensure that it is adequately funded, has real achievable goals and is not just a box-ticking exercise.
I met Jonathon Taylor, Vice President of the European Investment Bank in July.  I was interested to know as to why Ireland has such a poor record on drawing down EIB funds which could be used to invest in jobs. I also intend to discuss the possibility of the periphery countries getting the funds on a 75/25 ratio rather than the current 50/50 ratio
My background as an ecologist, and the six years that I spent on the Board of Safefood, have been a real bonus for my work on the Environment and Public Health Committee. I am currently working on two reports.
The first report concerns genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and a Member State’s ability to ban them.
I hope to ensure that any regulations introduced will be robust and will stand up to legal challenges from industry. The regulations must provide for long-term studies of GMO crops that will not only look at health risks but will also take into account possible impacts on biodiversity.
The second report concerns the increasingly widesepread use of nano-technology in food – which is becoming increasingly widespread.
In both of these reports the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) is central. Yet there are concerns as to how independent the EFSA is. A recent Eurobarometer poll showed that 41% of the public distrusts scientists because of their links to industry.  Measures must be put in place to restore public confidence in this key body. I have drawn the incoming Commissioner’s attention to this.
Unlike the adversarial nature of the Dáil, the work of an MEP is carried out in Committees and through winning support for proposed amendments to legislation. I look forward to putting my negotiation skills to the test.
On a more personal note, in terms of the institution itself and my first impressions I have to admit to being taken aback by the trappings of elitism there is around MEPs.  The recent recommendation for MEPs to wear a blue sash with gold tassels during plenary is laughable and, as someone who believes in equality for all, the notion of an MEP being ‘entitled’ to skip the queue in the coffee dock is obscene.  One would have to question how desperate you have to be for a coffee that you would use the ‘’Do you know who I am?” line. The separate blue-carpeted runway entrance for MEPs is equally offputting and I am firmly of the opinion that the entrance that is good enough for my assistant is certainly good enough for me.
It is far from blue carpet runways and blue sashes with gold tassels that I was reared.•