AFTER just four months at the government helm, the honeymoon is over for Fine Gael as battle lines are drawn within the party over the contentious issue of who to nominate for the presidency.
Two sitting MEPs and one former MEP have until early July to canvass party colleagues for their vote at the selection convention, with Fine Gael newcomer Pat Cox facing a growth in support for his rivals Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness.
The ballot will be taken in secret, with seventy per cent of the vote going to TDs, senators and MEPs, 20 per cent to councillors and 10 per cent to Fine Gael’s executive council; however some observers believe rank-and-file members could be heavily influenced by the party’s top brass in their choice of candidate.Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness, the first to declare her interest in replacing President Mary McAleese in the autumn, has been outwardly gracious to both her rivals, focusing instead on the relish of the contest.
“Fine Gael will be a great battle and I’m well up for it. I have respect for the others seeking the nomination, but I know it’s a matter of persuading people within the party that I have the entire package to deliver for this country,” said the Louth native this week.
Meanwhile Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell was positively gallant towards Mairéad whom he described as a “very good friend”, refusing to accept even that he was taking her on. “We’ve had a good bit of banter about it and if Mairéad is chosen I will not only work very hard for her, I would be very happy to be her campaign manager. And I’ve no doubt that if I were to win the Fine Gael nomination, she would do the same,” he added.
Mr Mitchell’s attitude towards former European Parliament president and three-times Munster MEP Pat Cox has been markedly different however, going so far as to claim that many FG faithful would be unwilling to support Pat Cox with his mixed pedigree as a former Fianna Fáil candidate, PD and Independent.
“Fine Gael is very popular nowadays and a lot of people want to join. Pat is very welcome,” Gay told reporters in Strasbourg last week, his tone of voice suggesting otherwise. Despite the long-standing record within Fine Gael of both Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness, some within the party feel 58-year-old Pat Cox could the favoured choice of the big boss, Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
“Pat Cox has excellent connections in Europe, he would be a strong voice for Ireland in Europe at a time when we badly need that,” said one unnamed MEP.
Vote for your favourite design of €2 coin
MEMBERS of the public across the EU are being asked to vote online to choose a design for a commemorative 2-euro coin marking the tenth anniversary of the currency. The winning design will be issued as a coin in January 2012, one decade after the euro notes and coins first came into circulation within the 17 member states of the eurozone.
Hundreds of designs submitted for the competition have been whittled down to five finalists, available to view on the following website: http://www.eurocoin-competition.eu/vote
Voters have until June 24 to select their preferred coin, and the winning design will be announced at the end of the month.
The winning designer, as well as one voter, selected at random among those who voted for the favourite, will each be awarded a high-value set of euro collector coins. The creator of the winning design will also have his or her initials inserted in the minting mould for mass-producing the coins.
Source of cotton in banknotes linked to child labour
THE European Central Bank has failed to clarify whether any of the cotton used in its banknotes comes from Uzbekistan, a country which relies on child labour to support its cotton industry.
Irish MEP Liam Aylward says he has not received a satisfactory answer from the ECB on the source of material for its 100 per cent cotton banknotes, despite repeated requests for information. The Fianna Fáil MEP has been investigating claims by campaign groups that some of the cotton used in euro banknotes is harvested by Uzbek children, some of them as young as seven.
“The European Central Bank has mentioned a number of countries where it gets its cotton, and these do not include Uzbekistan. But they can’t tell me that it doesn’t come from there either. I just want to be assured that the ECB is not involved in buying cotton from a country that uses child labour,” said Mr Aylward.
The Ireland East MEP is helping to drive proposed EU legislation that would oblige anyone trading on the European market to state where their product came from and whether child labour was involved.
Speaking from Brussels, he said it’s very important that EU goods are fully traceable so that consumers aren’t buying clothes or other textiles made in third world sweat shops.
“There are 115 million children forced to work worldwide, including child soldiers, children trafficked into prostitution, forced to work down mines or in farms. We must stamp out this awful practice,” he said.