McGuinness will campaign for Mitchell’s presidency bid

Defeated presidential hopeful and Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness has offered her full support to colleague Gay Mitchell after he was nominated as the Fine Gael candidate in the race for Áras an Uachtaráin.

Defeated presidential hopeful and Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness has offered her full support to colleague Gay Mitchell after he was nominated as the Fine Gael candidate in the race for Áras an Uachtaráin.

Ever gracious in defeat, Ms McGuinness praised Mr Mitchell’s “great result” and said she was “delighted for Gay, a good friend of mine”. “I wish him well and will be canvassing and campaigning for him,” she added.

Asked to comment as to why Mr Mitchell had received 54 per cent of the Fine Gael vote compared to her 46 per cent, Ms McGuinness said suggestions had been made that she was “too young, that I was good at what I do.” The other failed candidate former, European Parliament President Pat Cox who was eliminated on the first count, has also pledged to back Mr Mitchell’s campaign.

Meanwhile, current President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek declined to comment on the nomination of Gay Mitchell, an MEP from his own political EPP group, to contest the Irish presidential elections in October. Speaking to journalists in Drogheda during his official visit to this country, Mr Buzek said, “I’m representing my colleagues from the European Parliament, and this will be the decision of the Irish people. So you must ask your own Irish MEPs about this sort of thing, but not myself,” he laughed.

Peace fund will be renewed

The European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has expressed confidence that funding for the EU’s Peace and Reconciliation Programme will be continued beyond 2013.

The programme has supported peace projects north and south of the border since the 1994 ceasefires, but is due to expire in two years’ time. However speaking at the Battle of the Boyne site in Drogheda on the eve of the 12th July Orange Order Parades in the North, President Buzek said funding should be provided to extend the current PEACE III programme, which is worth €333 million for the period 2007-2013.

“I am quite sure a budget for the project will be included in the next European financial framework; it’s absolutely necessary,” said the senior statesman, who met with cross-community peace workers during his two-day Irish visit.

Irish MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher, who was among those welcoming President Buzek to Drogheda earlier this week, said he was heartened by the comments indicating a continuation of funding. “This is vitally important as a lot of unfinished work remains to be done in Northern Ireland and the border county region. The EU Peace Programme has contributed immensely to community development and social inclusion both north and south,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP.

Irish fishing quotas for sale to the highest bidder

An EU proposal to allow member states buy and sell fishing rights could spell the end of the Irish family-owned fishing fleet, it was claimed this week. The controversial plan, part of a major reform package put forward by EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, has been roundly condemned by fishing groups and politicians in Ireland and France.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen warned that the mandatory privatisation of fishing quotas would “benefit those with the most capital,” while Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney said the system would lead to Irish quotas “being bought up by European international companies,” leaving the country with potentially no control of its own fish stocks.

Northwest MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher dismissed the idea as a “trendy solution (…) drawn up to suit the menu of celebrity chefs in their comfortable Chelsea restaurants, far removed from the realities faced by fishermen and coastal communities.”

Mr Gallagher, a member of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee, has vowed to seek to change several of the measures proposed, including the mandatory privatisation of fishing quotas. As it stands, the rule will apply to all vessels over 12 metres in length. The Fianna Fáil MEP will lobby for this provision to be changed to exempt all vessels under 15 metres, meaning 80 per cent of the Irish would be exempted.

The fishing reforms will now be debated and amended by all member states before the due implementation date of January 1, 2013.

Recommended airport scanners “will not show human body”

New generation body scanners recommended by the European Parliament will not display the human body but will simply indicate when the passenger is carrying something dangerous, it was claimed last week. Passengers should also be given the right to refuse this type of scanning as long as they are prepared to undergo other security checks, according to a resolution agreed by MEPs in Strasbourg.

The report, which will be passed on to the European Commission as a series of recommendations, marks a turnaround from the Parliament’s previous rejection of the use of body scanners in 2008 due to concerns about passenger privacy and potentially cancer-causing radiation.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Irish MEP Jim Higgins said the evolution of scanner technology has overcome doubts about both privacy issues and the risk to human health from the frequent exposure to X ray technology.

“Frequent flyers like myself might pass through airport security as many as 45 times a year. We have recommended the lowest possible levels of ionising radiation in body scanners, with a maximum threshold of two percent of a normal X ray,” said the Fine Gael MEP.

The report lays down other conditions for the use of body scanners, including the requirement that all images must be immediately destroyed, and that any profiling based on sex or ethnicity must be prohibited.

MEPs will now intensify pressure on the Commission to adopt body scanners throughout all European airports, claiming they will boost security and speed up passenger transit through airports.