Childers continues her father’s work on epilepsy

IRELAND East MEP Nessa Childers is carrying on a commitment made by her late father by supporting an EU campaign to improve treatment for people who suffer from epilepsy.

IRELAND East MEP Nessa Childers is carrying on a commitment made by her late father by supporting an EU campaign to improve treatment for people who suffer from epilepsy.

Former President and Minister Erskine Childers, who died in 1974, was the first Irish Minister for Health to organise a fund for social workers to help epileptics. Speaking from Brussels this week, Nessa Childers explained why she wanted to back a current MEP petition calling for more research into the common brain disorder that affects six million Europeans.

“When I was growing up we had a relative who was very seriously epileptic, and I have attended several meetings of the European Epileptic Association. There is still a certain amount of misunderstanding and stigma associated with epilepsy, and we need to boost funding in order to bring this condition out of the shadows and coordinate our research internationally,” said the Labour MEP.

Ms Childers has been encouraging her MEP colleagues to add their names to the Written Declaration on Epilepsy, which needs a total of 369 MEP signatures by September if the document is to be considered by the European Parliament.

So far, all 11 Irish MEPs have signed the document, making Ireland the first member state to achieve 100 per cent support from its MEPs. The declaration meets the target and is ratified, it will act as a useful tool for service providers when lobbying for research and improved treatment.

Irish farmers disappointed

THE European Commission’s long-awaited proposed farming budget for the years 2014 to 2020 has been published to a “cautious reaction” from Irish farmers, MEPs and government spokespeople, probably because the full implications of this complex document will take months to calculate.

The EU’s plan to freeze the current level of spending under the Common Agricultural Policy for the next seven years had been largely expected, however this decision will be off-set by other provisions, including a 5 per cent increase in headline spending. It’s estimated that member states could take up to two years to reach agreement on the revised CAP budget, but Irish farmers have already made it clear which aspects of the plan they want to change.

Leinster MEP Liam Aylward, who will be lobbying the Commission on behalf of Irish farmers, welcomed the continued commitment to Rural Development, as this budget had been under threat. He also encouraged the Irish food industry to capitalise on an announcement by EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn that €4.5 million will be ring-fenced for agricultural research. Reacting to the decision to make 30 per cent of direct payments conditional on farmers implementing “greening” measures, Mr Aylward warned that this should not result in another layer of red tape for Irish farmers. However he said the “strong environmental ethos” of Irish farmers will mean that they may already meet the required “green” conditions.

EU transparency register

THE Council of Ministers, which represents the interests of the EU’s 27 member states, has said it will consider a proposal to sign up to a new online transparency register for lobbyists seeking to influence European policy making.

Up until now, lobbying activity by industry representatives, NGOs, trade unions, research institutes and other interest groups has been subject to two separate voluntary registers operated by the European Commission and the European Parliament. The new single register launched this week is jointly operated by the two institutions and provides more information than its predecessors, including details of any funding received by lobbyists. Registration is voluntary, but any lobbyists who wants to enter the premises of the European Parliament will have to sign up.

The new register is being hailed as a major step forward for transparency, providing a one-stop shop for both MEPs and citizens to know who is taking an interest in European decisions. However concerns have been raised that a significant number of groups have been under-reporting their expenditure by millions on the previous transparency registers.

EU rules needed to stop ‘legal highs’

A SPECIAL hearing of EU policy makers, MEPs and scientists in Brussels has recommended new EU-wide regulations to prohibit the sale and supply of psychoactive substances in all member states.

A range of stimulant drugs and synthetic cannabis products or “legal highs” have already been banned in Ireland and Poland, but they remain widely available online or in specialised “head shops” in neighbouring member states. New versions of the drugs are being created constantly using slightly different ingredients and names to circumvent national laws, as noted in a recent joint report by Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The report said legal highs, some of which imitate the effects of ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine or ketamine, are being marketed variously as “plant food”, “bath salts” or “room odouriser” and are often labelled “not for human consumption”.

The hearing in Brussels organised by MEPs examined possible measures for a uniform solution to limit access to these increasingly popular drugs which have been linked to addiction, hospitalisation and even death.

Speaking after the hearing, Irish MEP Sean Kelly called for an effective EU policy to protect citizens, especially young people, from the risks of psychoactive substances. “Clamping down on head shops in Ireland will not solve the problem entirely when they can be brought online, so we need a coordinated European response and an EU-wide legal instrument to truly address this issue,” said Mr Kelly.