Last year An Taoiseach gave me the great privilege and honour of leading the Irish Delegation to the Council of Europe. That honour is all the more pronounced considering the very high quality Parliamentary Delegation that represents our Country. They include Senator Terry Leyden, (by now, Deputy Leader), Senator Deidre Clune, Senator Kathryn Reilly, Deputies John Paul Phelan, Terence Flanagan, Maureen O’Sullivan and Michael McNamara. They are a very able and dedicated team and have high profiles within their own Political Groupings. They Council of Europe celebrated its sixtieth birthday last year. It was established in the aftermath of the worldwide carnage that was World War II and the Holocaust. Currently it has forty-seven Member States incorporating every ideology culture and nationally on the Continent of Europe. Its mission statement is to upheld Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
Over the years the role of the Council of Europe has expanded as it grew and developed within its original mandate. The Social, Health and Economic Committee, on which I have the honour to serve, deals with everything from Climate Change to Food Security. It makes recommendations and reports to plenary sessions and to the Committee of Ministers representing Member States. The Irish voice is so important here. At the last plenary session of the Parliament, Deputy John Paul Phelan and myself made a spirited defence of our Irish Government on the position of the Financial Transaction Tax in the face of virulent opposition.
During the sessions we form friendships with influential politicians from other countries. I am active in the E.P.P., which is the largest grouping and have the honour of being an E.P.P. Vice President there. My colleague, Minister Lucinda Creighton is first Vice President of the E.P.P. at European level. She has replaced An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD in the role. She will be able to yield real influence for Ireland. Through involvement in the E.P.P. at Council of Europe level we were able to assist Minister Creighton’s election to the advantage of Ireland Inc. My colleague, Terence Flannagan TD, travelled to the Europe wide E.P.P. conference to vote for and canvas for Minister Cerighton. I was in direct contact with each of our Council of Europe colleagues. Apart from this recent, notable success we miss no opportunity to advance national interests or explain or positions to colleagues with influence in their respective countries. I know that members of the Irish delegation who are members of other political groupings do the same within their groups and do it very effectively. We have a very high participation rate at the Council of Europe plenary sessions.
Last time, just a few weeks ago, all our members spoke at least once and in a number of cases more than once on really pertinent issues. We are conscious of the image of our country being at stake and our duty to enhance it at every opportunity. I am really proud of the job we are doing and honoured to be part of it.