Representing Ireland

Representing Ireland

This week I am in Strasbourg as leader of an eight member Irish Delegation of TDs and Senators to the Council Of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. We are attending one of the four annual Plenary Sessions attended by the forty seven member countries across Europe. Our Irish delegation is very committed hard working and effective. We take part in the full Assembly and its committees.

Seventy years ago in 1949 the Council Of Europe was founded to provide a forum for dialogue and peaceful cooperation after the horrors of World War 2. It is a very big part of the reason we have so far avoided a Third World War. It’s mission was and is to promote democracy the rule of law and human rights. It was followed in 1950 by the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community effectively a free trade zone between France and Germany. Both organisations sett the scene for t EEC in 1957 now the EU. The big names that inspired European cooperation were Churchill Adenauer Schuman Spark de Gasperi and Bevin. Ireland played a very big part in the founding years of the Council Of Europe through Frank Aiken and Sean Mc Bride. Since then we have been at its forefront. It is interesting that all the structures of the EU are copies of those of the Council Of Europe. The Council Of Europe has very strong links with the EU receiving part of its budget from there. The Council Of Europe has a Parliamentary Assembly and a Council Of Ministers.

The European Court Of Human Rights is a centerpiece of the Council Of Europe and has jurisdiction in all member states protecting the rights of citizens. It’s ruling enforce human rights. The Council Of Europe engages in a Monitoring Process of fledgling developing democracies. I alongside a German colleague act as country monitors for Albania. We also monitor elections in these countries. The Commissioner for Human Rights does a country report sequentially on each country which brings about much needed change for vulnerable groups. Gender Equality,Children’s Rights , Rights Of LGBTQI people,Rights Of Persons With Disabilities, and Minorities are protected. The Council Of Europe Development Bank promotes social projects and social cohesion. Ireland has benefited from this finance and will into the future. The Council Of Europe also establishes the rights of people through a series of conventions which member states sign up to and implement.

The Social Affairs Health and Sustainable Development Committee considers issues relating to social rights and policies, public health, sustainable development, economic cooperation and development, local and regional democracy and good governance in these fields having regard to the more vulnerable groups in society. I am one of its eighty one members. It has four sub committees on the European Social Charter, Children, Public Health and Sustainable Development, and the Europe Prize. I have the honour of chairing the sub committee on Public Health and Sustainable Development. I am also a member of the Monitoring Committee which supervises and encourages the promotion of democracy and democratic values.

With Brexit still looming the Council Of Europe will be the only international body where we will sit with our UK Parliamentary Colleagues, That will be very strategically important. We have been working very hard on this and on my initiative in collaboration with our outstanding Irish Ambasador we have had informal get togethers with the UK delegation. As Ireland sought the support the support of Europe on Brexit we never missed an opportunity to formally and informally brief colleagues on how Brexit threatens Irish interests, the Good Friday Agreement, and very specifically counties like Cavan and Monaghan. All of this helped.

It is vital that Ireland go on being at the Centre of this Europe wide body representing eight hundred million people.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website