Name: Andrew Doyle
European Constituency: South
Preferred pronouns: Did not answer
Party: Fine Gael
Have you held a previous elected position?
I am currently the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, with responsibility for Food, Forestry and Horticulture. In addition to my current Ministerial role, I have spent 20 years as a public representative, serving at every level from constituency chair to County Councillor, Chairman of Wicklow County Council, as a TD and as Chair of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee. I was first elected a TD in 2007, and topped the poll in 2011 in Wicklow, before being re-elected for a third term in 2016. I have served on two Oireachtas Committees.
What are your reasons for running?
Europe is changing, so it’s absolutely essential Ireland remains at the heart of the European Union. Experience will matter when dealing with the main challenges awaiting the incoming parliament – Brexit, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and climate change are of critical importance to Ireland and our future prosperity.
I already work on a daily basis on issues relevant to this constituency including agri-food, fisheries, marine, tourism and business. I have been involved in EU negotiations on all these topics and I have led trade missions in Europe and further afield. I have the experience and the track record and I believe I will be able to make a difference
What parliamentary group will you sit with in the EP and why?
Fine Gael is a member of the European People’s Party, currently the biggest political party in Europe.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing young people in Ireland and what do you intend to do about them?
For me, cyberbullying is an area of huge concern and we are not where we need to be in recognising the signs that it’s occurring and how to tackle it.
We are the first generation of parents and educators who are learning to live with social networks but we have not grown up with them, so interaction for most parents and teachers tend not to come as second nature to us.
While cyberbullying also affects adults, it occurs at an alarming rate among children and young people. Cyberbullying can take various forms, such as insults, threats and intimidation, gossip, exclusion, stalking or identity theft. The internet offers anonymity and a sense of impunity to perpetrators, and aggravates the victimisation, as the harmful content is spread instantly to a far wider audience.
I was Chairman of the Eastern Health Board a number of years ago and it was apparent to me even then that Ireland had a huge problem with mental health. While the light that’s being shone on our struggles and relationships with mental health is a hugely positive step in the right direction, I do worry about our younger generations and this whole new world of social media exposure that poses significant safety risks.
Parents, as first educators of their children, have to equally apply this role in connection to social networks and the Internet as they do in all other aspects of their children’s lives, and more needs to be done to ensure all adults can impart lessons on cyber-safety to our young people.
There is no specific EU law on cyberbullying but some aspects are covered, for instance expressions of racism or xenophobia or sexual harassment of a victim under 18. Obviously, parents need assistance and support to help protect children and young people from cyber-bullying. I would like to see more training in this area for parents and teachers. We need more investment from the EU and its member states in education and information/prevention campaigns around internet safety and cyber bullying.
What will you do to ensure funding for opportunities for young people (e.g. Erasmus & Youth Employment Initiative) is increased in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework?
As well as working to increase funding, I will also be working to promote awareness of the range funding already available. More work needs to be done to ensure that the right people know that extensive funding is available for a range of areas.
Just one example, for instance, is that young farmers are now in a position to benefit from a new loan programme which is a joint venture between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission.
This €1 billion package is part of a joint ‘Young Farmers’ initiative’ that aims to bring together existing European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development EAFRD) support and the financial means and expertise of the EIB.
The agricultural sector is the backbone of the Irish economy and has a proven track record in producing healthy food. As we face additional challenges with meeting climate change targets, this new fund is to be welcomed as a potential lifeline to our young farmers embarking on what we hope are lengthy careers in farming.
In addition, this programme loan will also support growth and competitiveness in the agriculture/bioeconomy sector, by preserving and creating employment in our rural and coastal regions.
Any other comments?
Just a reminder of what my five key principles are for this campaign:
1. Giving Leinster an experienced voice in Europe
With Brexit negotiations ongoing and the outcome from the deal still unknown, skilled negotiators are required at the decision-making committees in the European Parliament. In addition to leading trade missions internationally, I have represented and defended Ireland’s interests at Council of Ministers meetings, particularly with regard to agriculture and fisheries matters – this expertise and familiarity with the processes within the European Parliament will enable me to hit the ground running, if elected.
2. Getting serious on Climate Action
Our reputation as a green and clean producer of food in Europe is solid, but more needs to be done to further improve our climate friendly food production industry, as well as reducing food waste and our food’s carbon footprint.
3. Protecting Farmers, CAP and the Agri-Food and Drink sector
As a farmer, I understands the value of CAP and will work to ensure existing CAP levels are retained. Our food and drink industry employs 173,000 people – this must be nurtured and invested in. Investing in our young farmers through further education, training and innovation is a priority as is rolling out rural regeneration throughout the region of Leinster.
4. Brexit and Our Business
Producers are fearful of potential tariffs and charges as a result of Brexit. I have already secured a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen and SME’s in the face of additional costs associated with Brexit. SMEs have long-standing issues with the out-dated administration procedures at EU level. The introduction of more digital tools can and should be introduced to enhance operations.
5. Supporting EU Overseas Development Aid
The EU is collectively the biggest donor for international aid in the world, providing over €50 billion a year to help overcoming poverty and advance global development. This level must be maintained, particularly as the UK will now not be contributing to this fund. Ireland has been invited by the United Nations to take a leadership role in delivering the ‘Great Green Wall’, a project to plant a million trees as part of the re-greening of one of Africa’s most parched regions. A €1.2 million Government investment is expected to kick start this and I absolutely support this project.