Name: Mairead McGuinness
European Constituency: Midlands-North-West
Preferred pronouns: She/Her
Party: Fine Gael
Have you held a previous elected position?
I have been an MEP since 2004. I am the First Vice-President of the European Parliament having been elected into the role in January 2017 and have been a Vice-President of the European Parliament since 2014.
What are your reasons for running?
The focus of my work has always been for and about people, and I hope that my work to date on issues such as Brexit, agriculture, patient safety and disability is having a direct and indirect impact on the lives of the people I represent.
With the uncertainty of Brexit and in discussions on the future shape of the EU, we need strong, calm and reasoned voices in the European Parliament.
What parliamentary group will you sit with in the EP and why?
I sit with the EPP Group. Fine Gael is aligned to the EPP Group and share a long history. The EPP Group is strongly pro-European, working for a united Europe while respecting national and regional identities. The EPP Group wants a Europe that leaves no one behind and regulates effectively, without excessive red tape for small businesses. The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament representing all 28 member states. As the largest grouping the EPP carries considerable political weight and as a result plays a greater role in decision-making in the Parliament.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing young people in Ireland and what do you intend to do about them?
Brexit has been a topic of concern when I’ve met with youth groups – they’re worried about the impact on education, healthcare, child protection and just everyday life in the border region. I’ve helped some cross-border youth groups come to Brussels to make sure their concerns are heard in the negotiations. So many young people didn’t have a say in the referendum – either too young to vote or from the other side of the border. But they are the ones who will have to live with the decision longest. Thankfully they’ve never known anything but peace – we need to make sure this doesn’t change and recent events especially in Derry remind us of the urgency of maintaining the Good Friday Agreement for future generations.
Young people are actively engaged in social media platforms – with this comes immense pressure. I am concerned about how this pressure impacts their mental health. I’ve engaged with schools who are implementing a digital detox in cooperation with students and their parents and the results are significant when it comes to well being of young people.
Climate change is on the agenda and young people are leading the way through demonstrations and climate strikes throughout the EU. I’ve been on the Environment Committee for the past 10 years and will continue to work for ambitious climate action and a just transition if I am re-elected. I think we need to have conversations in every house and community about what we all must do as individuals and collectively to tackle climate change. We can only make progress if we work together and if the transition away from fossil fuels is fair to all, especially vulnerable groups.
In Ireland with our recovery we have almost full employment. More and more people are now looking at quality of life issues when it comes to what jobs they take up and where they work. Long distance commutes into Dublin or big centres are not sustainable.
Young people starting out may opt for internships which sometimes do not pay – this is unacceptable.
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?
I do a lot of work with young people and youth organisations – from visiting schools, to working with youth organisations like Foróige – and I am very familiar with the fantastic work that our youth organisations do in local communities.
Programmes like Erasmus, Erasmus+ and Discover EU are really important in giving young people opportunities to travel and study in the EU.
The European Parliament has voted – which I supported – to triple Erasmus funding for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework, including measures to reach out to those previously underrepresented in the programme, including people with disabilities and those from varied socio-economic backgrounds, with more support for vocational training. This is important so young people from all backgrounds can benefit from funding, not only those who attend university. The final amount of funding for this programme will be negotiated after the elections – I will strongly support maintaining the Parliament’s position.
Youth unemployment continues to be a problem in many member states but thankfully numbers are falling. Initiatives like the Youth Guarantee Scheme and the Youth Employment Initiative have helped in bringing youth unemployment figures down and should continue to be supported.
I have also been outspoken in supporting generational renewal in farming and making sure there are supports in place to get and keep young people in farming.
In the next Parliament, I will use my voice to ensure that programmes aimed at giving opportunities to young people are properly funded and resourced.
Any other comments?
I was instrumental in bringing the European Parliament Ambassador School Programme to secondary schools across Ireland.
I led the European Youth Event (EYE) held in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2016, and have been actively involved in the event since.
I visit lots of schools – both primary and secondary – so that children and young people can ask me questions about my work. I also learn a lot from just listening.