McGuinness eyes another bid for top job in parliament
The EU Parliament wound up its current term in office last week by backing voter-friendly moves to improve food quality and pesticide approvals. But the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) still hangs in the balance.
A recent series of CAP votes in the agriculture committee has yet to get the green light from the full Parliament, which will fall to the new MEPs who take their seats in early July.
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Ireland's outgoing agriculture MEPs - Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness, Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy and independent Luke 'Ming' Flanagan - are all vying for re-election in the Midlands North-West constituency.
Ms McGuinness is also throwing her hat into the ring for Parliament president, after losing out to Italy's Antonio Tajani in 2017. "God only knows" what her chances are, said her party colleague, Seán Kelly, who added that "she will be in the mix".
If he is re-elected, Mr Carthy told the Farming Independent he is "willing to return" to the agriculture committee to "fight Ireland's corner" on the CAP. He said the EU needs to be "radically reformed", and he is opposing a spending boost for defence alongside cuts to the CAP. "This is not the direction Europe should be going in."
He also said Brexit is playing into the vote but that "lots of people are just fed up by it. It has been played out." However, he hopes the new Parliament will advocate for Irish unity, and that many of his colleagues in Brussels have told him privately that the idea "makes sense".
In a documentary called 'Taking the Job Seriously', Mr Flanagan highlighted his voting and attendance record in Parliament, and called for "full convergence" of CAP payments.
But the make-up of the new agriculture committee - and Ms McGuinness's chances at Parliament's top job - will depend on how political groups are formed after the May election.
In their last session before the European elections in May, MEPs also heard from 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who implored them to do more to lower carbon emissions.
Fine Gael's Seán Kelly, who sits on the parliament's environment committee (and is also running for re-election), has welcomed recent climate protests inspired by Ms Thunberg, and said that Irish adults are "listening" to the concerns being raised by activists.
The South MEP also put in a good word for his party colleague, EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan, who will face a different kind of re-election in November, when the new Commission takes office.
He has done "a good job on agriculture, and trade is a kind of parallel role", Mr Kelly told the Farming Independent.
"Some candidates stand out as suitable for a particular role and at this time Phil Hogan stands out as a suitable candidate for trade," he said.
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