The second of the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament’s Dublin meetings with European Election candidates took place on the afternoon of 21 May 2009 in EPIC in the European Parliament office in Molesworth Street. The afternoon meeting was attended by four European Candidates: Deirdre de Búrca (Green Party), Proinsias de Rossa (Labour), Caroline Simons (Libertas), and Eibhlín Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin (Fianna Fáil).
Deirdre de Búrca spoke about intergenerational solidarity, the Lisbon Strategy, the needs of older people, neutrality & retaining a commissioner. She stressed the importance of the Charter of Fundamental Rights stating that it a very important guiding document & that Article 21 bans discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of age.
Prionsias de Rossa MEP spoke about the social, economic and environmental crises all coming together and the need to deal with them all together. Asking what Europe can do to help, he said that the EU had put together a “Recovery Programme” worth €30 billion using the European Investment Bank. Matching funds have to be found on the Irish side – the Government has failed to ensure that this happens. He supports the Lisbon Treaty, stating that it provides for greater democracy, and legally binds the charter for human rights. “There is nothing un-democratic about voting again: we re-elect our public representatives.”
Caroline Simons spoke about some of the issues affecting older people such as the reduction in pensions & savings in the form of shares, the loss of Medical Cards and the Hanley report closing local hospitals. She opposed the practice of moving the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg regularly. She was happy with the result of the Lisbon Referendum & that there should not be a second vote – “No means No”. She stressed the value of volunteerism & carers. She said that she thought “Prionsias was in Europe too long”.
Eibhlín Byrne started by saying she did not think “Prionsias was in Europe too long”. She had been chair of the Council for Ageing and Older People, which has produced some very good research. She spoke about issues affecting older people, saying that in her time on Dublin City Council, she has tried to ensure these issues are heard. She initiated a review of older people living in bed sits in Dublin and has tried to improve the heating of people’s homes. She believes we do need to re-visit the Lisbon Treaty decision.
The meeting provided an opportunity to engage with the candidates on issues that affect the elderly. Topics covered included:
- Should the Lisbon Treaty referendum be re-run?
- The use of social exclusion as a weapon against older people. It is on the increase with information technology excluding us, for example many people will now be excluded from traveling due to online check-in systems.
- The responsibility of the European Parliament for this recession: why did they not monitor what was going on? What was the role of the Court of Auditors in all this?
- More communication is required between Europe and Ireland e.g. a newsletter left in our libraries to let us know what is happening. The challenge is to tell people about European directives etc. in an interesting manner.
- Was the comment about “Prionsias being in Europe too long” ageist?
- Lack of social housing in some city centre areas.
- The importance of Pensions older people – €300 a week now seems to be a long way away.
- Loneliness is a problem for pensioners: this can be alleviated with a decent income as they could go to the pub or to the cinema and socialize.
The meetings were chaired by Sylvia Meehan President of the ISCP. Also in attendance were Máiréad Hayes, CEO, and Lauren Quinn Taylor, Policy Officer of the ISCP, along with representatives of the Parliament’s member organisations.
Another four Euro candidates had attended the ISCP morning meeting. Apologies were received from Eoin Ryan MEP. The meeting was preceded by a small silent protest at the gates of Dáil Éireann as part of its ongoing campaign to reverse the Christmas cutback to pensions
The day closed with a vote of thanks to all the candidates from the President of the ISCP Sylvia Meehan. She said that the ISCP is a non-party political organisation and hoped everyone would use their vote as they saw fit.