Speaking in Athy, county Kildare, at an election hustings organised by The Wheel, the Fianna Fáil MEP candidate for Midlands North West, Senator Thomas Byrne, said many people are angry about the negative role the European Union has been playing in their lives.

“Since we joined the European Union, Ireland has gained many benefits from membership and we should not overlook these. At the same time, it is fair to say that not everything Europe has done in recent years has been positive for us. There are big question marks over the role of the European Central Bank and the European Commission in allowing the banking crisis to develop in the first place, but also over their unfair and inadequate policy responses. Those policies imposed an unfair and unacceptable burden on Irish citizens, and that is continuing.

“I share the people’s anger. However, pulling out of Europe or the Euro – as Luke Ming Flanagan and Sinn Féin advocate – is not a solution. That will only worsen our economic problems. Anger at the European Union is understandable but engagement with the European Parliament is the best way to force change for the better.

“In this election, I am asking voters to send me to Europe as a fresh, new voice – to use my expertise in European affairs and my legislative experience to fight to put right the things that are making people angry. I want to force a rapid implementation of the EU’s promise to share the burden of bailing out the banks. I want to see the money that was cut put back into the European Youth Guarantee to put our young people back to work.

The Wheel has been facilitating a consultative project aimed at encouraging greater engagement between civil society and the European Parliament.