I think today we’ve selected an absolutely first rate ticket for the Midlands-North- West constituency. This constituency includes over 1.6 million people and is the largest we’ve ever had for any European Election. To cover a constituency of this size and diversity we needed a strong balanced ticket and that is what we have got.
I think the unanimous selection of Pat the Cope Gallagher is a fitting tribute to the great work he has done over not just the last five years but also his entire career. Pat the Cope has gone before the people in national or European election on 11 occasions and he’s won every time. You don’t build up a record like that just by being a good campaigner – it comes from delivering for the people.
Five years ago a certain Mr Declan Ganley decided he could get to Europe by targeting Pat the Cope. He threw enormous amounts of money into the most expensive campaign ever seen in a European election. But when the counting was finished he was 40,000 behind the Cope.
As a national politician Pat the Cope built up a big reputation as one of the hardest workers ever elected to Dáil Éireann – as an MEP he’s been one of the most effective people ever to represent Ireland in Brussels and Strasbourg.
These are tough times for both Ireland and Europe. Clear failing in the Union have been exposed and we’ve needed clear and strong voices making Ireland’s case and pushing for reform. Pat the Cope Gallagher has been a brilliant leader in this fight.
As a member of the leadership of our group in the Parliament he’s given Irish issues a greater prominence than ever before. On the Fisheries Committee he’s been one of the most influential members, pushing the cases of our fishing communities. He’s also been chairman of a very important group dealing with relations within the broader European Free Trade Area.
A lot of people go out to Europe and lose contact – Pat the Cope has been the exact opposite. As our group leader he has been constantly on the phone and sending back documents. He’s kept us informed, he’s looked after party, regional and national interests.
And the more people he’s represented over the years, the bigger the constituency has become, the harder he has worked.
It’s great that he will be joined on the ticket by one of our most dynamic young representatives, Senator Thomas Byrne.
In the last three years Thomas has been one of the most effective legislators in Leinster House. In the face of an ever more arrogant and out of touch government he hasn’t stepped back from the fight. He was the first member of either House to stand up to Alan Shatter as far back as the early months after the election, and he’s been fearless since then.
He’s also been a leader on issues which are vital for ordinary people. One of the most important of these is the mortgage and household debt crisis. Thomas has helped draft over a dozen pieces of legislation to help families trapped in debts they simply cannot manage.
Thomas has a long record of contributing on European debates in the Oireachtas and in wider society. He’s been very engaged with our European partners an he’s ready to hit the ground running if elected in May.
I want to also acknowledge Pat O’Rourke. Pat was a highly effective President of the ICMSA. In that role he was known for caring about the interests of the whole community. His influence came from the fact that nobody could beat him for his knowledge and commitment.
I know that Pat has a deep commitment to our party and our country. I look forward to him staying active and helping to shape our policies in the years ahead.
In the Meath By-election last year Thomas Byrne put in a great campaign. Our vote went from 19% to 33%, well ahead of what any opinion poll predicted.
That result proved that when we nominate good candidates and unite to work for them we can deliver great results.
We now have our full slate of candidates in place for the European Election on May 23rd. No party can match the combination of proven experience and new faces which we have put forward. Every one of our five candidates has shown that they are hard workers, engaged with the substance of policy and determined to deliver for Ireland over the next five years.
Over the last three years Fianna Fáil has taken the lead in pushing for real reform in Europe. While the other Irish parties have spent their time conforming to the existing agenda we’ve been willing to set out a new approach of a Europe which works for its citizens. We have just the right set of candidates to take this message to the doors.
I’m looking forward to getting out onto the streets to canvass with them and make the case that Ireland needs a strong Fianna Fáil representation in the European Parliament to maximise its impact.