“Brexit, a pandemic and a war later, Irish engagement with Europe is more important than ever” ̵
Former Greenpeace Activist and Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan shared her work in the European Parliament on a recent visit to Mid-Wicklow.
When she was first elected to the European Parliament in 2019, Brexit was the main challenge she foresaw ahead of the European Union, noted MEP O’Sullivan as she met with local constituents at a public meeting in Delgany. “Little did we know what was to come” she continues. “A pandemic, a war in Europe and an ever worsening climate crisis have added to the concerns of constituents here in Wicklow”, O’Sullivan is now over halfway through her term as an MEP is aiming to reach all corners of the Ireland South constituency with her work, now that COVID restrictions have been lifted. This month the MEP visited the towns of Greystones, Delgany, Kilcoole, Newcastle, Newtown Mount Kennedy and Blessington.
Grace entered political life for the first time in 2014, when she was approached to run for the European Parliament for the Green Party, then with no TDs and just a handful of Councillors elected across the country. She had previously worked for 20 years with Greenpeace International, spending 10 of those years onboard numerous ships furthering environmental causes. Her most well-known encounter was during a protest against nuclear testing in the South Pacific, when her ship, the Rainbow Warrior, was bombed by the French Secret Service.
While this run in 2014 for Europe was unsuccessful, she would eventually be elected to Seanad Éireann in 2016, sitting with the Civil Engagement Group, including Senators Frances Black, Alice May Higgins and Lynn Ruane, among others. A 2019 run for Europe, on the back of the green wave and school climate strikes, would see her elected as part of the Greens group.
O’Sullivan’s previous visit to Wicklow was in the midst of this election campaign, and due to the impact of COVID, a long-awaited return has only come about now.
“Of course, I’ve been engaging with members of the public all across the constituency” O’Sullivan notes, which stretches from Bray all the way down to Cahirciveen in West Kerry , covering 12 counties. “But there really is no comparison to meeting with people on the ground, hearing about their work in the community, and sharing the work of the European Parliament, which can often seem so far away from people’s daily lives” she continues.
Elected in the fourth seat of five in 2019, O’Sullivan credits some of her election success to both young people and students who may not have even been of voting age. Because of this she says, she wants to prioritise engagement with these groups, and so she visited both St. David’s Holy Faith Secondary School and Temple Carrig School in Greystones during her visit.
As well as sharing the work that she has been leading on in the European Parliament, O’Sullivan states that a crucial part of this trip is hearing stories on the ground of how people are doing, what projects they are carrying out in their communities and when possible, when she can help. “It has too often been the case that politicians disappear to Brussels and are not heard from until they are campaigning again 5 years later. That means they can sometimes become out of touch, and that’s not the type of politics I want to be practicing” she said.
Grace now returns to Brussels for her Committee work, but plans to return to other towns and villages in Wicklow in the near future.