Grace O’Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South, took to the country roads of the Kingdom on her most recent constituency tour. On her agenda was a visit to five prominent Kerry towns and their hinterlands; Kenmare, Tralee, Killarney, Listowel and Dingle. Joining her in each area were Green Party candidates running in each area. For the first time, the Green Party will be running candidates in all 6 Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) within the county.
O’Sullivan started her Kerry tour in Kenmare, with local candidate Cleo Murphy, who is no stranger to the field of local politics. Murphy stood as the Green Party’s candidate in the 2020 General Election, receiving a solid 6,229 votes before being eliminated. Kenmare, well known for the beauty of its natural environment, has welcomed extended evening bus services, to the benefit of both tourists and locals alike. While in Kenmare, O’Sullivan focused on visiting the Tidy Towns Committee, the local Community Gardening andSchool Gardening Groups and the newly-established Eco Trail.
“Kenmare is known for its natural beauty, but it’s clear that this is not just a happy accident. There is trojan work being carried out here by local groups to manage land effectively and nurture local biodiversity. I’ll take this work back with me as inspiration for my work in Brussels on protecting nature” the MEP said.
Following on from Kenmare, O’Sullivan headed for Tralee, where she was joined by local Green candidate Anluan Dunne. The town had just been impacted by serious flash flooding .
“What was important for me during this visit, was to acknowledge how Tralee had been affected by the recent flooding. We visited the local cafe Maddens, which had experienced the flash flood,- a total shock to the staff and customers without warning. The customers in the moment were helping to shovel the water out the door, which just shows the character and community spirit supporting the small business” O’Sullivan said.
“What worries me though is that this type of unexpected monsoon-like downpour is going to become more common in Ireland as our climate changes. This flash-flood occured as the Atlantic ocean was experiencing a marine heatwave – this phenomenon leads to exactly the type of scenario we saw in Tralee. Our infrastructure is just not built to cater for such immense amount of rain in such a short period of time, and that’s when we see the large destruction of property” the MEP shared.
From Tralee to Killarney, local candidate Diarmuid Griffin sat with O’Sullivan, to talk through the town’s progress in becoming the first in Ireland to stop using single-use coffee cups. Twenty-five local cafes and twenty-two hotels have already signed up to the initiative. This initiative means that the town is ahead of both the Irish Government and EU plans to reduce the amount of cups disposed of to landfill each year. O’Sullivan is currently working on the new Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation as the Greens lead negotiator in the European Parliament, which will aim to reduce the amount of single-use packaging items created by producers, and improve the reuse share of packaging.
“Takeaway coffee cups are low hanging fruit here and with ground-up initiatives like this, we can really change consumer behaviour and save tonnes of waste going to landfill” the MEP said.
The North Kerry town of Listowel was next on the agenda, where O’Sullivan and local candidate Anne-Marie Fuller, first explored the area of organics with local farmers Kate Carmody and Lisa Fingleton & Rena Blake. In Listowel town the MEP joined members of Listowel Chamber for lunch in Lizzy’s, serving delicious local fare. The organics sector is currently expanding rapidly in Ireland, with almost a tripling of applications into the Department of Agriculture’s organic schemes in 2023.
Dingle was the last stop for the MEP, and also the location of the biggest event of the constituency tour. Along with local candidate and GP Peadar Ó Fionnáin, a public meeting was held on what the much anticipated Nature Restoration Law (NRL) can do for West Kerry. The event invited local farmers to discuss their reality and understanding of the Nature Restoration Law, and allowed O’Sullivan to explore the regulation from the European and local Kerry perspectives.
“It was fascinating to hear local perspectives on this widely discussed topic. In particular it was important to hear from landowners, fishers and farmers, as they are people who will be directly impacted by the NRL. Despite some mistruths that had been circulated around Ireland about the impact of the NRL for farmers and the country, a very honest conversation was had. As we progress with the implementation of this law and the restoration of collapsing ecosystems, we will ensure that all stakeholders will continue to have a seat at the table” the MEP shared.
Since holding the public event, the Nature Restoration Law has been dramatically voted through the European Parliament by a slim majority. Irish MEPs – of which there are 13 – made the difference in a key rejection vote of the regulation, which was lost by a 12 vote difference.
O’Sullivan is hopeful for the Greens’ chances in Kerry in 2024.
“Kerry is a county that is known for its natural beauty, and I believe it deserves some green councillors to both protect and promote this. At the same time, local issues such as traffic, air pollution, sustainability in tourism and protecting our beautiful coasts are best solved by green policies, and Kerry is lucky to have six extremely talented and capable candidates going forward for election. I am really looking forward to working with them and for the county of Kerry at home and in Europe in the months ahead” the MEP remarked.