Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú used his speaking time at the Conference on the Future of Europe session in Strasbourg last week to highlight issues that the EU needs to focus on including violence against women, the scourge of illegal drugs and mental health.
The Sinn Féin TD also extended an invitation to European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič to come to Dundalk to see the border crossings.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a series of engagements with European citizens that looks at the future of the EU and what reforms should be made to its policies and institutions.
He said he feared that the process was ‘window dressing’ by the EU but it has gained a greater level of structure on this occasion.
The latest meeting of the conference was held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Louth TD spoke on health plenary.
Deputy Ó Murchú raised the issue of the death of Ashling Murphy and said that the ‘horrific killing’ had ‘highlighted the issue of violence against women and the need for an EU strategy in dealing with this’.
He also welcomed the news last Friday of the re-opening of Irish society which, he said, was ‘down to the hard work of the Irish people and also the vaccine rollout’.
He said: ‘Across the EU, the vaccine rollout was done without the need for an EU competence, just through co-operative actions, and this is something that need to study into the future’.
Deputy Ó Murchú warned, however, that ‘if the EU is serious about medical and vaccine equity, we need to deal with the TRIPS waiver and there can be no profit on pandemic’.
He welcomed contributions at the conference on universal healthcare and climate change, but said: ‘We have to change EU fiscal constraints because it is not possible to deliver unless we do that’.
He also welcomed contributions on mental health, but said: ‘I think there is a missing piece in relation to healthcare across the EU and that’s not dealing with the huge issue of drug addiction and the pain, violence and all the criminality that goes with it’.
The Dundalk TD said universal healthcare was needed across the EU.
He welcomed ‘the huge solidarity shown on the Irish protocol and the work done by Mr Šefčovič. Irish unity, he said, ‘is happening’ and ‘it needs to be planned for’.
On the issue of 2022 being the fiftieth anniversary of Ireland joining the EU, Deputy Ó Murchú said it was also the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry and 100 years of partition, which, he said, ‘needs to end and the EU needs to play its part’.
In response, Mr Šefčovič said he recalls his visit to Flurrybridge and would be ‘happy to come back’.