A MESSAGE from Sean Kelly MEP:
COVID-19 has forced a harsh change to our daily lives: how we do business, how we communicate how we show friendship and most tragically of all, how we mourn. Yet like anything, it is how we adapt that is the key to our resilience, and governing is no different.
On Thursday the 26th of March, MEPs in the European Parliament voted from for the first time ever from somewhere other than the plenary chamber in Brussels or Strasbourg. Indeed this is not just a European Union first, but a worldwide first, and remains the only time a democratic parliament has voted remotely.
The advancement of technology has allowed for such an accommodation, creating a world where despite being isolated from each other, we can be connected at all times. Instead of making my usual trip from Kerry to Dublin to Frankfurt to Strasbourg to register my vote, I followed the plenary debates from my home in Killarney and registered my vote by email; as did all 687 MEPs who voted.
Travelling to Brussels to vote in a European Parliament plenary session last week would not have been the responsible thing to do, particularly considering MEPs travel weekly from all 27 Member States. For this reason, I was very pleased that the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, provided a way to vote without being physically present, thereby helping in the effort to minimise the spread of the virus, and indeed allowing us to get on with the important work at hand.
I was lucky enough to get home before things became heavily restricted in Brussels, and was glad to be able self-isolate at home for the recommended 14 days instead of being stuck overseas.
The items we voted through last week are extremely important. It will allow urgent changes to be made to EU legislation to ensure that there is money and support made available to the most impacted European regions, and will give airlines much needed flexibility to cope with the sudden shock to its day-to-day operations.
These are just the first steps in the EU’s response to this unprecedented situation; there will be more.
With the correct adherence to medical advice and timing and effective governing we will overcome this pandemic, but it has likely changed our political and economic landscape for years to come. The assurances of new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, that “we stand ready to do more as the situation evolves”, is extremely welcome. The EU cannot ensure every health system is able to deal with what is to come, but by enabling better coordination and cooperation, and by providing billions in funding, it will help make Member State responses be more effective.
We are united at EU level in solidarity with all impacted by this pandemic, and in gratitude to the heroes at the frontline who are working night and day across the country and continent to protect all of our well-being.
We are facing into a difficult few months, but we can and will get through it. The one thing I ask of you, above all else, is to diligently follow the instructions issued by Government. Trust the official advice that is provided; Ireland’s response to this pandemic will always be expert-led. We must all work together and do everything that is asked of us in the weeks and months ahead to protect the well-being of our loved-ones, friends and neighbours.
Keep safe, and look after each other.