I was first elected to the European Parliament in June 2009 for Ireland South, contributing to an historic victory for Fine Gael in the European Elections, polling 92,579 first preferences. I was re-elected to this position for a second term in May 2014 and again in May 2019.
Ireland South covers 12 counties: Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow, Offaly and Laois. My time away from Brussels is spent traveling around the constituency, attending functions that range from meetings with local stakeholder groups, school addresses to sporting events, – to name but a few. Although the constituency covers an extremely large area, and therefore requires significant travel, it is work that I thoroughly enjoy, as it offers me the opportunity to engage with my constituents and gives them the opportunity to share their concerns and queries.
In the European Parliament, I sit on the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, the International Trade Committee (INTA) and the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI). I am also a member of the European Parliament Delegations for relations with South Africa, the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
I am a member of the EPP Group, the largest and most influential Group in the European Parliament. I am also Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament; a role I was first appointed to by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in August 2014.
I was the ITRE rapporteur for the General Data Protection Regulation – the largest reform of data privacy law in two decades. I was voted 2014 MEP of the Year in the category of Digital Agenda for this work on data protection, cyber bullying and promoting Coder Dojo.
In my first year in the European Parliament, I authored 3 reports on the International Fund for Ireland, the Future of Transport and the European Year of Volunteering. I have since contributed to reports on the Future of Agriculture, the Innovation Union, the European Dimension on Sport, Combating Early School Leaving and Unlocking the Potential of Cultural and Creative Industries, amongst others.
In 2015, I led discussions in the ITRE committee as a rapporteur ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement and as a result represented the European Parliament at the COP21 at which the historic global agreement was finalised. I encouraged my colleagues to adopt an ambitious and fair agreement that recognises the parallel challenges of combatting climate change, and ensuring global food security.
Following this, I worked on a New Deal for Energy Consumers, finding ways to lower energy prices for consumers and continues to advocate for a well-functioning, competitive and sustainable energy system. In 2017, I have been appointed EPP shadow rapporteur for the recast of the Renewable Energy Directive, and also for the Committee opinion on the Effort Sharing Regulation for 2030. Both files are crucial elements of the EU 2030 climate and energy framework. In the International Trade committee, I have been appointed a lead negotiator for EPP Group for the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and will also be looking into a regulation on labelling of spirit drinks and the protection of geographical indications of the same. As well as an extremely active parliamentarian, I am consistently ranked amongst the top MEPs in terms of speaking time and questions in Parliament.
I was elected President of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 2003, serving a full term until 2006. My presidency is seen as a landmark one in moving forward the Association on so many fronts – the introduction of Christy Ring Cup and Nicky Rackard Cups and the All-Ireland Junior and Intermediate Club Championships.
I also oversaw the completion of the Croke Park re-development through the completion of Hill 16/Northern end and the building of the Croke Park Jury’s Hotel. I introduced the President’s Awards and developed a great working relationship with the GPA and initiated major improvements in player welfare matters.
One of the watershed events during my presidency was the successful conclusion of arrangements for the use of Croke Park, the GAA’s 82,500 capacity national stadium, by the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland while Lansdowne Road was being re-developed.
This arrangement has now been made permanent as a result of a motion sponsored by my club, Kilcummin, at GAA Annual Congress in April 2010.
I was named Executive Chairman of the Irish Institute of Sport in July 2006. The Institute was founded following a key recommendation from the Athens Review, with the vision of providing World leading service provision to elite Irish athletes.
I am the author of a book of memoirs, Rule 42 And All That, which gives an account of the my life in GAA administration, moving up the ranks from East Kerry, County, Munster and onwards to National level, becoming President of the GAA in 2003. It gives an account of the key role I played in the landmark decision to open Croke Park to soccer and rugby.
I am also a regular columnist with the Irish Examiner and regularly contribute to numerous, local, national and European publications, including the Kerryman, Foinse and the European Parliament Magazine.
I am a teacher by profession. I graduated with First Class Honours in 1971 from St Patrick’s College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin and went on to teach in Cromcastle Green Boy’s National School in Coolock.
I went on to attain my BA and then a First Class Honours H. Dip in Education from University College Dublin in 1975.
I became a secondary school teacher in 1975, spending most of my career to 2003 in my alma mater, St Brendan’s College, Killarney, Co. Kerry, otherwise known as the Sem.
I taught History, Geography and Gaeilge to some Kerry greats including Colm “the Gooch” Cooper, Tom Spillane, Seamus Moynihan, Michael McCarthy and Michael Fassbender.
I am married to Juliette and have four children, Padraig, Muiread, Laurence and Julie.