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 a third in May 2019, topping the poll once again with 118,444 first preferences.
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 and 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 Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO). 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 then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in August 2014.
In my time in the European Parliament, I have led on important policy work, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), setting the 2030 target for Renewable Energy, finalising the EU’s €650 billion InvestEU programme, and securing a majority in favour of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. I have also been heavily involved in Climate Action, and have been nominated to represent Parliament at three UNFCCC Conferences: COP21 in Paris, COP22 in Marrakesh and COP24 in Poland.
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.
I have been involved in some of the most important policy initiatives across Climate Change, Energy, Investment and Trade. As well as being 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, during which the Association was brought forward on so many fronts – including the introduction of the Christy Ring and the 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/the Northern end and the building of the Croke Park Jury’s Hotel. I introduced the President’s Awards, developed a great working relationship with the Gaelic Players Association 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 services 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 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. 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, and went on to teach in Cromcastle Green Boy’s National School in Coolock. I spent 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.