Published: Mon, 06 January 2014
Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly has voiced concerns over the falling number of permanent Irish officials working in the European Commission in Brussels.
“There are 213 permanent Irish officials in the European Commission, including the most senior official, Commission Secretary General Catherine Day, and her immediate predecessor, David O’Sullivan. There are also some very senior Irish officials spread across the top of the Commission,” Mr Kelly said today.
“This network of Irish officials has been invaluable to Ireland down the years and has contributed to our country’s highly respected reputation in the EU institutions. However, half of the 213 officials are now eligible for retirement so there will be a radical fall-off in the coming years.
“In fact, since 2010 only three Irish nationals have passed the rigorous assessments required to enter the Commission,” Mr Kelly warned.
The Fine Gael MEP pointed to the efforts by the current government in promoting Irish influence in the Brussels scene by seconding officials from Dublin and publicising employment opportunities for Irish people.
“However, our overall lack of strong language skills in Ireland is a major factor in this situation. Our European counterparts working in Brussels often have three, four or even more working languages – putting the Irish workforce at a disadvantage in some ways.
“A more radical approach needs to be taken, possibly in unison with the UK, as the British are significantly under-represented also. One idea is to take extra account of the fact that Irish nationals are native English speakers, and that as English is now the de-facto working language of the European Institutions, extra recognition could be given to that,” Mr Kelly said.