Barry Andrews defeated some Fianna Fail top brass to secure the party nomination for this month’s European elections.
Previously a TD and Junior Minister, since losing his seat in 2011 he has been CEO of GOAL and Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs.
Talking to Dublin Gazette he explains why he has now decided to run for Europe.
“I’m running because I believe we have reached a turning point in the history of the EU,” he says.
“The latest forecasts suggest a third of the next European Parliament could be made up of anti-EU MEPs.
“I think now is the time to stand up for the EU, we need to send pro-European MEPs to Brussels who will work together, as envisaged by the EU founding fathers, to make Europe stronger.”
What does he feel he can bring to the EU parliament if elected?
“Having served as a Councillor, a TD and a Minister, I have a wealth of political experience and I know what matters to Dublin voters,” he says.
“Over the last eight years, I have worked as CEO of GOAL, our leading Aid Agency and as Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs.
“In GOAL, I learnt a huge amount about leadership and about working in highly pressurised circumstances responding to the Syrian Civil war, the Ebola outbreak and other humanitarian crises.
“As director general of the Institute of International and European Affairs over the last two and half years, I have seen at close quarters the debate that’s taking place in other member states.”
How does he feel Brexit will affect Ireland and what ideas will he bring to the table on this issue?
“Brexit has made us more pro-European but it also fundamentally changes our relationship with the EU,” he says.
“Ireland needs to become much more engaged in the Union.
“As the member state most impacted, we need our MEPs to be at the forefront of shaping its future in the wake of the UK’s departure.
“Fianna Fail is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a group that has stood four square behind Ireland’s interests in the Brexit negotiations.
“This Group is also tipped to hold the balance of power in the newly elected European Parliament.
“If I am elected as an MEP, I will be in a strong position, as a member of the ALDE group to influence the Parliament’s response to big challenges of our time like climate change, integration, the breakdown in social cohesion, innovation and digital responsibility.”
He says the growth in anti-European sentiment in EU members states is “alarming” and a big reason why he is running in this election.
“The values of the EU, respect for human rights and for the rule of law, are under threat,” he says.
“And if the EU is under threat, Ireland is under threat.
“By sending pro-European MEPs to Brussels, we can defeat the populism and narrow nationalism that is gaining ground in Europe.
“Europe is about building alliances to promote the issues you want to progress for your constituents, in my case the people of Dublin.
“I am in a really strong position to hit the ground running and to get work done rather than wasting time on an anti-European agenda that is damaging to the interests of our country and our capital.
Finally, where does he stand on a European army?
“I do not support a European army, the idea of a European army has not once been an option suggested or entertained by Fianna Fáil,” he says.
“For the last 50 years, Eurosceptic parties have been scare mongering people about a European army, all in the service of their own interests in damaging the EU in Ireland.
“It hasn’t happened and it won’t because there are quite a few member states who oppose the idea.
“To be absolutely clear, the purpose of PESCO (Permanent Structured Co-Operation) is not about creating a European army or undermining our neutrality.
“It’s about deepening our co-operation with other member states in the Union.”