Deputy Clare Daly caused a stir last month when she announced plans to run in the upcoming European elections.
The Fingal Independents 4 Change TD has proved to be a mighty opposition force in the Dail since winning her seat in 2011.
Talking to Dublin Gazette, she said: “I’ve worked as a student union leader, councillor, TD and a trade unionist, and I suppose the European platform is the natural extension of that.
“Any platform I get elected to, I use it to highlight issues, to expose the status quo, and I would hope to empower people to challenge the existing order.”
Deputy Daly discussed how she and fellow Independents 4 Change colleague Mick Wallace, who is running in Ireland South, had been thinking of running as MEPs for a long time.
She said: “We reflected on having achieved a lot here using the Dail platform to rattle the cages of the powers that be, so we had to toy with the idea of giving that up.
“Increasingly, so much of what we have been dealing with from within the Dail either emanates from the European Union, or the European Union is offered as an excuse by the Government as to why they can’t implement policies in these areas.
“So we want to take the fight to where it’s at – to the heart of the institution. Rather than picking up the crumbs, we want to see can we make a difference, because a difference is needed.”
She believes the EU is at a crossroads right now, dealing with a country leaving its membership for the very first time, as well as the rise of the Far Right across Europe, which is bringing in a new and frightening dimension.
However, Deputy Daly said: “These occurrences are, in my opinion, a consequence of the fact that the European Union has left so many millions of its citizens behind, and it’s in crisis as a result.
“The EU needs to abandon its neo-liberal path, its increased militarism, and needs to take a different tack which puts the interests of its citizens ahead of those of the corporations.
“That’s not been what the European project has been about, to date.”
When asked if she supports the further integration of the European Union project, she said: “I think that’s a question that gets focused on incorrectly.
“I’m very pro-European – I love Europe, I love mixing with different cultures, I love being able to travel easily and to use the Euro and all that good stuff, but there are also huge problems with the European Union project.
“If you ask am I for or against the EU, it avoids the central question which we should be asking, which is: ‘What type of Europe are we building?’
“That’s where the focus needs to shift, and I think we need to be building a Europe that puts the interests of citizens first to move away from the increased border control and securitisation of the EU, the militarism, all of these issues, and [the EU needs to] put money into the areas which develop society.
“A strict neo-liberal agenda is not working for the people of the EU. We can see that already – the European project hasn’t delivered.”
Deputy Daly was very blunt when the ongoing Brexit issue was raised: “It doesn’t matter a toss what my ideas are on Brexit, and it hasn’t mattered a damn what anybody’s attitude in Ireland has been over the past two years, yet we’ve been subjected to droning on about it repeatedly.
“The best outcome for Ireland, for me, would be if [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn gets elected as the leader of Britain – whether that’s inside or outside the EU is a matter for the people to decide for themselves.”
On the biggest issues the new European Parliament will face, Deputy Daly said:
“One of the critical ones is going to be the European Army.
“Germany and France are desperate for a European army and we have the game-changer now where defence spending can come directly from the European budget.
“That’s already happened with the [recent] vote … to spend an extra €13 billion on defence and research projects.
“This is money that’s coming from other budgets, including budgets to deal with sustainable environmental issues, Erasmus schemes, mobility schemes – it’s absolutely shocking!
“They can’t say they are interested in dealing with climate change and the environment when they’re taking money out of that budget and putting it into defence, [so] of course I’m against a European army.
“Can I change any of these things we’ve spoken about?
“I don’t know but I do know that I would certainly try,” she said