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Sheila Nunan: 'A roll-up your sleeves moment' looms for Europe in elections

Sheila Nunan: 'A roll-up your sleeves moment' looms for Europe in elections
File photo of Sheila Nunan.

Europe holds the key to solving the housing crisis and action now could help "restore trust" in the EU, Labour's Ireland South MEP candidate Sheila Nunan believes.

The Labour candidate for Ireland South and a former teachers union representative was, at 3% of the likely vote, placed ninth in the latest opinion poll.

Despite being far short of the top five seats on offer, she remained in a positive mood.

The opinion polls suggest she is fighting it out with Fianna Fáil's Malcolm Byrne, Greens' Grace O'Sullivan, Independent4Change's Mick Wallace and Fine Gael pair Deirdre Clune and Andrew Doyle for the final two seats of the five.

Ms Nunan insists she will keep pushing for votes "until the last second" in the sprawling constituency.

It has been "a very challenging campaign but in a positive way", she told the Irish Examiner, with the need to visit and listen to people in all 12 counties taking its toll on all candidates.

But Ms Nunan believes her message of giving Ireland a voice in Brussels to address local issues here, thereby ending the idea of the EU being unconnected to real life in Ireland, is resonating with voters.

Among her main focus if she is elected to the European Parliament will be the housing crisis, saying in her view it is "a no-brainer" to seek help from Europe in tackling what is happening.

European Investment Bank funding, she says, can help ensure people have homes to live in and "restore trust" among the public in the EU.

"The PES group [which Labour is part of in Europe] is clear about this, but the response has been abysmal from Government, and the homelessness crisis is spiralling out of control.

"The European Investment Bank can provide European cohesion funds, and Europe needs to take a stronger role in this.

"To me, it's a no-brainer because it is something Europe can do. It would restore trust among the public as well in terms of what the EU is for - because housing is such a fundamental part of life," she says.

Climate change is also on Ms Nunan's agenda, with the Labour candidate saying other parties are "talking out of two sides of their mouth" and that the reality is Ireland has been "negligent" in meeting its environmental targets.

And on infrastructure, she is equally keen to involve Brussels in what is going on in Ireland, saying while successive governments have focused on building roads they have too often gone to cities rather than addressing "regional infrastructure" gaps.

Tackling all of the problems have been part of the party's election campaign and she believes they are crucial to restoring public trust in the EU instead of seeing it as an isolated bureaucracy that only affects voters once every five years.

If elected, the candidate says she would like to see all MEPs returning to the communities they made promises to at set periods throughout their term in office to explain what progress, if any, has taken place.

Describing it as a form of citizens assembly, Ms Nunan says such a step coupled with the blue-star project classes in schools will help to improve the wider public's understanding of what the EU actually does - and therefore help combat the likes of Nigel Farage and other anti-EU voices.

"This is a roll-up your sleeves moment. I think this is going to be the most critical European election in quite some time."

"Europe was founded on social ideals, we should know how Europe can be a force for good. There is a social Europe and a market Europe, and we need to steer things back to a social Europe," she said.

"It's a big question, not only for Ireland South but for Europe as a whole."

And, as the countdown in hours continue Ms Nunan and her supporters are about to be given their answer.

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