Burke defends his right to European Parliament seat

IRELAND’S newest member of the European Parliament does not believe he has cheated the public by claiming the lucrative seat without facing a public vote.

Nor does Fine Gael’s Colm Burke feel there is anything wrong with how his predecessor Simon Coveney managed his seat in Brussels.

Instead he said his name was on the ballot paper alongside his party colleague during the 2004 elections and the people in the south of Ireland had their say.

“Europe works differently, at the same convention where it was decided Simon would run for Europe there was a list of substitutes elected. I won out on that day ahead of councillor Kevin Murphy from Kinsale.

“Our names went on the list of substitutes and that was on the ballot paper for the election, it is a very straight forward system,” he said.

Mr Coveney took an amount of flack during the General Election campaign for deciding to cut his spell in Europe short to run for the Dáil.

Many saw Mr Coveney’s actions as a cynical ploy by Fine Gael to use the same talent to win seats at home and abroad.

Mr Burke, who was Cork City’s lord-mayor in 2003-2004, does not subscribe to that.

“Everybody saw Simon as the best candidate in 2004 and I fully supported that.

“A lot of people do not realise what he achieved over in Europe.

“He did more in three years then many people did in 10 and I do not think there is anything wrong with his decision to come back now,” Mr Burke said.

As the first substitute on the Coveney-list the soon to resign Cork City councillor was left to sweat on general election night.

A barnstorming performance of Fianna Fáil councillor Michael McGrath put Mr Coveney’s seat in jeopardy right up until the final count when he was the only candidate elected without reaching the quota.

Although a native of Dripsey, Co Cork he has built up a solicitor’s practice in the city which he is now in the process of reorganising.

For the next two years Mr Burke will be spending between three and four days a week at the heart of European bureaucracy.

Personally he admits it will be exhausting and disorientating but he sees it as a challenge.

His wife, Mary McCaffrey, already works as an obstetrician in Tralee so he spends a lot of his time travelling as it is.

“The nature of my wife’s work is that she is always on call and it is a lot harder for her to just drop everything so at weekends I would be the one travelling down to see her,” he said.

By switching from a councillor for the northwest Cork City ward to being an MEP, he is moving from representing an electorate of 13,000 to one of 800,000 people.

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