ANN CAHILL: Brussels briefing

Staying silent with our nuclear neighbours

For some reason, Ireland has not made a submission on behalf of its citizens to the British government on the implications of not one but two new replacement nuclear reactors at a cost of €14bn at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, England, Labour MEP Nessa Childers points out.

It will be the first plant built in the UK for 25 years, has been 10 years in the planning by French EDF, and when it begins operation in 2018 will provide up to 13% of needs. It will be subsidised by a levy on all electricity users in the UK.

It would create about 25,000 jobs during construction — perhaps the Government is thinking of this as a way to mop up some of the unemployed youth of the country and so didn’t ask to contribute to the impact assessment.

Hinkley Point was considered ideal for wind generation, but a proposal for wind turbines was rejected by the local authority as they considered them unsafe so close to the nuclear plant.

Not very sporting

Thrifty Viennese have said no to hosting the Olympic Games in 2028 — 15 years’ time.

Citizens of the Austrian capital rejected the idea in a referendum last week by more than two to one of the 30% who voted, mostly because they thought the €10bn investment required was too much.

They voted against privatising water and other public services, but favoured environmentally friendly energy projects and parking being decided by the districts rather than the city.

The Swiss earlier rejected a proposal that Davos and St Moritz would host the winter olympics in 2022. Not very sporting.

Home alone

Finance Minister Michael Noonan was looking forward to a long weekend of feet-up as all the other members of the Government took off for foreign climes for the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

However, his R&R was disturbed by a near last-minute call to Brussels to take part in setting the conditions for the bailout of Cyprus on Friday evening. That meeting lasted around 11 hours until after 3am on Saturday morning.

The ever optimistic Limerick man emphasised on his way into the meeting that size didn’t matter when it came to euro matters; that the Cypriots setting and the troika accepting a 12.5% corporate tax rate was an acceptance of the Irish rate; and was non-committal on the issue of taking money off the depositors.

His statements aimed at instilling confidence one assumes rather than conveying the truth.

Food parcels

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in sparkling form at the Brussels summit, possibly because he was en-route to the US and Washington for the annual St Patrick’s visit to the White House.

In fact, he said, he would be bringing some examples of the best of Irish with him to give to the first lady, the vice-president and the mayor of New York.

He noted that down through the years one would be laden down with food requested by immigrants in the US, some of it not always on the allowed list.

Mr Kenny quickly stepped back from the brink to say that of course he would be very careful to bring only what was allowed this time — preserves and that, he added.

More than quotas needed

A study by the International Parliamentary Union shows that to create a true democracy where women have a fair chance of being elected requires several steps.

While Ireland is congratulating itself over promising that taxpayers’ funds will only go to those who field a minimum of female candidates, this is only just nodding at the problem. The IPU says that first there must be legislated and enforced quotas, women must be in winnable places on lists and constituencies, that PR offers the best chance for women.

And representation efforts must continue to ensure not just access to parliament, but across all parliamentary structures including committees and the working culture that is so often a deterrent for women. Ireland languishes at the bottom of the league at 14%.

EU throws blanket over cyber attacks

Nobody succeeds like the EU when it comes to hiding really exciting things under dull names. Maybe something to do with 22 official languages.

But ENISA is the network and information security agency, and it’s latest “flash note” on cyber attacks reads like a modern ‘war of the worlds’.

In the last days of February a massive attack on governmental bodies across the EU was discovered; just a few weeks before there were massive cyber espionage attacks stealing massive amounts of data from bodies including critical sectors in the EU — this means they know who you are, where you are, what you are work, and where you have it hidden

The message from ENISA: take precautions. You can get some tips from them on http://www.enisa.europa.eu/

Asbestos legacy shakes MEPs to core

Despite asbestos being banned since 2000, cancer deaths from the material are expected to reach 500,000 by 2030, with up to 30,000 worldwide every year.

The European Parliament had a vote on the issue last week — days after part of their building in Strasbourg had to be closed when someone cut into two pillars insulated with the material.

Millions of tonnes of asbestos are in existing buildings and threaten people’s health — especially as it ages and if people have to work on it.

MEP Jim Higgins supported a report in the parliament last week seeking to eradicate it from all buildings by 2028, although he did warn that given the austere times we live in, it could be difficult to achieve.


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