Waterford Institute of Technology Young Fine Gael Branch Trip to Brussels

Members of Waterford Institute of Technology Young Fine Gael Branch enjoyed a fantastic few days in Brussels last week (23rd – 26th March) courtesy of their kind host, and Munster MEP, Sean Kelly.

Amid squinty eyes and wide yawns the group flew out in the small hours of Tuesday morning from Dublin airport to Brussels. The sleepiness of the flight was soon shaken off by Aisling Fenton, Sean Kelly's effervescent Kerry stagiaire who met the group at the airport. From there it was on to the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe which was to be base camp for the duration of the stay (do the 'Monks of Louvain' ring any bells from primary school history? – well this is the exact same building!). Tuesday was spent exploring this fabulous city and then it was on to the main event on Wednesday – The European Parliament.

The group was welcomed Sean, Aisling and by Kevin, Sean's right-hand man in Brussels. From there it was on to a meeting with all the Fine Gael MEPs, including Gay Mitchell, Mairéad McGuinness, Jim Higgins and of course Sean Kelly himself. Many issues were discussed, starting with Fine Gael's party in the parliament The European Peoples Party (EPP) otherwise known as The Christian Democrats. Other topics that came up included everything from Irish peoples' perception of the EU, the question of European solidarity, Turkey's aspirations of membership and also the mechanics of how the Fine Gael MEPs get things done in parliament for their constituents. One very practical example was illustrated by Sean Kelly when he outlined how he was helping the former workers of Waterford Crystal in relation to the EU Globalisation fund. Sean said that

"The European Globalisation Fund affords this key opportunity for Waterford Crystal workers to recover from the blow of redundancy and to push ahead with new training, upskilling and new business ideas."

From there the MEP s had to dash to prepare for a session which was being held later that day, but they must be thanked for taking time from their extremely busy schedules to meet with the group. It was on to a tour of the parliament for the group and one could not but be struck by the electric energy flowing around the place. Sean Kelly described it as an 'Ant-hill', and like all ant-hills he says 'it produces results'. The fact that it is a parliament that represents 500million people was described by one member of the group as 'mind-blowing!'.

Later that night the group were the guests at dinner hosted by Sean Kelly where it's fair to say the lively conversation was more about contests of hurling than a depressed Sterling!

The remainder of the trip was enjoyed by the group with a day trip to the medieval city of Bruges and socialising with many new friends in the Irish Institute in Leuven (and a big shout out to Raymond Walsh who is on work placement in the Institute from WIT).

The group would like to extend a huge thank you to their host Sean Kelly, to his assistant, Kevin and his stagiaire, Aisling and all the Fine Gael MEPs for their warm welcome. Arscáth a chéile a mhairimid, ach, arscáth na hEorpa a mhairimidne go léir.

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