Grace O?Sullivan, this year?s Green MEP Candidate for Ireland South, who is currently on a tour of all the ten counties in this constituency, met with us earlier this week to discuss what motivated her to run for the European Parliament, what she feels are the biggest environmental and social issues facing Ireland today and most importantly, what she plans to do about them, should she be elected.
Ms O?Sullivan, a mother of three, is no stranger to Cahir, as she grew up only an hour down the road, in Tramore, Co. Waterford. Having attended St Angela's Ursuline Convent at second level, where many young people from the local area were also attending, Grace would consider Cahir part of her own locality in many respects.
Eamon Ryan, the current leader of the Green Party, approached Ms O?Sullivan this past Christmas to ask her if she would be interested in running for this year?s elections as a Green MEP. Grace?s children have been one of the biggest motivations for her to run in this year?s elections ?The motivation is based on their future and my own future?.
After becoming the first Female National Surfing Champion in 1981, as well as working as a lifeguard and with the Tramore Inshore Search & Rescue, Grace went on to work with Greenpeace and most notably aboard the ill-fated ?Rainbow Warrior? in 1984-1985. Grace is no stranger to standing up for what she believes in, and is more than willing to get her hands dirty for a worthy cause. ?I?ve always been involved in the environmental and social justice movements, so I thought stand up now, and in as much as it will be difficult, just go for it?.
?I suppose for me, the biggest pressing question is Energy Security. At the moment we are importing approximately 90% of our fuel from abroad?. ?This reliance, or maybe over-reliance, that a country like Ireland has on importing its energy and its fuel is not sustainable?. ?For me, this is the real pressing issue, not only in terms of how we?re going to decide to go forward, but what choices we?re going to make. This is a big discussion that has to take place in Ireland, and it has to take place at all levels, particularly the community level?. ?We have to get the community involved in all the processes?.
Germany and Denmark have already made the move towards clean, renewable energy, by generating a lot of their energy from solar wind biomass. This has also resulted in a very successful economy, as a huge amount of jobs are created around these industries. ?We have to do this in a way that suits Ireland, suits the Irish people and suits this country. We have to design the system that works for us, but we don?t have to re-invent it because other countries are already doing it?.
Earlier in the day, Ms O?Sullivan had visited Templederry Community Wind Farm, which was recently featured on Eco Eye with Duncan Stewart. This wind farm was financed by the community, for the community. The money fed back into the community on an annual basis is the equivalent of 30-40 jobs. ?They said it was extremely difficult to set up here in Ireland because there are so many barriers to entry. They have been really resilient and pushed through, and now they are effectively contributing to the national grid. The government need to make the route to the grid more efficient for communities?.
?That to me is most pressing. To have a secure clean means of generating our own electricity and our own energy, and the reason for that is because we do have a global problem, and that?s with global warming?. ?What we?ve experienced over the last few weeks is unpredictable storms, unbelievable flooding?s, untold disaster, one after the other, all around our countryside?.
Having travelled throughout the Ireland South constituency over the last few weeks, Ms O?Sullivan has experienced the aftermath of these storms first hand, from Tramore in Co. Waterford, to Loop Head in Co. Clare. During this time Ms O?Sullivan has been ?talking to communities about the impact and the effect, what strategic measures we are taking to ensure that the next time we have a big storm that we will start to be prepared. We have to think long term strategies, because of course we have to support people on a short term basis, but we have to think, this isn?t something that is going to go away?.
The current MEP?s recently voted to cut the funding for the European Solidarity Fund by 50%. This is the fund which is applied to countries during times of disaster. ?That indicates to me that they?re not sufficiently aware that global warming is going to continue into the future?.
If elected, Ms O?Sullivan plans to implement measures which would ensure that communities are taken into consideration before any new projects are implemented. ?What I would like to propose in the European Parliament is that we have a community impact assessment, so that before any project would go ahead, that we?d not just look at the environment in terms of the landscape, but we?d look at things from a community perspective?.
What I found most interesting about this perspective, is the element of Social Entrepreneurship which is apparent in Ms O?Sullivan?s vision. ?One thing I have learned over the years is that the environment isn?t a single issue campaign anymore. For me the environment is the social environment, the economic environment, the political and technological. Environment now encompasses everything, so it?s no longer just focusing on green landscape or pollution; it?s the impact of everything on human systems?. ?It?s about creating, it?s about entrepreneurship, it?s about innovation. How can we do things in an innovative way that will create prosperity and wealth for our people, whilst creating the jobs and the solutions?.
Ms O Sullivan, who has third level qualifications in Business, Ecology as well as a post-graduate in Business & Innovation, is a quintessential life-long learner, and is always looking for new challenges and opportunities to expand her learning. From speaking with Ms O?Sullivan, I can honestly say that her passion, enthusiasm and persistence in pursuing what is right and just is utterly apparent.
This year?s election will be held on the 23rd of May 2014. ?The numbers that are voting for the European elections has fallen. We really need people to vote because Europe is responsible for nearly 70-80% of our legislation in Ireland, so it?s really important that people elect, especially young people, people that they think will do something.?
?I?d love to get to Europe, and I really think I would serve the country proud if I had the opportunity?.
For news and updates on Grace O?Sullivan?s campaign, head over to:
There will be a new website launched in the coming week.