I welcome Senators and our MEP colleagues for the constituency of Midlands-North-West to the Chamber. I extend a warm welcome to Mr. Colm Markey, MEP, and Ms Maria Walsh, MEP. Unfortunately, Mr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, MEP, and Mr. Chris MacManus, MEP, could not be here today. My apologies to Mr. MacManus for the late notification, which was entirely my fault. He is unable to attend as a result.
The working group on the implementation of Seanad reform and its report, written in 2015 by former Senator Maurice Manning, noted that our MEPs find themselves without a formal connection to our political structures. The working group envisaged that MEPs could debate and engage with us on European developments through an audience in the House. The 2018 report, which was prepared under the chairmanship of Senator Michael McDowell, picked up themes and suggested the link with Europe could be done through Seanad Éireann.
As Senators are aware, the Conference on the Future of Europe was formally inaugurated on Europe Day this year. This conference is a unique opportunity for citizens, parliaments, local authorities and especially young people to engage with playing a part in shaping the future of Europe. The conference organisers are doing that through a hybrid format, online and in person, such as this, and in panels and discussions around Europe. I am delighted that it is one of the themes that will be discussed today by our MEPs. I welcome them to the Chamber as they outline their work.
As we know, Colm Markey replaced the current Commissioner Mairéad McGuinness as an MEP. He was first elected in 2019 to Louth County Council and was its cathaoirleach from 2017 to 2018. He is on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and is a member of the Delegation for Northern Cooperation and for Relations with Switzerland and Norway. He is also a member of the EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee and the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee. He is a substitute member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Fisheries, and the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport. Mr. Markey is a businessman and a farmer so Europe is of huge importance to him. He brings great experience in terms of the UK and EU, especially given his knowledge of the practicalities of Border issues.
Maria Walsh is known to us all since her election in 2019. She is a proud Mayo woman, supporting Mayo through what I will term, "thin and thin". Ms Walsh was born in Boston and raised in Shrule, County Mayo. Her parents are from Connemara and Roundfort. She is an MEP serving on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, and the Committee on Culture and Education. She is a delegate to the United States of America, which is appropriate, and also substitutes on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and is a delegate to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Since her election Ms Walsh continues her work on equality with a particular focus on young people. She is a member of the Parliament's LGBTI inter-group and is a co-chair of the MEP alliance for mental health.
I thank Senators for coming to the Chamber today. This is a unique format that we will test. It is the first of the interactions between our MEPs and Senators, or Ireland and our European Parliament colleagues. The MEPs will outline their work and what they are doing in Europe on behalf of their constituencies, their constituents, Ireland and Europe. There will then be opening statements from the leaders of the Seanad groups and their spokespersons followed by a question and answer session. Members will have to bear with us as the question and answer session is a European format - the Leas-Chathaoirleach will take over and police it - in that it comprises a question for a minute and an answer for two minutes. The clock will be on, which will allow for better engagement and direct answers. We will work through this format and, as with everything, we have decided on who speaks first alphabetically. I again thank Mr. Markey for being with us today. He has eight minutes.