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'Current MEPs? Hardworking, but failures' - Matt Carthy runs for Europe

The 36-year-old Sinn Féin candidate has been in politics since 1999.
Apr 6th 2014, 10:30 AM 9,869 107

Carthy headshot 1 Matt Carthy Source: David Cantwell

MATT CARTHY HAS been in politics nearly a decade and a half, but for many years he never gave any thought about aiming for Europe.

That all changed when he campaigned for Sinn Féin against the Fiscal Treaty.

The married father of four has been a member of Carrickmacross council since 1999 – when his claim to fame was he was the youngest elected representative in the country – as well as Mayor of Co Monaghan and Mayor of Carrickmacross.

Now, he’s running for the European elections in the North-West constituency. “It’s not something I would have you know have envisaged in the last European elections,” he admitted.

 

He felt the Fiscal Treaty “was a very significant step in terms of giving the European institution such power and oversight in terms of our own economic future”.

“It struck me at that time that we didn’t have a single MEP that was articulating the same view,” he said. “The four MEPs… were saying the same thing as our government.”

It struck me that over 40 per cent of the people supported Sinn Féin’s analysis, yet we didn’t have a single voice in the European Parliament who was articulating that view, who was articulating a view that a better Europe was possible.

He was selected last July, and says of himself: “I want to be a voice for the people who don’t feel they have a voice in the European Parliament.”

If selected, he would be “somebody who would see their role as being Ireland’s representative in Europe, rather than being what I consider our current MEPs to view their own role as being Europe’s representatives in Ireland”.

He believes MEPs tend to be “messengers who come back and tell us what’s happening in there”.

“While there may be some role for that, we don’t need four MEPs to tell us what’s happening over there, we need people over there who are actually fighting our corner and standing up for our interests,” he asserted.

Carthy and Doherty in Donegal

Youth

Being 36 years old, Carthy would be bringing what he feels is a much-needed sense of youth to the European Parliament.

“I would consider myself coming from the generation that has been the hardest hit as a result of the crisis at a European level as well as at a domestic level,” he said, adding that his own family is in negative equity.

But can he bring in real change if he makes it to parliament?

“I’ve been very careful to be honest with people and told them their lives aren’t going to change dramatically on the 24 May if I happen to have been elected,” he said. “But what they will have is somebody who is articulating their concerns and the demands of these communities.”

 

In terms of decision making, his political philosophy is that “decisions that affect communities should be made as close to those communities as possible”.

“So while I see a role certainly at European level for some decision to me made at that level, what I actually want to see is a strengthening of local government rather than government handing over more powers to the European level”.

He disagree with he thinks is a “consensus” among the other parties that “more Europe is the solution to the crisis that has been caused in many ways at a European level”.

Current MEPs

Of the other MEPs representing his constituency, Carthy had these strong words:

They’re all nice people and I’m sure they’re all hard workers, but in terms of being the voice of the communities they represent, they’ve been absolute failures

He feels there is not enough scrutiny on what MEPs do in Europe, and how they vote. In that sense, he sees himself as a “watchdog” if elected, ensuring “that every vote that’s taken, that the outcome is in the best interests of Ireland where possible but also that Irish MEPs know their actions are being watched”.

Carthy in Donegal

He also believes there is a role for MEPs to monitor the role of ministers at the Council of Ministers and the European Council.

A lot of the real decisions that are made at a European level are made at that level and they may be secret, they may be behind closed doors and in some cases they have long and far reaching consequences for local communities and local communities don’t even find out about them until after the decision is made.

During his campaigning, he has witnessed a swell in support for Sinn Féin, but thinks he needs more than that to get him noticed.

“I have a bigger job as I am somebody who is unknown, to be frank about it, outside Cavan, Monaghan and perhaps Roscommon to ask people to endorse the prospect of a young fresh voice representing them at a European level,” he said.

He said that according to experts, in a constituency this big “the only people who can be elected are basically celebrities or  former TDs who are put out to graze”.

“I would be asking people to put politics and policies ahead of celebrity status,” said Carthy.

He’s been asked about local issues while on the road, and said the general issues from around the constituency are the same.

It’s about lack of regional development, lack of investment in rural community, in our local towns, in our regional towns and centres. It’s about the lack of jobs, the lack of – people would see it – democratic accountability and it’s about the lack of fairness in decision and laws that are being made at a domestic and a European level.

With a large family, it must be challenging to balance things.

“I’m very lucky in that my wife is a Republican in her own right and she is being very supportive of me. I have made it my business to try and get home almost every night.”

Pop quiz

We give each EU Election candidate a pop quiz to determine their level of knowledge about the European Union. How did Carthy do?

How many members are in the European Parliament now?

766 (Correct)

After the elections, how many will there be?

751 (Correct). “Including four Sinn Féin MEps who are fighting for Ireland”

Who is the head of the European Investment Bank?

Oh, that’s Werner Hoyer, is it? (Correct) “In terms of the European Investment Bank, we haven’t been getting our share.”

When was the Euro introduced in Ireland?

2003, am I right? (Wrong, it was 2002)

Read all of our Elections 2014 coverage>

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Aoife Barry

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