Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Controversies over the MEPs Ranking

Last week (June 1), I put a story on this blog on the ranking of Northern Irish MEPs. The post was based on the ranking established by europarliament.net, an unofficial website which ranks MEPs on their attendance at plenary sessions and votes. The results showed that Jim Allister arrived first, Jim Nicholson second and Bairbre de Brun third. That could have been the end of the story but Mick Fealty from Slugger caught it and post it on his website. On June 3, by total coincidence, The Irish News (sub) using the ranking of europarliament.net published an article entitled "De Brun attendance record worst of MEPs." In reaction to this article Eoin O Broin, the Director of European Affairs of Sinn Fein, wrote today an angry letter to the newspaper saying that "the story was inaccurate, misleading and smacked of political bias" (which was caught by peteb on slugger). However, Eoin got a straight answer from the editor who said that "although (Eoin O Broin) claims that our report was misleading, he could not suggest that it contained even a single factual error." More here

De Brun attendance record worst of MEPs 03/06/2005
Irish News
By Diana Rusk

Sinn Fein’s Bairbre de Brun has the worst attendance re-cord of the Northern Ireland MEPs at EU plenary sessions, according to an online league table.

The DUP’s Jim Allister has attended every session since July last year, Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson was at 95 per cent of the meetings and Ms de Brun, above right, made it to 83 per cent.

The figures are from unofficial European website www.europarliament.net but are derived from the roll call at official plenary session minutes.

The table ranked the MEPs in order of attendance and votes. Ms de Brun was placed 524 out of 729 members, compared with Mr Allister, who was ranked 81st.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, Fianna Fail’s Eoin Ryan and Independent member Marian Harkin were the only MEPs from the island of Ireland to rank lower than Ms de Brun.

And official EU figures show that Ms de Brun has taken part in fewer debates than Mr Allister. She spoke on 10 occasions compared with Mr Allister, who has spoken 32 times.

But Sinn Fein’s director of European affairs, Eoin O Broin, said the party's poor record was due to work being carried out in Ireland.

“Too often MEPs disappear into the bureaucracy of the EU institutions after the elections. Sinn Fein MEPs focus both on their institutional work and on providing an effective constituency service and campaigning role at home,” he said.

“The attendance of both Sinn Fein MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg reflects this.”

Commenting on the figures, Mr Allister, whose attendance was also higher than any of the MEPs from the Republic, said that he was just doing the job he had been elected to do.

EU plenary sessions are held four to six times a month.


Here is the letter from Eoin O Broin
The Irish News should avoid ‘cheap shots’
08/06/2005
Letters
From EOIN O BROIN, Director of European Affairs, Sinn Fein, Belfast

THE story in The Irish News (June 3) was inaccurate, misleading and smacked of political bias.

Bairbre de Brun has an attendance rate at the sittings of the European Parliament of 83 per cent.

This relates to the formal parliamentary sessions which take place once a month in Strasbourg and in shorter form several times a year.

The figure does not include an MEP’s committee workload, their involvement in parliamentary political group work and lobby meetings, their constituency work at home and in Brussels and their campaign workload.

Bairbre plays an active part in all of these elements of her job as an MEP in addition to playing a leadership role in Sinn Fein.

To describe her 83 per cent attendance record at plenary sessions as ‘poor’ is deeply misleading.

John Hume during his time in the European Parliament from 1999-2004 had an attendance record of 53.9 per cent and a voting record of 35 per cent.

Ian Paisley had an attendance record of 34 per cent and a voting record of 17 per cent.

These figures show that Bairbre de Brun MEP provided a greater level of service than was the norm during the previous parliamentary period.

The figures were supplied to The Irish News who chose not to include them in their story.

The real issue however is not how often our MEPs are in Brussels and Strasbourg... but what they do there.

There are many MEPs who, post-election, disappear into the political institutions of the European Union never to be seen again.

They may indeed have an attendance record of 100 per cent but deliver little for their constituents.

Sinn Fein’s MEPs are committed to balancing their EU institutional and domestic political commitments in a way that maximises the benefits to people here.

The Irish News should pay more attention

to what Irish MEPs are actually doing.

Taking cheap shots on the basis of flimsy reporting is no substitute for informed journalism. ENDS

Reply from the EDITOR:

We stand over our coverage of June 3 which fairly and accurately reflected a comprehensive survey by the independent website www.europeanparliament.net

The figures related to the attendance record of present rather than past MEPs and placed Bairbre de Brun at 524th in a league table of 729 members.

Eoin O Broin was given more space than any other political representative to offer his response.

Although he claims that our report was misleading, he could not suggest that it contained even a single factual error.

– The Editor

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Mary Lou MacDonald's attendence was reportedly even worse than de Brun's, and it can hardly be argued that she is doing more work at home in Ireland than de Brun is. So what is the reasoning behind her record?

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