Irish & EU flags (rguerra on Flickr)
My name is Kate McKeon, Irish student of European studies at Trinity College Dublin and I’ve recently arrived in Stasbourg to study at the IEP. Having spent a good portion of the time at the beginning of the academic year being completely bewildered and overwhelmed at the French and France (they eat dinner at midday, you must sign about 12 forms just to walk round the corner, etc), and I’m here to tell you about the rather cool internship I’m doing. I’ve spent the last two years studying politics, languages and history as part of my degree in Dublin. Having not had too vast a knowledge of what that would entail before landing in Trinity, I gradually came around to the idea and now have vague (perhaps unrealistic) hopes of maybe one day working for the European Union, or a similar institution.
I, like many Erasmus students, chose to spend my year here in Strasbourg armed with nothing but the knowledge that it was an international, vibrant student city with a large population of international inhabitants, but was still rather small and quaint, something that it is comforting when moving to a different country for the first time in ones life. I landed here at the beginning of September, during a heat wave no less, (something that is not entirely pleasant when one has grown up in perhaps the most rained in country in western Europe), and set about the task of getting to grips with the place. About a week into my time here I was informed that I had an interview for one of those coveted stages in the European Parliament. Needless to say that I was over the moon. Extremely nervous. But over the moon. One slightly scary internet task test and a short face to face interview I was informed I would be given a shot. First reaction, call mum and dad.
So I started work during the October Plenary Session. First reaction was of course, be overwhelmed at the enormity of the building and the excitement that your standing at the actual european parliament, and then began the work. I was lucky enough to be working for Sean Kelly MEP with the European People’s Party. Let me tell you a bit about Mr Kelly. Mr Kelly is from a place in Ireland called Kerry and he represents the south constituency. He is a member of the current government party, Fine Gael. He qualified as a primary school teacher and has been heavily involved in Irish sports all his life. He was elected as president of the Gaelic Athletic Association and for those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s basically as big as it gets in terms of positions in Irish sport. The GAA is the association that is in charge of the two traditional Irish sports, Gaelic football and Hurling. It is both a huge honour and responsibility to be elected president of this historic organisation. Mr Kelly is also extremely well respected within the parliament and this year was elected the MEP of the year for research and innovation.
Mr Kelly is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development and substitute member of the Committee on Culture and Education and the delegation for relations with Canada. In recent times Mr Kelly has also made data protection a priority. What does that mean exactly? Well, we’re all aware of the advantages of being the computer literate and technology savvy generation. We use computers, smartphones and ipads to make our breakfasts in the morning. The advantages are endless. However what the majority of us are not aware of are the disadvantages of having so much of our personal and private information available online. We often wonder if our politicians are fully capable of dealing with problems of this nature, or are they simply too wrapped up in dealing with bigger problems, such as the economic crisis or global warming. The problem of implementing proper data protection measures is made extremely difficult by the fact that legislation implementation must move quickly in order to keep up and be effective in a time where information available online changes by the second. It certaintly makes me feel better to know that this problem has come to the attention of those who represent us at international level, as this is a problem that is worldwide, and each European country must work together to find a solution.
While my work so far at the Parliament has been short, I look forward to getting to do more, and seeing more of the place. The people I’ve met so far have been extremely interesting and I get the distinct impression that I would be learning far more there than in lectures. I’ll keep you posted!