Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has said she is ready for the challenges that will come with being a Member of the European Parliament.
Ms Anderson, a junior minister in the Executive, confirmed yesterday that she has allowed her name to go forward to be nominated to replace Bairbre de Brún in the European Parliament.
Nominations for the position close on Monday. Ms Anderson is the only person to announce her nomination to date. While others may announce their intention to be considered for selection in the coming days, senior Sinn Féin sources have said Ms Anderson is likely to be chosen to go to Europe.
Explaining her decision to be considered to replace Ms de Brún, Ms Anderson said: “There have been conversations within the party about finding a replacement for Bairbre. When the party came to me to ask me to allow my name to go forward to replace Bairbre, someone who has done sterling work in Europe for many years, I was deeply honoured,” she said.
Ms Anderson said despite the excitement of the possibility of going to Europe, her thoughts initially turned to the prospect of leaving Derry.
“I must admit that the initial thoughts I had were primarily around my mother. My mother is something who is incredibly important to me as people in the city will know so I needed to find out the practical commitments that the role of an MEP would involve,” she said.
The Foyle MLA said she was convinced to put her name forward for section with the support of her husband, Paul Kavanagh, an advisor to Martin McGuinness. “My husband has been a rock, as he has been in the 32 years that I’ve known him. Paul and my family have been very supportive of my decision. Those important people in my life have made it easy for me,” she said.
Ms Anderson also said she is prepared to take on any role in pursuit of her party’s aims. “Anyone who knows me and knows my history will know that there are no no-go areas for me. I will go anywhere and do anything in order to take our strategy forward,” she explained
The former St Cecilia’s pupil said that Derry could benefit from having a voice in the European Parliament, particularly in relation to the regeneration of the city.
“I was involved, along with many others in the city, in the construction of the One Plan and while we have seen an absolute commitment from the Executive, including a £12.6 million funding package. The delivery of the One Plan will also need European funding streams.
“I see the role of an MEP for this region as a promoting greater cross border co-operation, The border region has suffered from under investment and if I am chosen to go to Europe I will make promoting the border region a priority,” she said.
Ms Anderson has held the position of junior minister in the Executive for one year and has said that during that time she has been centrally involved in many European issues. “Over the last year Martin McGuinness has given me many responsibilities and one of them has been to explore the many opportunities presented by Europe, particularly in relation to the unique opportunity presented to the North by President Baroso in terms of unprecedented access to Europe,” she said.
As junior minister, Ms Anderson recently led a high-level delegation of officials for each Stormont department. “We had 54 meetings over three days so it was an intense engagement. In the past there was a reluctance from some officials at Stormont towards Europe but when they saw the huge opportunities that are there for the taking in Europe they were convinced. President Baroso has opened doors for us in Europe and it is up to us to go through them,” she said.
Ms Anderson said that if she is chosen as an MEP she will represent all the people of the North but insisted that Derry will always remain her first priority. “As a junior minister I represent all of the North but I am totally unapologetic about wanting the best for Derry. For me it is about bringing Europe to the Bogside and I see nothing but opportunities for this city.
“Regardless of whatever forum I may be in the coming weeks, I intend to continue representing this city and to continue standing up for this city and for this country,” she said.
Ms Anderson acknowledged that if she is selected to become an MEP her new role will mean she will be away from Derry for long periods of time. “There would be a plenary week, a committee week, and a week to engage with the group that Sinn Féin are part of in Europe. It would be tough being away from my family and friends in Derry but I am been away in worse places for longer times,” the former prisoner said.
A selection convention is expected to be held on Thursday to choose a replacement for Ms de Brún.