The North’s newest MEP, former Foyle MLA Martina Anderson, formally took her seat in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Ms Anderson was travelled to Strasbourg to begin her new role as a Member of the European Parliament and has already taken part in debates in the chamber.
The Sinn Féin representative, who replaced former MEP Bairbre de Brún, said she is determined to maximise the opportunities of Europe for communities in Derry.
The Stormont junior minister was welcomed to the European Parliament by its president, Martin Schulz, on Tuesday evening shortly after arriving in Strasbourg and immediately took her seat in the chamber and participated in a vote.
“It has been hectic since I arrived,” Ms Anderson said, speaking to the ‘Journal’ from Strasbourg.
“It is a completely different working environment than I have experienced before and the range of topics is quite diverse so it is a matter of developing a new way of working and working smarter,” she said.
Ms Anderson faced a long journey from Derry to take her seat in the parliament. “It’s a bit of a donkey ride to get here. I had to travel from Derry to Belfast then fly to Exeter, then on to Paris, and then from Paris to Strasbourg so it’s quite a trek.
“The workload in Strasbourg is also quite intense with sittings running up to 11pm. You certainly need to have a good breakfast because it is a continuous round of back-to-back meetings here from early in the morning. But long days and hard work will not trouble me.
“During the last year as a junior minister at Stormont has been very helpful in terms of getting an understanding of the Executive’s priorities around Europe. I also led a delegation of senior civil servants from all Storomont departments to the European Parliament earlier this year which was very useful in terms of highlighting the raft of possibilities to draw down funding that exists in Europe.
“Being here now as an MEP gives me a chance to explore even more opportunities to identify and draw down funding for Derry and other places across the North,” she said.
Ms Anderson has already met with a senior Irish government official in Europe to discuss the impact of the recent referendum on austerity. “I met with Lucinda Creighton, minister of state for European Affairs, to discuss the Irish government’s stance on its commitments in relation to the referendum,” she said.
The new MEP also said that Derry will be to the forefront of her work in Europe. “When I hear about opportunities for research and development I think of CTRIC and when I hear about educational opportunities I think of the expansion of Magee. These are the things I will have at the forefront of my mind in my work in Strasbourg, Brussels, and at home in the North,” Ms Anderson said.