Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has completed her first year in the European Parliament and has said she is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
During the last year Ms Anderson has hosted hundreds of local people on delegations to Brussels and has held a number of major European events in Derry, including a study visit by 22 MEPs to the city.
Ms Anderson also staged her first exhibition at the European Parliament in April when she hosted a showcase by Comhaltas in April to promote Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
Ms Anderson said that spending long periods of time away from home in Brussels and Strasbourg has been challenging but added that she has learned new ways to cope with the distance.
“My sisters and husband have been an asset. They have played a blinder in terms of support. I could not do what I am doing without that support.
“I have also developed within myself a tolerance and acceptance. I used to meditate when I was in jail, Buddhist meditation, and I have found that helps. Going through airports, flights will be delayed and I will not get to my destination on time, or get home when I expected, or arrive at a meeting when I expected, or other things may happen, but there is nothing I can do about that.
“I have learned to accept the pressures and learn to cope. Having the support is crucially important, particularly when I don’t get home and those are the times that are most challenging,” she said.
The MEP encouraged local groups to avail of the funding opportunities in the European Parliament. “The last delegation I took out was made up of representatives of Chambers of Commerce from across the North. I exposed them to the potential opportunities coming on board in 2014. It is important that we wake up to the funding opportunities that are there in Europe. It can be complicated and difficult but we need to be in there making applications,” she said.
Ms Anderson also said she is proud to have been involved in important health legislation in Europe. “I did not think that in the first year that I would have had an experience of taking one piece of legislation, the Tobacco Products Directive, through to committee stage and we are now going to Strasbourg in September to vote on it,” she said.