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EU Needs to focus on Social Inclusion - de Brún

20 April, 2004


Speaking today at an Age Concern sponsored EU Question Time, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún MLA has called for greater level of involvement by politicians and interests groups in the EU, and a renewed focus on tackling social exclusion particularly amongst older people. The meeting also dealt with issues of age discrimination in the workplace, pensions and the need to advance a Promoting Social Inclusion strategy for Older People.

Speaking at the event de Brún said:

'Up to 70% of all legislation affecting the North of Ireland originates in the EU. Despite this fact, many organisations and people only come to understand the impact of this when it comes to implementing the legislation locally. In other parts of the EU there is a substantial and lively engagement with EU issues well before the eventual passing of laws in national or regional parliaments.

'One of the many issues affecting all countries across the EU is the position of older people within society. We need to improve older peoples participation in the labour market, ensure an adequate level of state pension, and improve access to services and ability to participate in life-long learning. Today's Age Concern event created a valuable opportunity to raise and discuss these issues. However while similar discussions are being discussed across the EU people here are often the last to become involved in the decisions affecting their lives.

'There is a great need for a more open and democratic engagement with the role played by the EU in the lives of ordinary people here. Politicians have a crucial role in advocating and publicising key issues which affect the ordinary citizen, whether they be the future of structural or community support funding, equality measures or the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"We need to be discussing issues while they are in the early stages of development, rather than after the decision has been made. This will enable citizens to input into policy making in a more meaningful way.

'For too long, people here have paid too little attention to the impact of the EU locally. In light of the ongoing negotiations on the EU constitution and the impact of enlargement this attitude needs to change. Sinn Féin wants an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU.

'We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national, collective and individual human rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions.

'Finally, we need to ensure that advances made in ways to ensure social inclusion are implemented locally. To this end we need to see the long-awaited progress on a Promoting Social Inclusion strategy for Older People.' ENDS

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