I recently met up with Billy Kelleher MEP, who is a Fianna Fáil candidate for Ireland South in the European elections.


He was one of only two Fianna Fáil candidates elected in the last European election, along with Barry Andrews of Dublin.


Kelleher has adapted well to the European stage and I have met him a number of times there. He has been very active and involved in many committees and debates.


He replaced the long-standing Brian Crowley, who had to retire due to ill health in the previous parliament.


Billy comes from a farming background and is very aware of the current challenges with the bad wet weather and the effect on farmers. Tírlán has offered to help farmers in recent statements in terms of a supplier to the sector.


He would support special funds to assist farmers badly affected by the fodder crisis and allow particular measures to recover and alleviate cost burdens.  Food costs can rise for consumers. 


Tillage farmers have also been heavily hit and can expect lower yields. Horticulture is also hit, and Kelleher would like supermarkets and food retailers to take lower margins to help farmers and share some of the pain.


Kelleher also has strong views on Russia and their current tactics in Europe following their Ukraine invasion. He wants to see more investment in Ireland's defence forces, particularly the Irish Navy.


He emphasised they will be utilised more in protecting in Irish waters the subsea data cables that carry internet and financial services technology from the US to Europe and Ireland. If they were damaged, it would cause widespread disruption.


Ireland could be a weak link if anything happened to those cables and back in 2021, the Russians were probing off Ireland’s south west coast and interfering with fishing vessels.


Ireland could also do with a better radar system to protect our air space and Kelleher believes we should invest in more, like some of the Scandinavian countries.


If Ireland had its internet disrupted it would cause a huge problem for financial services in Ireland and elsewhere and jobs and industries would be hit.  ATMs might also be a problem as no cash at ATMs could possibly lead to civic disturbance.


Ireland depends so much on international services that we cannot be lax on these issues of protecting our subsea cables. We have already had cyber-attacks on the HSE that were traced back to criminal gangs in Russia.

France is a nuclear energy producer as is the UK. Ireland is using this indirectly, after a question from the Dublin media on the question in Brussels. These connections will prove more important for the future.


At an EU cohesion forum in Brussels recently, it was said that a new type of warfare in  Europe might not be so much land invasions of a country, but a cyber-attack on tech infrastructure affecting banks, financial services, the public sector and their departments.


Kelleher wants Ireland to define its role in a changing Europe and our neutrality will be need defending against such hostile forces. Technology is key and Ireland needs to be ready in the new world that is emerging to safeguard our facilities and infrastructure.


Drug smuggling is another reason to support and strengthen our navy to combat and fight against crime. Kelleher also said that sometimes people in Brussels think that Ireland is pro-Russia due to certain statements by other MEPS.


Some non-Irish people in other countries think that Ireland has gone left, with Sinn Féin and Ming Flanagan sitting with left group in the parliament. The German left-wing party is ‘Die Linke’ and was formerly known for its origins in the old DDR of East Germany.


Mick Wallace and Clare Daly also heavily criticise the USA in the current political environment where Gaza is a big issue.



Kelleher told the Munster Express that Ireland should be electing more MEPs from the centre parties, as they are more effective at influencing EU policy and development. He is on the parliament’s Economics Committee where he advocates for Ireland in terms of its role in the pharmaceutical industry and financial services, where Ireland is a strong player.


We have so many major international firms having their European base in Ireland, including some of the top names in the world.


This gives a small country like Ireland special respect, with many other smaller countries wishing they had such firms creating jobs in their homeland. The Irish-American connections are key.


This has meant more high skilled work in Ireland. Belgium, Holland and Germany would also be strong in pharma, as would France.


Other nations are envious of Ireland's success in this. Kelleher said that in the past few years, he also had to defend our 12.5-15% corporate tax rate, against much opposition. The lower rate is just for SME or small and medium-sized enterprises. Ireland managed to win this argument.




Kelleher believes that the centre parties can do more in Brussels, working with other mainstream groups. Fianna Fáil sits with the ALDI group in the European Parliament. The European Peoples Party is the biggest group, where Fine Gael are members, and is mainly Christian Democratic party-oriented.


The socialists are the other main group, where the social democrats sit and where the Irish Labour party were seated when they had MEPs.


The Greens share their own groups and then there are a number of smaller groups consisting of nationalists and others.


There is a growing concern among some MEPs about more anti-immigration right wing groups winning seats. Some are following the former UKIP line as an opposition. They could be more effective parliamentarians or contributing enough to policy.


The Irish Freedom Party will be running in the election in various regions in Ireland. I came across Hermann Kelly from Donegal, who works as an adviser to another East European MEP, wearing an Irish Freedom Party badge. 


He will stand in Midlands North West and they have a candidate too in Ireland South called Michael Leahy. It will be potentially a more splintered parliament post-election with more argument. Asylum is a big topic for them and Kelly says this is one of the big issues.


There was also a rather big European Parliament division on the new asylum bill that was carried in the European Parliament last week but opposed by Sinn Féin and other smaller parties. This could be a big debate in the coming weeks.


The Dublin riot was raised by other press at the event, as they were very surprised at the reasons for it. Populism is growing and Kelleher says you need a practical common-sense approach to get things done. This is his role he feels is better for the long term for Ireland, although it may not be as headline grabbing.


Ireland has a good reputation and it is important to keep that and maintain our strengths in Europe., Kelleher continued.


In over 50 years, Ireland has made a lot of progress since joining the EU, with huge rises in income. It is now seen as one of the top performing countries, says Kelleher, with less dependence on Britain as a main trading partner.


There are still major challenges, with housing being a big one and the high level of immigration, with 100,000 Ukrainians coming to Ireland over two years. The economy is at full tilt and Kelleher believes he can make a difference in the European Parliament.