Paul Murphy MEP, travel interview

I am one of three MEP’s in Dublin. I have taken over from Joe Higgins TD of the socialist party since the 1st of April and am the newest member of the European Parliament and the European United Left Group. 

My job involves working in Dublin, Brussels and Strasburg. In Dublin I will be based here in Pearse Street. The idea is to assist and meet people who need help in various campaigns,  for example, I am meeting with people involved in the stardust campaign later to help them get publicity for their case by putting a petition into Europe.

In Brussels, I attend various committee meetings. An example is last week I attended a meeting on International Trade where I was trying to expose the Pro-European Multi-National nature of European Trade deals at the expense of the developing world. We (the European United Left Group) are fighting for worker’s rights in the developing world.

My job in Brussels involves speaking at these meetings, tabling amendments to various legislative ‘stuff’ that is coming up. I also meet once a month with the European United Left Group engaging in political discussion about various issues, for example, we recently had a discussion about nuclear power in Europe.

I also spend one week a month in Strasburg. This is where the main sessions of the European Parliament takes place where all MEP’s come together. Proposals are discussed and voted on to go onto the European Commission.

My work involves, as you can imagine, a lot of travel. I have at least two flights a week on average. I suppose it’s not very pleasant, and can be extremely stressful. Travelling can be a stressful experience. Yes, you can get used to it. Your tolerance level increases because you just have to do it so often. I have learned to get used to it as I was travelling with Joe (Higgins) for two years around Europe as his political advisor.

I had a pretty bad trip just recently, yesterday in fact. I was on the bus from Strasburg to Frankfurt. The bus got delayed; there was loads of road-works so it took us about four hours to get there instead of two. So I missed my flight; that was ‘great’ and I had to get a flight just this morning, but it was ‘fine’. I mean it wasn’t that bad but it’s just irritating when things like that happen.

Some of the most interesting trips I have been on occurred when I was travelling around Europe to protests. I suppose the first time I did this was during the major protest against the G8 at Gleneagles in Scotland, so that was ‘interesting’. The amount of travelling was vast. I got a flight to ‘somewhere’ and then a bus and stayed in ‘some’ campsite. It wasn’t the wackiest trip but was certainly interesting.

I’ve been to a lot of countries around the world. My mum would have been big into travelling when I was young so I went on lots of holidays with her. My favourite place was the Great Barrier Reef. It’s just beautiful. I went snorkelling which was great but not scuba-diving but I’d like to go Scuba-diving in the future. I’d also like to go inter-railing through Europe but I just don’t have the time.

My favourite form of travel is definitely train. Trains are a very pleasant way to travel. There’s more room, space etc. It gives you a chance to relax. You can relax much more on a train than you can on an airplane or a bus.

With regards to the state of travel in Europe I think that travelling in most of the rest of Europe is significantly better than travelling in Ireland. Travel in Ireland is very under-developed. Public Transport is very under-developed. In Ireland there is emphasis on the building of roads as opposed to the building of significant train-lines. It’s a crazy situation where people have to travel into Dublin from somewhere in the country in order to get back to somewhere that’s not in Dublin. It’s just an incredible situation.

In terms of rail travel on a city wide basis, it is very limited. Yes there is the dart and the Luas but it is not enough whereas in European cities you do have more. In my opinion, in a city wide basis, rail travel is the only way to go. But not like a Luas where you’re sharing space with cars on the road and you’re forced to deal with traffic and traffic lights.

European cities are not perfect but they are significantly better than what we have in Ireland right now. There are problems in Europe too. I was over in Strasburg last week to speak about the development of high speed train lines in Italy, France and Germany. Generally, I am in favour of the development of train lines etc. across Europe; however there are some developments of high speed train networks in the North of Italy and in Stuttgart that are going to go through areas destroying communities and will have a major impact on the environment. These would be prestige projects that are parallel to existing train lines that are pretty much as good. We have a major campaign against it. High speed trains are not the answer to everything!

My understanding of it (high speed train prestige projects) is, and from speaking to the experts is that once rail travel goes over a certain speed it is no longer particularly environmentally friendly. Obviously rail travel is generally much more environmentally friendly than certainly planes and buses. But if the trains do go over a certain speed, then they are going to affect the surrounding areas. As a result of this we are starting to see opposition to these types of developments in France, Italy and Germany.

On the topic of having a possible underground system in Dublin, yes I would like to see one in position. At a minimal lets built Metro North. The arguments for it are number one it creates jobs, it gets people back to work and it helps with the redevelopment of the economy. Number two is that there would be the development of a real public transport system. So I’m in favour of it but the present Government won’t go ahead with it, never mind the development of an underground system.

One of the main arguments against building either Metro North or an underground system is that it will cause destruction in the city etc. but what they really mean by that is the destruction and disruption that will be caused to business in the city and the destruction that would be caused to profits. But we think it’s worth doing and its worth developing an underground system in Dublin. I have lived in Brussels for a number of years now and the difference it makes to the quality of life, to have a decent underground/metro system is just incredible; people’s lives can improve dramatically.

I think in all major cities, which would include Limerick and Cork, a rail system of some sort for the city and intro-city whether it be an underground or metro system or a monorail should be considered. In the short term you need to get more buses on the streets to allow people to use them but it is not a long term solution.