She may have missed out on a Dáil seat for Tipperary South, but the former Clonmel Labour Senator Phil Prendergast has certainly hit the ground running as her party’s choice to replace the outgoing Alan Kelly as the new MEP for Ireland South.
The former nurse and midwife is due to take up her seat at the European Parliament in May subject to final approval by MEPs, but she has already been out to Brussels for a “reccy mission” last week to get a flavour of life in the pumping heart of the EU.
“It’s really exciting; a new direction for me, and I’m relishing the challenge!” said the 51-year-old, who although very disappointed to lose out on a seat in South Tipperary in the recent general election, is now determined to concentrate all her energy and enthusiasm on her new role as MEP.
An experienced local representative, Phil Prendergast was first elected to Clonmel Corporation in 1994 as a member of the Workers and Unemployed Action Group. She joined Labour in 2006, was elected to the Seanad in 2007, and has twice been Mayor of Clonmel. Although she describes being promoted to the EU portfolio was a “most unexpected outcome,” Phil has taken to the role since the general election and has been busy reading her EU briefs, perusing the ins and outs of the CAP, meeting MEPs and informing herself on how best to carry on the work of now Labour TD Alan Kelly, whose election to Dail Eireann left the empty Euro-seat.
“He’s a hard act to follow,” Phil admitted, but said he has been supportive as she prepares for the new job. “He’s a doer, and we have already had several intense briefings together which have been very helpful.”
On taking up the European Parliament seat Phil will also step into Alan Kelly’s shoes as a member of the European Parliament’s Internal Markets Committee and a sub-member of the Agricultural Committee.
“I would also like to work on young people’s issues, including sexual health, education and rights,” Phil said.
She has a steep learning curve ahead for the next few months, but Phil’s certainly up for the challenge.
Whatever her duties in Brussels, she is sure to be at the heart of Clonmel’s centenary events next year celebrating the town as the birthplace of the Labour Party.