The newly appointed Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence, Deputy Peter Burke, has said that he has big ambitions for his new role but it is clear in his mind that his constituency work and the service he provides to constituents will not suffer.
“It is a great honour to be appointed the Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence. The Taoiseach is eager that we maintain a strong presence at European level and to continue to build strong relationships with our European counterparts, in particular in the wake of ongoing Brexit protocol negotiations and the war in Ukraine.
“I sat down with the Tánaiste this week, who will be my line minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and he also stressed to me the importance of continued support from European Governments and EU Brexit Chief Negotiator Maroš Šef?ovi?, who I am due to meet in the coming weeks. He also informed me he will be taking on the role of Minister for Defence, along with Foreign Affairs, but from time to time I will have to stand in for him in a ceremonial capacity when the European brief allows.
“I have found Tánaiste Mícheál Martin to be a decent and hard-working politician and I know he will be a good colleague to have in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“As European parliaments return now after Christmas, I expect to be in Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and other European capitals on a very regular basis. It will be important to build strong relationships across Europe and my work in this regard has begun.
“However, I am acutely aware of my responsibilities at home and have made it clear to officials that on certain days of the week, I need to be constituency based. I have a very busy constituency office as well as clinic schedule and this will remain unchanged, with my weekly Athlone clinics continuing to be ring-fenced in my diary. It has been really great to see public meetings and various community events return after the covid pandemic and it’s vital I continue to attend these and meet constituents and communities on the ground.
“There will be some cross over too. The Blue Star programme sees the promotion of European studies in schools across the country and I plan lots of outreach in this regard. We also have a series of events celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Ireland joining the EU, as well as public information campaigns around the various jobs that are available across the European institutions to Irish graduates. Although I have no responsibility for Defence policy, I will be seeking further clarity and investment into the Columb Barracks site with plans around the new Centre of Exellence for EVs now taking shape. I also have a keen interest in the continued investment into Custume Barracks Athlone and the continued work taking place regarding the pay and conditions for DF staff.
“Certainly, this will be a challenging brief but one I look forward to getting stuck into, representing the people of Longford Westmeath on the European stage as well as in the Dáil and locally. I thank everyone for their well wishes and look forward to the times ahead,” Deputy Burke stated.