Over a Coffee with Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman

Another five years? European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has thrown her hat into the ring for another term. Brian Maguire asked her why she wants to have another shot at the job.

Candidates will face a public grilling by the Committee on Petitions on 3 December, followed by a vote in plenary, probably during Parliament’s Strasbourg part-session in December.

A high-profile journalist with a reputation for fact-based persistence in the face of powerful vested interests, her diligence as a reporter was nurtured at Harvard University with a Nieman Fellowship in journalism. Getting closer to the real people was always part of her narrative; and this public voice formed the heart of her reports on the New Hampshire campaign trail.

While working for a magazine, she met with reputed IRA leader, Gerry Adams and recorded the transformation of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ as the peace process matured from optimistic green shoots. The vocabulary of Irish violence has given way to a more nuanced type of negotiation in Europe. Where once O’Reilly reported on the bloody legacy of black boxes in Ireland, today, ‘black boxes’ are the secretive negotiating phases of the European Council.

O’Reilly has won much support for her attempts to prise open Council negotiations, insisting that Europe’s citizens must be permitted greater transparency. This goes to the heart of the challenge facing O’Reilly as she seeks another five years – does the European Parliament want “another lawyer” in the role of Ombudsman – when the European Court of Justice has so many already – or does the EP want a persistent, fact-based journalist?

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