Public Meeting Report: Launch of the Citizen’s Dialogue and Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Stability, jobs, growth – these are Ireland’s goals for the presidency of the Council of the European Union this year.  In connection with this, on Thursday 10 January, MC Pat Kenny was joined in Dublin City Hall by citizens, politicians and journalists to officially launch the European Year of Citizens 2013 and hold a Citizens’ Dialogue to allow the Irish to voice their opinions on EU membership.

 

After the official launch, Pat Kenny kicked off an engaging Citizens’ Dialogue with Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, and Vice-President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding.

 

They engaged in a lively debate with audience members, who asked the tough questions.  Minister Creighton was asked about the recent 2013 budget and stated that, although a tough budget, it was necessary for “laying the foundations for future growth”.  Vice-President Reding reiterated the idea of growth. “Europe is about people, not institutions” she said.

 

A frequent theme throughout the event was youth. Many audience members were concerned about employment, understandable since Ireland’s unemployment rate has risen from 13% to 30% since the recession hit.  One major issue that was brought up was the extended work life of the elderly.  Many Europeans are now forced to work past the age of sixty-five to manage their expenses.  The knock-on effect is that young people in these countries, including Ireland, cannot attain employment as the turnover of workers is too low to allow recruitment.  The Vice-President acknowledged that the young are the worst affected by the current crisis and suggested that we need to respond with increased investment in the future.  The solution, Vice-President Reding believes, is growth; the need to grow the economy to make it sustainable.

 

Questions were also raised about the controversial issue of the European Parliament’s location in Strasbourg, and the extra costs this entails every year.  Vice-President Reding acknowledged that this is an issue but that it was the historical context of the location in Strasburg that has kept the location active, a fact which perhaps we are not all aware of.

 

With an inquisitive audience, the event was overall a great success.  The general vibe from the citizens present was that they supported the ideals of the European Union but felt that now Ireland is suffering as a result of this membership.  With any luck, the goals outlined by the politicians will be fulfilled and faith in the union will be restored.

 

For more information, check out www.eu2013.ie

Film Review: The Croods

Everyone loves a good animated film. Toy Story probably made them fashionable, quickly followed by the likes of Shrek, Madagascar and The Incredibles. The Croods is one of those loveable family-friendly films. It tells the story of the Croods, a family who are among the last people on earth. They live in the safety of their cave, emerging once every few days to hunt for food. The protagonist is Eep who, despite all outward appearances, is the stereotypical stubborn teenage girl. She breaks the strict rules set down by her father, Grug, and ventures out of the cave one night. This leads the family on a venture of survival and Grug having to deal with Eep’s first teenage crush, Guy.

Despite the title, there was no ‘crood’ humour; the comedy flows from start to finish. The family unit is as dysfunctional as you would expect from an American on-screen family; a rebellious daughter, an over-protective father, a dim-witted son, an animalistic baby daughter, a battle-axe grandmother and the sensible mother who holds it all together. This leads to some great scenes with the family trying to survive not only a pre-historic apocalypse but also each other’s personalities. The storyline is entertaining and keeps up with the pace of the humour. There are scenes that everyone can relate to, from family spats to more tender moments. There is a strong theme of love throughout, from Eep’s crush to the love of a father for his daughter. Animal lovers will also be pleased with some cute and not-so-cute creatures playing a blinder in support roles, chiefly ‘Belt’, the sloth who is, according to Guy, is a “Conversational. Navigator. Also keeps my pants up”.

The blindingly attractive leading couple, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, are perhaps wasted behind the facades of their animated characters but Nicholas Cage, the voice of Grug, blends in well with his on-screen persona. The supporting cast is made up of Catherine Keener, Clarke Duke and Chris Sanders, to name a few.

All in all, The Croods is a very enjoyable film with strong comedy and a decent storyline. It is yet another DreamWorks film that is universally watchable. If you are babysitting, going on a date or treating an elderly relative to a trip to the cinema, The Croods is definitely a good option for all occasions.