Did you know the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union, based in Brussels, is at the heart of Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union? Get to know the Perm Rep better as the Presidency starts, with photographs of the team in Brussels. You can find full contact information for the Permanent Representation employees in the Presidency Who’s Who.
The Permanent Representation (the Perm Rep for short) is Ireland’s ‘Embassy’ to the EU. The Perm Rep brings together under one roof civil servants from nearly every government department, making us Ireland’s largest diplomatic mission abroad.
In preparation for the Presidency, we have increased our staff from 89 to 178, including 137 civil servants from government departments in Ireland, 28 policy officers, seven staff recruited locally for the Presidency and six permanent local staff.
"As Ambassador, I depend totally on the support of the fantastic team we have put together in the Perm Rep,” says Ambassador Rory Montgomery, Permanent Representative. "I see the Presidency as a huge but very rewarding personal challenge, and as a chance to show that Ireland can perform to the highest level on a big stage.”
We have fitted all our new staff into our existing building, which makes for a cosy working environment! Our strong administration team has risen admirably to the challenge of preparing for the Presidency and keeping the Perm Rep running smoothly in this busy period.
“There is a real buzz around the Perm Rep with the new staff that have come onboard for the Presidency – it’s creating a great atmosphere,” says Julie Anderson, chair of the EU Education Committee.
As Ariane Van Leeuw, receptionist at the Perm Rep notes, “I have been here for 2 previous Presidencies – this time is certainly going to be different. Being in charge of reception, welcoming guests to the Perm Rep, I expect to be very busy!”
During the six months of the Presidency, Irish officials will chair around 1,800 meetings in Brussels.
“The biggest challenge for the Presidency is planning all the meetings!” says Deirdre Fannin, who took on a mammoth task as meetings coordinator.
The meetings are organised by subject into working groups, bringing together representatives of the 27 member states along with representatives of the European Commission. Irish officials will chair the vast majority of these meetings. As “Presidents” we will act as honest brokers, seeking to achieve consensus where possible and to make concrete progress on the many topics on the EU agenda.
“Preparation and organisation are key to ensuring a Working Group goes smoothly. It is vital to constantly communicate with colleagues before, during and after the meetings,” says Dympna Boyle, Chair of the Social Questions Working Group.
Our officials will work closely with the Permanent Representative Rory Montgomery and the Deputy Permanent Representative Tom Hanney. Rory and Tom will chair weekly meetings of other EU Ambassadors in ‘Coreper’, the Committee of Permanent Representatives.
“I’m really looking forward to chairing Coreper I, where there is a challenging agenda facing us, particularly on the Single Market side. But I have a great team of people, and there is a very collegiate approach to work in Coreper,” says Ambassador Tom Hanney.
Tom’s personal assistant, Mary Wemyss says, “As manager of the DPR’s calendar, some people have called me the COREPER I gatekeeper! It does allow me to meet with lots of interesting people I wouldn’t normally have had a chance to meet or talk to outside of the Presidency.”
The Ambassadors are supported by teams of coordinators with unusual titles: the Antici Group and the Mertens Group.
“As coordinators of Presidency work on policies such as economics and finance, foreign, enlargement and general affairs, the Antici team is definitely an engine room and nerve centre of the Perm Rep,” says Fergal Mythen, head of the Antici team.
“We have an ambitious but realistic agenda for the Presidency. It’s our job to make sure that it is delivered” says Sarah Holden, deputy head of the Mertens team [a secondee from the Northern Irish Civil Service].
The European Parliament
Irish Ministers, Ambassadors and officials will meet regularly during the Presidency with Members of the European Parliament to reach agreement on Ireland’s priority areas. This will be a major focus of the Perm Rep’s work: as the Council’s co-legislator, the European Parliament is our key partner as Presidency.
“Expect to see us a lot in the European Parliament!”: says Aingeal O’Donoghue, head of our Institutions team.
Political and Security Committee
Since the Lisbon Treaty, the High Representative Catherine Ashton and her team in the European External Action Service permanently chair most working groups on external relations issues. In these groups, Ireland will continue to be represented by officials from the Perm Rep, including Keith McBean our PSC Ambassador and Brigadier General Tom Behan our Military Representative, putting forward Irish views on EU foreign policy issues.
And last but not least, the communications team are the public face of the Perm Rep, communicating the work of the Council and the work of the Presidency to the media and to the general public.
”We’ve already seen a lot of international media interest in Ireland and the Presidency – we hope to make the most of this to promote Ireland during our six months at the EU helm”says Eoghan Walsh, press officer for Coreper II
So, big challenges ahead for the Perm Rep, but we are confident and looking forward to the task.