In conversation with Maria Walsh, Member of the European Parliament
365 Sherpas: Do you consider Europe as your homeland in a similar way as your hometown or home county?
Maria Walsh: I was born in the USA and I represented Philadelphia in the Rose of Tralee showcasing the Irish diaspora and I grew up in Shrule Co. Mayo, so I am quite open to what I call home. Nowadays even more, because I see the negative effects of people who don’t have a strong European feeling. I am Irish and European.”
365 Sherpas: Do you think your generation identifies as more European than the generations before?
Walsh: For sure. My dad is 65 and visited Brussels and probably even mainland Europe for the first time last weekend. He just never had a connection to Europe. Our age demographic looks at Europe as full of opportunities. Still, we also have to find a balance of harnessing our individual cultures as we go through our own identity shift.
365 Sherpas: What do you imagine the EU to look like 20 years from now? What has to be done to achieve this vision?
Walsh: I hope we are more Pro-European than ever before, we are connected, but our values don’t shift and change. We are going to be very technology-driven, that is exciting but also a bit worrying for someone who really loves to perceive traditional values, too – and I say that as a LGBTQI modern woman. I hope we still celebrate our individualism but in a Pro-European manner and that we find a nice balance between urban and rural spaces by that time frame.
»Our age looks at Europe as full of opportunities. Still, we also have to find a balance of harnessing our individual cultures as we go through our own identity shift.«
365 Sherpas: What are your goals and ambitions in making people feel “at home” in Europe?
Walsh: To make people feel at home is a matter of communication, constant sharing of information, understanding that everybody can bring their self to work, no matter if they are Irish or German, black or white, protestant or catholic, gay, straight or transitioning. Our biggest job right now is to figure out how we can make the millions of young people feel at home. I think we need to really shut up and listen, and that’s how you get them to stay in Europe.
365 Sherpas: At the end of May you were elected into the EP, since then you have spent quite some time in Brussels and Strasbourg. Is there something from your home constituency that you miss?
Walsh: Irish comfort food. I am a very bland eater in the morning, and I haven’t really gotten equipped with the Brussels breakfast of croissant, Nutella and orange juice. I am more of a bacon and eggs kind of girl. I also wish I could still play Gaelic football and that not everything would shut down on Sundays in Brussels.
Maria Walsh was elected to the European Parliament as Member of Fine Gael (EPP) in 2019. Walsh was born in 1987 in Boston, both of her parents are Irish. Her family moved to Ireland in 1994, where she was raised on a family farm. She is known for having been crowned the International Rose of Tralee in 2014 (a festival celebrated among Irish communities all over the world).