Ireland’s new European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness has been a prominent supporter of Church-state dialogue in the EU and an outspoken defender of the rights of Christians in parts of the world where they face persecution.
Ms McGuinness – who has often spoken about her Catholic Faith – maintained a long silence on the issue of the repeal of the pro-life amendment insisting that she was undecided. However, just days before the referendum in 2018 she disappointed many of her pro-life supporters when she announced that she would vote in favour of removing the constitutional protection afforded to the unborn.
In her time in the European Parliament, she has been a strong supporter of both inter-religious dialogue and the voice of faith and other philosophical worldviews in the EU institutions.
She provoked the ire of secular lobbies in the European Parliament when she proposed last year that the Church, other religious traditions and non-religious organisations be given access to structured dialogue with MEPs – despite the fact that it gave no specific favourable treatment to voices of faith.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic in 2018, Ms McGuinness said she believed that the issue of Christian persecution should be taken more seriously in the context of religious freedom.
She said: “I think that certainly Ireland should be open to providing a safe harbour [for those persecuted] with our EU colleagues and the problem I think is that these individual cases that are very severe come to our attention, but to tackle this issue at source is important because there are many, many violations of religious freedom.”
Ms McGuinness, who up to now as served as the vice-president of the European Parliament, met Pope Francis in 2017. She told The Irish Catholic at the time: “It was an honour to meet Pope Francis and to discuss my role with him. We talked about a number of issues and the importance of communication between the generations,” Mairead McGuinness said.
The outgoing Midlands North West MEP touched on a concern similar to that raised by Pope Francis saying: “The balance between capital and labour has shifted. Today we read of exploitation of workers in the agriculture sector in Europe – those who provide our daily bread,” she said, adding that such exploitation is unacceptable.