Irish Rural Link CEO appointed president of EESC Diversity Europe Group

With the start of the 2020 to 2025 term of office of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Séamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link, will take over the presidency of its Diversity Europe Group.

Members confirmed his new role for the next two and a half years during the first group meeting of the new term held today (Tuesday, October 27).

He is the first Irish person to be elected to this position since its foundation in 1956, as one of the EU’s institutions listed in the Treaty of Rome.

The diversity group is made up of delegates drawn from each member state, representing sectors which include: community; agriculture; environment; consumers; social economy; and various professions.

Boland has been a member of the EESC since October 2011 and is a former vice-president of the Diversity Europe Group.

The focus of his presidency

Poverty and the role of civil society organisations in combatting it will be the focus of Boland’s term of presidency.

It will be framed in the context of the European Green Deal and the impact of Covid-19 on people’s lives.

According to Boland, Covid-19 and the ensuing economic, social and health challenges will provide “the framework for the group’s work”, while the Green Deal will provide “the solutions”.

In line with the overall topic of his presidency, priorities of his term include:
  • Addressing the impacts of Covid-19 on society;
  • Implementing the Green Deal with all stakeholders, based on the Sustainable Development Goal: ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’;
  • Involving civil society organisations, including European platforms, with the group’s work;
  • Including all group members in the work as well as maintaining a strong gender balance;
  • Promoting the group’s work to other institutions and the wider public more efficiently.

Speaking today at the virtual meeting, Boland said the Irish phrase ‘Ní neart go cur la chéile’ must be adopted.

“We cannot be strong unless we are united. It will be my job, with the help of the vice-presidents, to ensure that this happens. People rely on us and we must not let them down,” Boland added. 

The new president

Boland is a farmer and has worked in civil society for over 40 years. This has included young people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and rural people living in rural isolation. He is a trained speech and drama educator.

At present, he holds a number of roles. He is a board member of Inland Fisheries Ireland and chair of the Peatlands Council.

As a member of the EESC since 2011, Boland has held different roles, and has chaired study groups on topics such as minimum wages, migration and sustainable development and was rapporteur for various EESC opinions related to agriculture, rural development, energy, social affairs and Brexit.

Boland says he is a “strong believer in sustainable living in rural and urban areas and believes that can be achieved using the principles of ‘just transition’ or ‘leaving no one behind'”.