The Student Experience 2012-2013

Clare French 2 BCorp Law

The EU institutions trip was such a brilliant experience, a perfect mix of legal experiences and great social aspects also! When you get a chance to be present in the Grand Chamber of the ECJ for a court case, have privileged meetings and discussions with MEPs, and tour the buildings of the European Commission, all by travelling 3 countries in 5 days with a group of students- take it! It is the best way to see how the institutions really function and get a sense of the work and commitments of all involved in each part of it, especially if you think you could see yourself there someday. You get such incredible opportunities to meet with exceptional and dignified people in the legal profession, who are only happy to welcome you and any questions you may have. On top of all of that, you have plenty of time to explore three different cities- and of course the nightlife in each! I really can’t recommend this experience highly enough, and am so happy to have availed of such a great opportunity. 

Michael O’Donnell Final Year BA (PSP)

Chris Nealon, Michael Wilkins, Michael O’Donnell and Ameer Gazder at the Louise Weiss European Parliament Building in Strasbourg
The European Trip to the institutions is a must for anyone with any sort of an interest in EU Law or European affairs. The access you are given into to the workings of the EU is certainly an eye opener especially with regard to the scale at which these institutions operate at. We had the pleasure of meeting judges from the European Court and Members of the European Parliament. The opportunity to sit in on a hearing at the ECJ and a sitting of Parliament was certainly the climax of the trip. The trip brought what I had read and studied to life. It was an experience that none of us will ever get again and that none of us will forget. I couldn’t recommend it strongly enough.

Pictured right: Chris Nealon, Michael Wilkins, Michael O’Donnell and Ameer Gazder at the Louise Weiss European Parliament Building in Strasbourg

Cathal Kelly 2 BCL

Everybody has a different take on what the highlights of the journey are – this is a good sign in itself. For me personally the highlights were two. We were given a talk in the commission by Eithne McCarthy, which was invaluable as Eithne really brought home the idea that a career in the Commission is not an unobtainable notion.  It is an incredibly enticing and eminently achievable goal for any student with an interest in EU law and the desire to make it happen. A second highlight for me was a lecture we received in the European Parliament which stimulated a lot of intellectual debate in my mind, even long after we had returned home.  During the course of this lecture we debated with some Norwegian law students, which was most unexpected for me and extremely interesting.

The trip was punctuated by lectures given by highly competent and genuinely enthusiastic employees of the EU institutions, both Irish and non-Irish, and were thoroughly engaging.  I might go as far as to say that some of the lecturers will keep you on your toes; it is not necessarily the passive experience that you might expect.

Cathal Kelly sightseeing in Brussels Within weeks of returning from this trip, I was compiling my first CV since starting the Bachelor of Civil Law, and I did not hesitate to add on my CV that I made the journey over to visit the EU institutions, as I felt that this would demonstrate that I have an interest in law beyond the confines of the lecture hall.

At the risk of sounding ‘grubby’ by dealing with the issue of money and cost, I choose to do so because for me it might have (but thankfully did not) negatively influence my decision to go on this trip. A rebate was given to us, which to our surprise we received halfway through our journey.  Needless to say this was most welcome, and when factored into what you get from the whole of the journey, it actually represents excellent value for money.

Pictured left: Cathal Kelly sightseeing in Brussels

The trip in a nutshell is a whirlwind experience with absolutely no opportunity to be bored or idle.  Should the opportunity be available to any student to go on this trip I would thoroughly recommend doing so, because even beyond the inspiration that it may give a student in terms of a career in one of the EU institutions (which the guest speakers are at pains to demonstrate is eminently achievable), you also have the opportunity to meet new people socially, to explore (Brussels in particular is amazing), have a small change of scenery from NUIG and come back to college with a renewed vigour.  Consider it unmissable.

Fiona McCarry 2 BCorp Law

The EU Law trip is probably the most worthwhile thing you can do while studying EU Law especially if you are considering some kind of career in the European Union. We arrived in Brussels on Monday morning, met Werner our bus driver for the week and drove to Luxembourg where we spent the rest of the day getting a sense of the city. Our visit to the Court of Justice the next morning was a really motivating experience for me. A number of referendaires, who are legal secretaries to the court judges, and lawyer-linguists came to meet our group giving us a great sense of the work that goes on in the court for example the preparation for cases like the industrial bags cartel case we had seen just before meeting them. Afterwards we met Judges Kevin O'Higgins and Kieran Bradley who explained the functions of their courts which was followed by lunch with all of these incredibly intelligent people. We were also joined by Court of Justice Judge Aindrais O'Caoimh. After lunch we drove to Strasbourg to attend the Parliament the following morning. We were greeted by MEP's Paul Murphy, Jim Higgins, Gay Mitchell, Emer Costello, Phil Prendergast and Sean Kelly. We were fortunate enough to hear an address to the Parliament by the Tunisian President who had studied at the University of Strasbourg and spoke about the assassination of the opposition leader earlier this year and how pressing the need for a stable democracy in Tunisia is. Finally, our longest journey of 6 hours back to Brussels where we attended a really engaging lecture/discussion on the European Union on Thursday morning and met Leo Flynn, of the Commission's Legal Services department, Eithne McCarthy former NUIG student now working with the stagaire committee, and Anthony Whelan, Commission official. Overall it was week full of valuable information and experience and has really focussed the goal of my studies to hopefully qualify for a stage (internship) in the legal linguistic department of the Court of Justice.

Fiona McCarry (fifth from left) with other trip participants at the Court of Justice
Pictured above is Fiona McCarry (fifth from left) with other trip participants at the Court of Justice

Lucy Meaney Final Year BA(PSP)

The trip to the EU institutions is most definitely the trip of a lifetime. I would jump at the chance to go again. It was an amazing experience, we saw three European cities is just four nights, made so many new friends and got a first-hand look into the workings of the EU institutions. Everyone at the institutions was extremely friendly, welcoming and offered great information and advice. It really brings everything you study in EU law come to life. The trip has sparked my interest in EU law even further. I will always look back at my time on the trip and appreciate what an amazing opportunity it was.

Tatiana Kelly Final Year LL.B.

Our unforgettable journey started with an early flight from Dublin on the 4th of February, 2013. Excitement and fear of being late for the flight resulted in a sleepless night for many. But it was well worth it!

Despite the fact that not all group members knew each other before the trip, it was not long into the journey before the group started to display strong solidarity. It continued throughout the whole journey and definitely made the whole experience more memorable and less stressful for the team leader, who was always there for us, every step along the way. The trip was very well organised, including the transport and our accommodation, considering that we visited three countries in five days and were always on the go.

The trip provided us with a valuable insight into the European Institutions, their structure and functioning, which was a beneficial addition to us as current European Law students. Semi-formal presentations by members and staff provided us with great opportunities to enquire about future employment options and to learn more about recruitment procedures and requirements. I would advise this trip to all future students and particularly to those who may see their future in these institutions or to those, who simply may struggle with the module, trying to learn it in abstract.

Tatiana Kelly with MEP Gay Mitchell at the European ParliamentOur first destination was Luxembourg and the European Court of Justice where we were extremely fortunate to be present at the sitting of the Grand Chamber which consisted of fifteen judges, dealing with a very interesting case in relation to cartels. It was a very different experience in comparison with Irish courts: less drama and more law, mostly by reading from the paper! After the hearing we were greeted by Irish staff and received some valuable information in relation to working at the ECJ and its structure in general. The information and general tips were very helpful and we were free to ask as many questions as we liked, which we did.

‌The highlight of the day, though, was the lunch with Irish judges. It was very interactive and provided a great opportunity to communicate with judges, and Justice O’Caoimh in particular, in a relaxed atmosphere. Learning the European law in abstract before the trip, this tour definitely answered all my questions which I had before and hoped to find answers. I felt that members of staff at the ECJ were willing to help and were very approachable in relation to all matters raised by students. In overall, we received a very warm welcome and memories that will last a lifetime.

The next destination was the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. The meeting with MEPs provided us with a valuable introduction into the structure and operation of the European Parliament. At the conclusion, I was honoured to have a brief conversation with MEP Gay Mitchell (pictured right), discussing current Irish affairs and recent debates raised by him in the Parliament. Combined with the same and other speeches, it confirmed my beliefs that Irish MEPs during the Irish Presidency strongly try to stabilise Irish economy and promote Ireland as a republic with strong aims and spirit. The opportunity to be present during the debates brought all theory into the reality and contributed even further to the understanding of the procedures.

Felicia Robbins Final Year BA

After visiting the EU Institutions I have a much better understanding of the processes and functions of the Union. The Courts were quite impressive, and being able to sit in a hearing in the Grand Chamber really put you in the middle of the action. I found the translation facilities within the court room highly impressive. The judges and Irish lawyers who spoke with us following the hearing were very welcoming and willing to answer any questions.

The following day in Strasbourg we visited the European Parliament. We began our day with introduction speeches from Irish civil servants in Parliament and our discussion continued when some of the Irish MEPs joined the group to share their experiences and answer questions. The sense of unity among the politicians, regardless of their political affiliation in Ireland was surprising to me but highlights how the EU manages to function with so many backgrounds and beliefs merging together. We then sat in on voting and a speech from the President Moncef Marzouki of Tunisia in the debating chamber which was impressive to say the least.

The finial institution to visit was the European Commission which is actually dispersed across the city in various buildings. Unfortunately, because the heads of state were meeting to agree on the budget we were unable to have access to many areas, and many important people. We were able to speak to some Irish officials though and they gave extensive background on their areas of work in Brussels and how they were able to attain such levels of knowledge and employment. Brussels was a lovely city to end our journey in, leaving some time for sightseeing and many of the students wanting to return.

NUI Galway students with MEP Jim Higgins at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Front L to R: Felicia Robbins, Michael Wilkins, Aisling Keenan, Clare French, Michael O’Donnell
Middle L to R: Ameer Gazder, Seán Perrill,  MEP Jim Higgins
Back L to R: Chris Nealon, David Crowe, Tatiana Kelly, Cathal Kelly
NUI Galway students with MEP Jim Higgins at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Front L to R: Felicia Robbins, Michael Wilkins, Aisling Keenan, Clare French, Michael O’Donnell
Middle L to R: Ameer Gazder, Seán Perrill,  MEP Jim Higgins
Back L to R: Chris Nealon, David Crowe, Tatiana Kelly, Cathal Kelly

Aisling Keenan (Final Year BComm)

Cathal Kelly and Aisling Keenan getting ready to board that early morning flight to Brussels!
Travelling through the night? Is that the best the travel agent could do?! Arrangements, co-ordination and transfers were excellent. Day one - Tuesday ECJ 200,000 square feet: this is an impressive establishment. A brief tour with our guide led us to the grand Chamber for the days hearing. In the ‘Grande Chambre’ the case was C40/12 P Gascogne Sack Deutchland / Commission, Kendrion / Commission. Group Gascogne / Commission. Very warm room difficult to maintain concentration. Then on to a briefing by Irish referendaires and legal linguists with an outstanding accumulation of academia and experience - a valuable insight for budding EU Law legals into how it all works in practice. Photos at the flags were next and on to a delicious salad lunch upstairs hosted by Judge Kevin O Higgins, Judge Kieran Bradley and Judge Aindrias O’Caoimh with stimulating and interesting conversation … 2.5 hour bus journey to Strasbourg.... ZZZZzzzzzzzz …

Pictured above right: Cathal Kelly and Aisling Keenan getting ready to board that early morning flight to Brussels!

Sightseeing on the last day in Brussels, with the Atomium in the background
Sightseeing on the last day in Brussels, with the Atomium in the background