Jim was elected to serve as Member of the European Parliament for the North-West Ireland Constituency in June 2004.He was then re-elected on June 9, 2009.
Jim is quoted as saying: "I am honoured and proud to have been elected by the people of the North-West Constituency to represent them in the European Parliament"
A Member of Mayo County Council from 1979-1995, Jim served as Vice-Chairman of the Council from 1980-1981. In 1987 Jim was elected to the Dáil to serve the people of Mayo in North West Ireland and was appointed Fine Gael's spokesman on Justice, Equality and Law reform the same year. He was re-elected to the Dáil in 1989, 1992 and 1997.
Fishing and coastal resources are important aspects for members of the Constituency. As well as being appointed Opposition Chief Whip Jim has held a variety of shadow ministerial posts including Education and Public Enterprise and Tourism. In Government, Jim became a Minister of State at the Department of Finance and was later appointed Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Defence and Government Chief Whip. Jim was recognised as a tenacious and effective Shadow Minister. As Opposition Spokesman on Education he introduced the Education Bill which was voted down by the then Government. As Justice, Equality and Law Reform Spokesman he brought to the Dáil's attention the 'Sheedy Affair' which led to the forced resignation of judges from the High Court Judge and the Supreme Court. For over two years he brought to the Dáil the case of the extended McBrearty family who were wrongly accused of murder. He raised allegations of Garda corruption in County Donegal which led to the establishment of the ongoing Morris Tribunal of Inquiry. He was also responsible for bringing before the Dáil a £30 million overspend by the state transport company Iarnród Éireann on a safety signalling system which led to the establishment of an all-party parliamentary inquiry.Jim is a former community school teacher. He has twice been named Best Individual Speaker at the Junior Chamber Ireland debating championships (1978, 1979) and has been captain of the International Tripartite Debating Team. In the European Parliament Jim is a Member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and a Substitute Member of the Committee on Fisheries. He is also a Member of the Interparliamentary Delegation for relations with Canada and a Substitute Member of the Interparliamentary Delegation for relations with Japan.