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the top job

FF MEPs to stick to position on von der Leyen as Martin says he'll 'engage' with them on vote

The Taoiseach said there has been a serious misrepresentation of the views of von der Leyen by some in this country.

MICHEÁL MARTIN HAS said will be engaging with newly elected Fianna Fáil MEPs about Ursula von der Leyen seeking re-election as European Commission president. 

All four Fianna Fáil MEPs — Barry Andrews, Barry Cowen, Billy Kelleher and Cynthia Ní Mhurchú – have said they will not vote for von der Leyen to have another term as president of the European Commission.

Andrews accused von der Leyen of being “silent” on the genocide accusations facing Israel, while Kelleher, and the other MEPs, were clear throughout his election campaign that he would not back her. 

“Sticking to my position on this,” Andrews told The Journal today when put to him that his party leader wanted further discussions on the matter.

It is understood that Kelleher and the other MEPs are not for turning on the issue, with one source stating the Fianna Fáil politicians got elected on the mandate that they would not support her re-election as Commission president. 

While the politicians are open to discussing the matter with their party leader, it is understood there will be no u-turn by the MEPs.

Von der Leyen is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), a grouping that includes Fine Gael, which managed to remain the largest group in the European Parliament.

The Tánaiste said he spoke with Taoiseach Simon Harris about the matter this morning, stating that after yesterday’s informal European Council meeting, there seems to be an informal agreement of her nomination. 

Martin said agreement has been arrived at informally between the key groups, which will formalised next week. “So we’ll await to see what happens,” he said. 

Engaging with MEPs

When asked if he was happy for Fianna Fáil MEPs to not support von der Leyen, Martin said: “As I said, there will be a formal decision next week. I will be engaging with MEPs in that respect.” 

He went on to state that he thinks it is “important that we have a strong Commission”, adding “I think it makes sense that the centre holds in European politics as well”. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Harris said the European Council will meet again next Thursday and Friday, where he hopes the Council will be in a position to make a decision on a name to go to the Parliament.

“Then it will be up to each MEP, including our Irish MEPs, in a secret ballot, I believe, to vote yea or nay on whatever name is sent there,” he said. 

Independent TD Catherine Connolly hit out against those willing to back von der Leyen for the top job, stating that despite the previous Taoiseach writing to her back in February about the EU-Israel agreement, nothing has happened.

“He wrote directly to von der Leyen and there has been no response. Yet this Government will vote for von der Leyen.

“I understand that Fianna Fáil has a little more sense and might not be supporting her election. However, Fine Gael will support von der Leyen, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Netanyahu,” she said.

Misrepresentation of von der Leyen

Responding, Harris said:

There is a serious misrepresentation of the views of President von der Leyen by some in this country. Some have done so for political gain during the European elections.

“I attended the European Council last night with 26 other prime ministers and presidents. I have not heard any country within the European Union actively propose another name for President of the Commission. While President von der Leyen has not got everything right, she has shown leadership on humanitarian aid and UNRWA, and has clearly called for a ceasefire.”

In the aftermath of the elections, the focus has also turned to who will get the European  Commissioner job, with speculation centering on whether Minister for Finance Michael McGrath will take on the role.

Speaking to reporters today, the Tánaiste said there will be a formal meeting of the European Council next week “and it’s in and around that time frame that we will recommend the government’s nominees”. 

He said he would not go into specifics around who is under consideration, but said: “I have a number of names in mind.”

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