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Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell named as Ireland's nominees to replace Phil Hogan as EU Commissioner

The government has been discussing the matter for a number of days.

McGuinness and McDowell will both go forward for consideration.
McGuinness and McDowell will both go forward for consideration.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated Sep 4th 2020, 7:25 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN believes Ireland remains well placed to secure a substantive EU Commission portfolio having selected two “high calibre” candidates.

The Government named Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell as Ireland’s nominees to fill the vacant EU Commissioner role earlier today.

The pair were put forward following the resignation of Phil Hogan last week in the aftermath of the ‘Golfgate’ controversy.

Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan discussed the issue in recent days and the matter was decided at a Cabinet meeting today.

Martin wrote to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to propose the nominations. 

Von der Leyen had invited Ireland to nominate both a woman and a man in the interests of gender balance.

It has not been decided what portfolio Ireland’s next commissioner will hold amid speculation it could be allocated a less prestigious role.

There is no guarantee that Ireland will retain the Trade Commissioner position vacated by Hogan.

Von der Leyen will interview the nominees next week ahead of the successful candidate being formally appointed by the European Council.

But during a visit in Dublin on Friday, Martin expressed confidence that whoever succeeds Hogan will be given a top job.

“Given the quality of the candidates put forward I believe we can get a portfolio of substance and of quality,” he said.

Martin said both candidates put forward by the Government had “significant international expertise”.

“One is a vice president of the parliament, has strong recognition across the European institutions, well thought of,” he said.

“The other is a very senior economist, former vice president of the European Investment Bank so they will have significant attributes to bring to the table.”

He added: “Those two names were chosen because they are very able people of high calibre.”

Nominees congratulated 

McGuinness is an MEP and vice president of the European Parliament and McDowell is former vice president of the European Investment Bank who served as a special advisor to Enda Kenny. 

A government statement issued this afternoon said it “believes that both are candidates of the highest calibre, possessing the necessary competence, independence and European commitment to serve in the role of Commissioner with distinction”. 

“In keeping with the provisions of the European Treaties, President von der Leyen will now consult with the European Parliament before the appointment of a new Commissioner is made by the Council, in common accord with the President of the Commission,” the statement said. 

“The question of the allocation of roles within the Commission is also one for President von der Leyen. However, the government firmly believes that both candidates have demonstrated that they have experience, skills and capacity to serve and to make a contribution in the most demanding roles.”

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had refused to rule himself out for the position earlier this week but the chances of his potential nomination declined as the week wore on.

Coveney wished the two candidates good luck in a tweet this afternoon.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting today, Tánaitse Leo Varadkar said that Coveney “would have been a top class commissioner had he decided to go for it”. 

“For Ireland and for the government I’m really glad he’s staying, he’s someone we need,” Varadkar added. 

Somebody we need as we enter the next stage of Brexit, someone we need because of events in Northern Ireland and someone who I think the government needs to bring experience, maturity and stability. So I’m really glad he’s put his name forward quite frankly but that’s just my personal opinion.    

Fine Gael MEP Frances Fitzgerald, who last week declared her interest in the position, also welcomed the Government’s decision on the two nominees.

“It is very welcome that the government has nominated both a woman and a man,” she said.

“Both are excellent candidates for the role of EU Commissioner and I wish them every success in the time ahead.”

Hogan resigned from his role as EU Commissioner for Trade last week amid widespread criticism over his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Co Galway, as well as his movements in Ireland in recent weeks – which were in breach of Covid-19 guidelines.

- With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Rónán Duffy and Christina Finn

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