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Mairéad McGuinness tells EU hearing she wants a 'fair and sustainable' tax system

McGuinness was also asked about being Irish, trust, and Michael D’Arcy as part of the three-hour hearing before MEPs.

Image: Twitter/European Parliament

Updated Oct 2nd 2020, 10:35 AM

MAIRÉAD MCGUINNESS IS being questioned by MEPs of a EU parliamentary committee ahead of her confirmation as Commissioner in charge of financial services, financial stability and the capital markets union.

During the three-hour hearing, McGuinness was asked repeatedly about her stance on taxation. This is the most tense part of Ireland’s relationship with the EU; it’s ‘sweetheart’ low tax rate for multinational corporations. 

Her response was that she would take her ‘national hat off at the door’, and will be acting on behalf of the European Commission if she is approved for the role.

McGuinness said that she understood that tax is a “big issue” for EU citizens, and that it was important that tax “should be fair and efficient”.

“I think that’s really important, there’s no question that fair tax must play a central role in Europe’s recovery,” she said, adding that she will “strongly support” the Commission’s goal to achieve “fair, simple and sustainable taxation”.

Spanish MEP and economist Luis Garicano said that he was “encouraged, but not entirely convinced” of McGuinness’ message.

McGuinness responded to say that “trust” was fundamental for financial services, referencing how both Ireland and Spain suffered during the recession, and that the EU should learn from its past financial mistakes.

The reshuffle at the Commission comes after the resignation of trade commissioner Phil Hogan following the golfgate controversy.

Ireland did not retain the trade portfolio, which will instead be taken by Valdis Dombrovskis, Latvia’s former Prime Minister and current Executive Vice President of the European Commission.

He will also face questions today from members of a number of committees.

‘There was no plot’

French MEP Claude Gruffat raised concerns about three Irish citizens holding senior financial roles in EU institutions (Finance Minister Pashcal Donohoe is President of the Eurogroup, while Philip Lane is the Chief Economist of the European Central Bank).

“I very much hope you will work first for Europe,” Gruffat said.

McGuinness responded: “I can’t do anything about that, I am Irish, and I think we are all very proud of our nationalities.”

“There was no conspiracy, there was no plot that three Irish would be in these positions,” she said, adding that “we are not on the phone to each other every moment of the day”. 

I don’t think you should fear the Irish, we have ways of working which can help sometimes – we crack a joke occasionally when it’s really difficult and stressful.  
My role as a Commissioner very different from being an MEP. I want to reassure you that this is the case. Other colleagues who are Irish they have their own remits to follow. 

McGuinness was also asked by Irish MEP Mick Wallace about Michael D’Arcy’s appointment; she said that she disagrees with his appointment as the CEO to the IAIM just months after he left his role as junior minister for finance. 

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Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus said the likely appointment of McGuinness as Commissioner for Financial Services will not curtail the activities of profit-driven banks, vulture funds and insurance companies.

“The status quo will be maintained, which is a bad blow to many Irish families and businesses who need the most help in these extraordinary times” said MacManus.

Whenever a member of the European Commission needs to be replaced or there is significant reassignment of portfolios, Parliament invites the candidates for the new jobs to hearings so that MEPs can evaluate them.

Before it starts, the candidate needs to answer some questions in writing. The hearing lasts three hours and is streamed live. After the hearing the responsible committee or committees prepare an evaluation letter.

The economic and monetary affairs committee will hold a hearing this morning with McGuinness to evaluate whether she is suitable for the post. After the evaluation is complete the parliament will vote next Wednesday.

McGuinness has been an MEP since 2004 for the Midlands-North West constituency, and has been Parliament Vice-President since 2014.

Updated by Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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