EU insists that one of the two nominees for the post of new Irish commissioner must be a woman

‘Ball is in Irish court’ over who it wants to nominate, but one candidate must be a woman, says European Commission.
Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Sep 2020

The European commission has again insisted that one of the two nominees for the post of new Irish commissioner must be a woman and that Ireland must put forward two nominees

One week after Phil Hogan quit as EU Trade Commissioner following  the so-called "Golfgate" scandal, Ireland has still not come forward with any candidates to replace him.

At a press briefing in Brussels, the commission said the “ball was in the Irish court” over who it wants to nominate to replace Hogan as EU Commissioner.

The spokesperson told reporters, “We have had, so far, no information on this from Dublin. The candidates are up to the Irish, but we expect Ireland to send two names and one of them to be a woman.

“The issue of gender balance in the college is very important for [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen.

“She has said this clearly and loudly since she took office. She is determined to have a gender-balanced college because it is an important matter for her and for Europe.”

“The nominees must have the required qualifications referred to in the EU Treaty, including independence competence and a European commitment. Gender balance is not about bias but about political importance for the president, the commission, European governments and European society in general.”

“The president will pursue this (gender balance in the college) with all determination which is why she has made this request to the Irish government.”

“The issue of gender balance in the college is very important for [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen. She has said this clearly and loudly since she took office. She is determined to have a gender-balanced college because it is an important matter for her and for Europe” European Commission spokesperson

The spokesperson declined to be drawn, however, on whether Ireland will keep the much sought after trade portfolio, adding, “No decision on this will be made until we have a name on the table.”

However on Wednesday, Irish GUE group MEP Clare Daly told this website, “I certainly don't think Ireland should have agreed to nominate two.”

“It is Ireland's decision who it puts forward for the position and presumably we can be trusted to put the best candidate forward. We don't need to be lectured to or 'encouraged' by our masters (or mistresses) in the Commission.”

“I think it was wrong of the Irish government to agree to nominate two in response to the commission president's call as this will result in the position being decided in Europe rather than Ireland.”

“It indicates an unhelpful servitude in the attitude of the Irish authorities to European institutions. We have basically a 50:50 male female representation among our MEPs voted by the electorate, without anyone telling us what to do.”

She added, “Obviously, other countries are delighted as the highly sought after trade position will very likely be awarded to one of the countries that dominate anyway.”

It is believed some Irish ministers are against having to submit two names, saying this amounts to an infringement of national sovereignty.

Von der Leyen’s demand that one of the candidates should be a woman was backed by Iratxe García, the Socialist group leader in the European Parliament, who said, “Now is the time to live up to this commitment, and present a woman as the next Irish commissioner.”

There are fears in Ireland that the chances of keeping the high profile trade dossier for their next commissioner are slim. Whoever gets the job may have to also deal with the fall-out from the current Brexit talks.

“It is Ireland's decision who it puts forward for the position and presumably we can be trusted to put the best candidate forward. We don't need to be lectured to or 'encouraged' by our masters (or mistresses) in the Commission” Irish GUE group MEP Clare Daly

Irish centre-right MEP and former minister for justice, Frances Fitzgerald, has joined Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and another MEP, Mairead McGuinness, as a possible contender for the post.

EPP member McGuinness, also a strong contender for the next presidency of the parliament, is currently seen by many as the frontrunner.

Fellow EPP group member Deirdre Clune told The Parliament Magazine, "I think the Irish government should send two nominees one man and one woman .All three candidates that have been mentioned so far have excellent attributes and at this stage and I don’t think I could choose one over the other."

RE Irish member Barry Andrews meanwhile, claims the process for replacing Hogan is “very strange”, adding, "I think it is very strange because we don't know what job this person that's going to be nominated is going to do. There is a world of difference between being a commissioner for tax or being a commissioner for agriculture or one of the 25 other commissioner positions that are there.”

“It's a very strange process because all you need as suitable qualities is that you're Irish and a man or a woman."

The leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party discussed the issue on Tuesday and are set to talk once again after the Irish government’s Cabinet meeting later on Wednesday. European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis has, in the meantime, taken over the trade portfolio temporarily.

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