Irish MEP Frances Fitzgerald sets out stall to become Ireland’s next EU commissioner

The role has become vacant after Phil Hogan stood down as Trade Commissioner over the so-called “Golfgate” scandal in which he was said to have broken Coronavirus quarantine rules in Ireland.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

03 Sep 2020

Two people are said to be leading contenders for the job: Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and another MEP, Mairead McGuinness, a Vice-President of Parliament who has topped a Parliament Magazine poll for the post.

But Fitzgerald has also now thrown her hat into the ring and declared she wants the job.

Speaking exclusively to this website, the MEP said, “I am interested in the role. Clearly it is a very finely-balanced and complex decision for the Irish government.”

She added, “I feel I have the level of experience necessary for the role. However, it is a matter for the government to make the right call.”

Fitzgerald has been a member for the Dublin constituency since July 2019 and is a member of Fine Gael, part of the European People's Party. Aged 70, she has held several ministerial posts.

In November 2017, she was accused of interference in the case of a whistleblower who had claimed widespread malpractice and corruption in the police. She resolutely denied the allegation and was later cleared of any blame the following year.

She sits on two committees: economic and monetary affairs and women's rights and gender equality.

“I feel I have the level of experience necessary for the role. However, it is a matter for the government to make the right call” Frances Fitzgerald MEP

Ireland has been asked by the Commission to submit two names - a woman and a man - for consideration to be the country's next commissioner. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will decide the portfolio the chosen person gets but there are no guarantees that Ireland will continue to hold the sought-after trade dossier.

Some have criticised the Commission’s insistence that two names are put forward, but Irish RE member Barry Andrews backs this.

He told this site, “I do think we should send two names. It is a reasonable request that was ignored the last time. We will not be getting the Trade portfolio anyway in my view.”

He added, “Also, I think that the parliamentary hearings will be quite difficult if we ignore the President of the Commission’s request.”

It is hoped that the Irish nominees will be confirmed by the end of the week, with the final decision, pending European Parliament approval in ratification hearings, to be made by von der Leyen.

There are suggestions that the Irish will get a different portfolio, with one of the existing commissioners being offered the trade post.

“I do think we should send two names. It is a reasonable request that was ignored the last time. We will not be getting the Trade portfolio anyway in my view” Barry Andrews MEP

On Brexit - talks continue next week - Hogan faced a key role as the head of EU trade policy and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has said he will “miss” Hogan, adding, “I could always count on him to relay any Irish concerns to me directly.”

He also praised him for his “work of great value, in particular in the context of the current negotiations with the UK, where he and his team of trade experts, including Sabine Weyand, have been of great value.”

Barnier added that he used to meet Hogan weekly while he was commissioner and that he looks forward “to working with the future commissioner of Irish nationality in the final stretch of the negotiations with the UK.”

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