Mairead McGuinness appointment as Ireland’s next EU commissioner widely welcomed

Ireland loses the coveted trade portfolio following the recent resignation of Phil Hogan as trade commissioner, but McGuinness has been offered the financial services portfolio.
Natalie Hill

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

08 Sep 2020

Currently a First Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness was the candidate who topped a poll of would-be nominees organised by this website.

On Monday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen carried out video interviews with both McGuinness and Andrew McDowell, another candidate, who recently concluded a spell as Vice-President of the European Investment Bank.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, von der Leyen said both candidates had shown “great commitment to the EU and the functions of a commissioner. They were excellent candidates and both clearly have significant experience of EU matters, albeit from different perspectives.”

The appointment still needs to be ratified by Parliament at a hearing – the date of which remains to be set – but this is seen as a formality.

Von der Leyen confirmed McGuinness will have the Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union portfolio. This was previously part of Valdis Dombrovskis’ brief, and involves leading the Commission’s banking and finance reforms.

Dombrovskis, for his part, will continue to oversee the trade portfolio, which he has been doing on a temporary basis following Phil Hogan’s resignation.

“I warmly welcome the nomination of Mairead. Mairead is a very experienced politician and I look forward to working with her to advance these important areas to achieve a real CMU through my work on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in the Parliament” Frances Fitzgerald MEP

Dombrovskis is a former Latvian Prime Minister and European commissioner since 2014. He will remain the Commission’s representative on the eurogroup.

Von der Leyen said, “Mrs McGuinness has significant political experience on EU issues having been an MEP since 2004. This experience will be crucial in carrying forward EU financial policy and ensure that we strengthen the joint green and digital transition.”

Hogan quit after the so-called “Golfgate” scandal in which he allegedly broke strict quarantine rules in his native Ireland.

Reaction to McGuiness’ appointment was swift, with Irish EPP MEP Frances Fitzgerald, who had thrown her hat into the ring for the Irish job, telling this site, “I warmly welcome the nomination of Mairead. Mairead is a very experienced politician and I look forward to working with her to advance these important areas to achieve a real CMU through my work on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in the Parliament.”

“In addition, I applaud von der Leyen in her commitment to gender equality. From the very beginning she has sought a gender-balanced College and I am delighted to see that she has reached this important and monumental milestone.”

Irish GUE MEP Clare Daly told The Parliament Magazine, “There was never any doubt that Mairead McGuinness was going to be chosen for the position once she was nominated, so no surprises with her appointment by the Commission President.”

“It would obviously be a considerable promotion for her [McGuinness] and an interesting choice in financial services, given Ireland’s less-than-savoury reputation for facilitating big finance and our subservience to vulture funds - she will have her work cut out for her should she be ratified in the post” Clare Daly MEP

“Although it will be interesting to hear her when she attends before the Parliament. It would obviously be a considerable promotion for her and an interesting choice in financial services, given Ireland’s less-than-savoury reputation for facilitating big finance and our subservience to vulture funds, she will have her work cut out for her should she be ratified in the post.”

She added, “I am also aware that there is a huge interest in her movements to and from Brussels and whether all COVID regulations were adhered to by her, particularly as this was the reason that the position has become vacant.”

Also speaking to this website, Ireland’s former President of the Parliament, Pat Cox said, “This is excellent news. Mrs McGuinness is a competent woman and a senior parliamentarian. I congratulate Mairead and wish her well, starting with the hearing.”

The former Liberal leader in Parliament, Sir Graham Watson, told The Parliament Magazine, “This is a neat solution, pleasing the requirements of party, gender and competence.”

Fellow Parliament Vice-President and Finnish Greens deputy Heidi Hautala said, “I am convinced she is the right woman for the job. A wildly popular and widely respected Vice-President, she commands historically strong support across political party lines.”

“Having worked alongside her for a number of years and in various settings, I have come to admire her for her outstanding intellect, strength of character and for her being truly a woman championing women.”

“I am convinced she is the right woman for the job. A wildly popular and widely respected Vice-President, she commands historically strong support across political party lines” Heidi Hautala MEP

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin also congratulated Mairead McGuinness, saying it was a great day for her and her family, adding, “I’ve no doubt whatsoever that she will serve with distinction and will play a key role in the work of the Commission.”

Irish EPP MEP Deirdre Clune told this website, “Mairead is an experienced politician and she will bring the excellent skills she has developed at the European Parliament to her work as Commissioner. The Financial services portfolio is a hugely significant area for Europe at present and Mairead’s abilities are well up to the challenge.”

Further comment came from German Greens MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, who said, “Mairead McGuinness is a good choice. She is an appreciated colleague and a convinced European. It is high time for a woman to be entrusted with the important issue of financial markets, for the first time since 1958.”

“I congratulate her warmly. We have known each other for years due to her responsibility for dialogue with churches and religious communities in Parliament. With McGuiness, von der Leyen has come closer to her promise of a gender-balanced College of the Commission.”

“The fact that the financial market portfolio is now in Irish hands raises questions. The Irish financial service policy cannot serve as an example for Europe. Ireland has done a lot in the past to compete through soft supervision with London in financial services. The financial market-friendly policy of the British Isles cannot be the European standard for stability-oriented and consumer-friendly regulation.”

“With the head of the Eurogroup and Financial Markets Commissioner, key financial posts are now in Irish hands. As Financial Market Commissioner, McGuinness will be responsible for tax transparency [country-by-country reporting], money laundering and European supervision of the Capital Market Union. We will press for clarity on these important European issues at the upcoming hearing with the candidate.”

He went on, “Dombrovskis’ legacy in the financial market sector is Sustainable Finance. Just as he initiated the greening of the financial sector, he must now develop an ecological and social European trade policy. We need an EU trade policy for the fight against climate change, in line with the European Green Deal.”

Irish MEP Sean Kelly told this website, "I welcome the appointment. As First Vice-President, Mairead is one of the most respected and accomplished MEPs and has done tremendous work for Ireland and the EU over the course of her 16-year stint as an MEP."

"She has been a very important representative for Ireland at EU level over the years, notably in the areas of agriculture, the environment and Brexit, and her influence will certainly be missed within our delegation."

Kelly added, "As leader of the Fine Gael delegation in Parliament, I take the opportunity to wish Mairead the very best in her new role, and look forward to working closely with her on all aspects of the important challenges we face at EU level in the months ahead."

A spokesman for BusinessEurope also told this website, “We await the confirmation hearing in the European Parliament, but we nevertheless welcome having a dedicated Commissioner for the financial sector given the importance to the recovery of strong access to finance and financial stability,  and we are confident that Ms McGuiness will make a strong contribution.”

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