PHIL Hogan’s stupidity in attending the infamous Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, as well as roaming the Irish countryside instead of quarantining for 14 days when he came home from Brussels, could cost us dearly in the ongoing crucial trade negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. While he led the EU side as Trade Commissioner and was sworn to bat for the greater good of the Union as a whole, his pivotal position meant he was in a position to influence any decisions that could potentially threaten Ireland’s interests.
However, while Ireland was asked to nominate two candidates – a male and a female – one of which will take up a commissionership in his place, there was no guarantee that it would be the trade portfolio. Whatever people think of him now, Big Phil was a heavy hitter and a tough negotiator and, while European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen might have been reluctant to lose him from her team, she had no choice but to accept his resignation in light of his behaviour during his August sojurn in Ireland.
Simon Coveney had been made a media favourite for the job as EU Commissioner, given his past experience as an MEP and his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs throughout the ongoing Brexit saga, but appointing him would precipitate a by-election in Cork South Central, which the current shaky coalition could well do without. Then there is another former Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and her fellow MEP, European Parliament first vice-president Mairead McGuinness also in the mix.
After what seemed like a very long wait, the government eventually nominated Ms McGuinness and Andrew McDowell, vice-president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) since 2016 and a former Fine Gael economic adviser, with the former the front-runner for the post.
There are other bigger countries in the EU who would also like to get their hands on the coveted trade portfolio, so the likelihood of Ireland being able to retain it seems slim at this stage. However, one never can tell in advance how these things will pan out.