Tánaiste has ‘no plans’ to become EU commissioner
Quinn and Gilmore emerge as possible candidates for European post
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore who said this morning he had no plans to become the next Irish commissioner. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he has “no plans whatsoever” to become the Irish commissioner when the post becomes available next year.
Speaking this morning in Brussels, ahead of a foreign affairs ministers’ meeting, the Tánaiste said a decision on the role would be made in the second half of next year.
“My plans are to continue my work in government and to lead the Labour party into the next election. I have no plans whatever to be the Irish commissioner,” he said.
His comments come as Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of EU Commissioner next year, according to senior European Commission sources.
It follows Mr Quinn’s visit to Strasbourg last week, where he represented the Government to the European Parliament.
Mr Gilmore has also been mentioned as a possible candidate, following his strong performance as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Irish presidency of the EU Council this year.
A senior Government source said no decision on the next commissioner will be made until next May’s elections.
“That conversation won’t take place until after the local and European elections.”
However, others said Mr Quinn would relish the opportunity. “I’d say if he was offered it he’d jump at it,” another well-placed source said.
“He loves Europe and the European stage. He’d be excellent ... the only issue might be his age. Ruairí will be 68 next year.”
Minister for Environment Phil Hogan, who is widely believed to want the job, remains the most likely Fine Gael nominee from the current Cabinet, though Fine Gael’s Ireland east MEP Mairead McGuinness is another potential candidate.
The Ireland east MEP, who was recently appointed vice-chairman of the European People’s Party group, with which Fine Gael is aligned, is understood to be interested in the position.
Appointments to the commission will be made following next May’s European elections, with each EU country nominating a candidate. Nominees are then vetted by the European Parliament in a public hearing.
The 28 commissioners are responsible for the bulk of EU legislation which is drafted by the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm.
Ireland’s current portfolio is Research and Innovation, though the distribution of portfolios will be made by the next president of the next European Commission.
Speculation has also been mounting about who will become the next Commission president, with Enda Kenny being mentioned as a possible candidate for the European People’s Party (EPP) the largest political grouping in the Parliament. Outgoing Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, and Finnish prime minister Jurgi Kateninen are believed to be interested in the position.
The European Parliament’s current president, Martin Schulz, is the candidate for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party, while EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt are seeking the nomination for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE).