Gilmore hints at interest in European Commissioner post

Tánaiste defends decision to take Department of Foreign Affairs portfolio in 2011

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 09:44

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has given a humorous hint that he may be interested in the European Commissioner post believed to be ear-marked for Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan.

Mr Gilmore was asked how he responded to European counterparts who are reportedly telling him he would make a good commissioner, when he addressed an Ireland-France Chamber of Commerce event in Dublin.

“I think they’re right,” he said to laughter at the event.

Mr Gilmore robustly defended his decision to take up the Department of Foreign Affairs portfolio in 2011 as he prepares to bow out of front-line politics.

He said he would hand over the leadership of the Labour Party to his successor at the end of next week.

“The Government will go through some changes after that. I cannot really speculate about those changes,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said Ireland’s reputation abroad was “in tatters” when the Coalition took power three years ago.

“A major reason why I chose to combine the role of Tánaiste with being Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade was to meet that reputation head-on,” he said.

He said Ireland was now in “a much better place”.

However, the unemployment rate of 11.7 per cent was still far too high and youth unemployment was a particular problem.

Looking back on his time in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gilmore highlighted an early dispute with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy over Ireland’s corporation tax rate.

He described it as a “regrettable bilateral dispute over that ill-judged and over-simplistic attempt by Mr Sarkozy to link corporation tax with a wholly-justified cut to our EU-IMF programme interest rate”.

He said the corporation tax issue between Ireland and France “hasn’t gone away” but the rhetoric used by both sides had calmed.

“I would stress it should stay calm,” he added.