Geoghegan-Quinn is Irish nominee to commission


Former Fianna Fáil minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has been nominated by the Government to the incoming European Commission.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed the decision following a Cabinet meeting today.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Cowen said Ms Geoghegan-Quinn's combination of experience and qualities make her particularly suited to serving as European Commissioner”.

He said she “enjoys wide respect” in Europe for her role in the Court of Auditors, and has an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the European Union.

“I expect her to make a major contribution to the work of the new commission which will include the challenge of overseeing implementation of the positive changes that the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will usher in”, he added.

“In reaching its decision, the Government has of course been mindful of the emphasis that President [Manuel] Barroso has placed on the importance of a balanced composition of the college of commissioners, and in particular its gender balance,” he said.

Mr Cowen also thanked outgoing commissioner Charlie McCreevy for his “significant contribution” during his time in office.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn (59) said she was “honoured” to have been nominated. “The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty allows reform of internal decision making procedures so that new laws can be brought forward in a more structured, efficient and co-ordinated way,” she said. ”As a result, the EU can now address key political problems within Europe and around the world in a more coherent and forthright way. I hope to contribute to making the Union more effective for all of its citizens.”

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn served as a TD for Galway West for 1975 to 1997. She was minister for justice from January 1993 to December 1994. Prior to that, she served as minister for European affairs from 1987 to 1991.

She retired from politics at the 1997 general election and was appointed to Ireland’s representative on the EU Court of Auditors in 1999. She was reappointed for a second term in 2006.

It is understood the Government has set its sights on the budget and innovation portfolios in the incoming commission.

Final talks on the allocation of portfolios will not begin until deadlocked EU leaders choose the first president of the European Council and the new high representative for foreign affairs, who will also serve as a vice-president of the commission. Mr McCreevy, who was appointed in 2004, held the internal market portfolio.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was “an extremely capable woman” who would be “a formidable commissioner”, while Fianna Fáil MEPs Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, Liam Aylward and Brian Crowley said it was a “very inspiring political choice”.

Labour’s Joe Costello said that while nobody was in any doubt about Ms Geoghegan-Quinn’s abilities, the Government had made its decision “on the basis of what is in the best interests of Fianna Fáil, rather than what is in the best interests of the country”.

Women for Europe chairwoman Olive Braiden said Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was the “ideal person” for the position of Ireland’s first ever woman commissioner. “We see her appointment as an important endorsement of the role of Irish women in the Europe Union and as recognition of the important role women played in the recent Lisbon Treaty referendum.”