No Irish diplomats make it to Ashton's EU line-up


THE GOVERNMENT’s pursuit of ambassadorial positions in Europe’s nascent diplomatic service ran into difficulty last night as it emerged that no diplomats from the Department of Foreign Affairs will be included in the first round of appointments.

However, three Irish officials who already work in the EU institutions are set to secure top-level diplomatic postings when foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton assigns the first 25 positions in the service today.

Governments throughout the EU have lobbied heavily to secure mission chief postings for their diplomats as member states angle for early advancement in the fledgling European external action service, which will be established under Lisbon Treaty reforms later this year.

Under the same reforms, European Commission delegations around the world are being upgraded to assume diplomatic responsibility for the entire EU.

With national diplomats allowed for the first time to apply to lead such delegations, there was also extensive lobbying by many countries within the EU institutions to secure ambassador-level posts for their officials.

About 12 Irish diplomats submitted applications for the head of mission postings when some 27 posts were advertised earlier this year, but all but two were eliminated from the competition before the final shake-out.

Both of the remaining two were eliminated in recent days as Baroness Ashton finalised the selection of 25 mission chiefs and one deputy head of mission, and decided to readvertise for two head of mission posts and one deputy head posting.

The three Irish officials who will be appointed today have all worked for the European Commission.

Paul Malin, currently head of the EU delegation in Botswana, will be appointed chief of the mission in Mozambique.

William Hanna, who currently works for the commission in Brussels, will lead the mission in Bangladesh.

Gerard McGovern, previously posted in the South African mission, will take charge of the Burundi mission.

A spokesman for Baroness Ashton declined to discuss the outcome of the appointments process.

He said, however, it was Baroness Ashton’s belief that Ireland was fully engaged in the process and “lived up to its responsibility” to present high-calibre candidates. This was in keeping with her call for the brightest and best in European diplomacy to step forward for the posts.

A Government spokeswoman declined to comment on the basis that it has yet to hear Baroness Ashton’s announcement. “We look forward to playing an active part in the formation of the new service,” she said.

At a press conference last weekend in Brussels, Baroness Ashton emphasised to reporters that the current appointments cycle will be the first of many as top-level postings rotate after a period of years.