Andrew McDowell and Mairead McGuinness candidates for European Commission role
Government has written to Ursula von der Leyen proposing pair able for ‘most demanding roles’
First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness has been selected as one of the candidates to replace Phil Hogan. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
2017: Simon Coveney with Andrew McDowell, who has been selected as one of the candidates to replace Phil Hogan at the European Commission. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will not be one of the Government’s nominees for the role of European Commissioner.
Andrew McDowell is a former Fine Gael advisor and until recently vice-president of the European Investment Bank .
Mairead McGuinness is the First Vice-President of the European Parliament and has served as an MEP for the Midlands–North-West constituency since 2004.
The Cabinet held an incorporeal meeting before lunch on Friday where the names of the two nominees were discussed by Ministers.
The Government on Friday wrote to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen proposing two candidates to replace Phil Hogan to the European Commission .
The Government said it believes “both are candidates of the highest calibre, possessing the necessary competence, independence and European commitment to serve in the role of Commissioner with distinction”.
It said in Dr von der Leyen will now consult with the European Parliament before the new commissioner is appointed.
“The question of the allocation of roles within the Commission is also one for President von der Leyen. However, the Government firmly believes that both candidates have demonstrated that they have experience, skills and capacity to serve and to make a contribution in the most demanding roles”.
In a statement Ms McGuinness said she was honoured to be nominated and thanked the leaders of the coalition parties for their expression of confidence in her.
“It’s a great honour to be nominated as a candidate for a role that is so influential in the lives of citizens and businesses across Ireland and the entire EU”. She said she had a great deal of respect for Mr McDowell and awaited the decision of Dr von der Leyen after the interview process.
“There are many challenges facing the EU in these unprecedented times with Covid-19 being but the latest - Brexit, climate change, trade challenges are just some of the top issues.
“I will remain focused on contributing, regardless of position, to finding solutions and supporting the work of colleagues in the Parliament and Commission,” she said.
If she is successful it is expected that Fine Gael Co Louth councillor Colm Markey will be co-opted to replace her for the Midlands North West constituency in the European Parliament.
Mr Coveney tweeted they were “two great candidates for the job” and wished them luck.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said the person ultimately chosen “will be amongst the European People Party’s group on the Commission and so therefore the political balance of the Commission will remain unchanged”.
He said “both candidates are champions of free enterprise, free trade, European integration and the building of a Social Europe”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the discussion in government had always been around two names. He added that it was up to Dr von der Leyen to decide what portfolio will be allotted.
Mr Hogan resigned as Ireland’s EU Trade commissioner after controversy over his attendance at an Oireachtas golf dinner in Clifden, Co Galway and his movements in the country during his visit to Ireland.
Dr von der Leyen asked Ireland to submit the names of a woman and a man, in accordance with her priority of pursuing gender balance in the commission.
What role in the EU Commission Ireland’s replacement for Phil Hogan will get depends on the “competences” of the names put forward, the executive has said.
Fine Gael MEP Frances Fitzgerald who had expressed an interesti n the role welcomed the Government decision to nominate a man and a woman. She said both were “excellent” candidates and she wished them every success during a “critical time for Ireland and the EU”.
“Personally, I feel very honoured at the encouragement and support I have received from so many during this period,”she said.