Independent Alliance helps clear way for Phil Hogan reappointment

Taoiseach to nominate the EU agriculture commissioner for another term in Brussels

European Union agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan. The IFA praised Mr Hogan for tackling unfair trading practices and delivering a Brexit aid package for the sector. File photograph: Ray Ryan

European Union agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan. The IFA praised Mr Hogan for tackling unfair trading practices and delivering a Brexit aid package for the sector. File photograph: Ray Ryan

 

The Independent Alliance helped cleared the way for the reappointment of EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan for a second term in Brussels.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed on Tuesday that it is his intention to nominate Mr Hogan for another term as an EU commissioner.

Mr Varadkar is understood to have contacted members of the Independent Alliance on Monday evening to ask for their views on the matter.

No members of the Independent Alliance raised any concerns and it is understood a Cabinet discussion about the subject was short, with no Fine Gael Ministers speaking against the move.

“His renomination is an endorsement of his work to date, and an indication of the importance we place on our engagement with EU institutions. We need our best people in Europe. The Government will now work closely with our colleagues in the EU to support him in securing the best possible portfolio in the new commission,” Mr Varadkar said.

He said Mr Hogan had “secured an aid package for Irish beef farmers, in recognition of the significant challenges facing the sector as a result of ongoing market turbulence related to Brexit” and is “widely respected” across the EU.

Trade portfolio

Mr Hogan is reported to be interested in the trade portfolio.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said he doubted that Irish farmers would be impressed by the decision.

“The recent Mercosur deal represents a very bad deal for Irish beef farmers and unfortunately, despite being at the negotiation table, Mr Hogan failed to represent Irish interests and has exposed a huge section of the agri sector forcing them to compete with cut-price meat from South America.

“It’s very disappointing that despite his failure to negotiate a fair deal for Ireland he is now being rewarded with a Government nomination for a second term.”

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said he believed the decision to nominate Mr Hogan was “a missed opportunity”.

“Phil Hogan’s periods as a Government minister were marked by failure, most notably in his handling of water charges and the establishment of Irish Water. Likewise, during his period as European commissioner, he has failed to address the inequalities in European agriculture or to stand up for Irish farmers when required.

“This is clearly a victory for cronyism over competence. This is a missed opportunity.”

The Irish Farmers’ Association praised Mr Hogan for tackling unfair trading practices and delivering a Brexit aid package for the sector.

Influence

IFA president Joe Healy said the reappointment was an opportunity to secure a portfolio that allowed Ireland to have the maximum influence on EU policy.

Mr Hogan has defended the Mercosur trade agreement in the face of strong criticism from Irish farmers.

He said some of the commentary was inaccurate and had, “in some cases, been used disingenuously to argue against other aspects of the agreement”.

The central core of the Mercosur agreement was “that trade should not happen at the expense of the environment or labour conditions: on the contrary, it should promote sustainable development,” he wrote in The Irish Times last week.

With each of the 28 countries nominating a commissioner, many of the portfolios have limited powers and importance, although sources believe Mr Hogan will secure an influential position.