Kelly loses out on European Parliament nomination to succeed McGuinness

‘While it was always going to be difficult to hold onto it for Ireland, we gave it our best shot’

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly lost out to a rival in a bid to be nominated to succeed to Mairead McGuinness as vice president of the European Parliament, leaving Ireland with less representation in prominent EU posts.

The pan-EU European People’s Party of which Fine Gael is a part voted on Wednesday to pick Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola as their candidate for the position, a powerful post that comes with a big platform and opportunities to influence policy.

“While it was always going to be difficult to hold onto it for Ireland, we gave it our best shot,” Kelly told The Irish Times.

“But being at home for so long due to Covid restrictions made it very difficult to mount an effective campaign. No denying Roberta is a very good candidate and living in Brussels was obviously an advantage.”


Metsola was seen as the frontrunner from early on, and won out after a two-way contest with Kelly that was decided in a party vote that broke 65.5 per cent against him.

“So proud. For a girl from an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, this is a big moment,” wrote Metsola, a representative of Malta’s Nationalist Party who has built a platform as an opponent of corruption and supporter of the rule of law.

Supporters of Kelly had argued that the position should be retained by an Irish candidate, as the departure of McGuinness has left Ireland unrepresented in senior roles in the parliament and within the EPP.

“It’s vitally important because you’ll be on the Bureau where major decisions are made and you’ll be in a position where you’ll have more influence,” Kelly told The Irish Times ahead of the vote.

“If Ireland has no position in parliament, and no position in the EPP, it’s going to be very difficult.”

The decision on who to elect to the vice presidency is ultimately up to MEPs, who are expected to vote on the issue in November.

Such roles tend to be divided between Europe’s political groups to reflect their vote share, so whoever is chosen as the official EPP candidate is considered likely to be approved, barring an upset.

McGuinness was elected to the position in 2014 and re-elected last year, but left the role after being nominated to be Ireland’s European Commissioner for financial services in the wake of the resignation of Phil Hogan.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times