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New dawn for European politics as next leadership team nominated

Politics digest: Varadkar stands with rebels against Merkel

Good morning,

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new European leadership.

Well, almost. Contain your excitement.

After three days of unprecedented deadlock and whisperings, agreement has been reached on who should take the coveted top jobs in Europe.


It's our lead today.

The nominations are: German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen for the role of President of the European Commission; International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde for President of the European Central Bank; and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to replace Donald Tusk as Council President.

It would be a good day for gender equality if Ms von der Leyen proves successful as she would be the first woman to be at the helm of the Commission.

But this all still needs the agreement of the European Parliament and this is where the focus will now turn: it may be tougher than expected for Ms von der Leyen.

The European Parliament is also expected to elect its own president in a vote in Strasbourg today.

There has been criticism from some quarters that there has been too much emphasis on the jobs and not enough on what the new agenda should be.

But consider this: these are the people who will steer the EU through the potentially worst chapters of Brexit, through trade policy on US protectionism, through the rising influence of extreme right wing forces.

These new leaders will be at the forefront of handling what could be potentially vitally important trade deals.

Let’s say they are all successful. What does this mean for Ireland? What do the new top brass have to say about the Emerald Isle? Does this matter for you and I?

The answer is yes, this is really quite important for us.

Ms von der Leyen is the only minister to have served in every cabinet under Angela Merkel since she took office more than 13 years ago. Her star shines bright at home.

The trilingual medical doctor, who has seven children, is from the European People’s Party, the same political family as Fine Gael.

In relation to Charles Michel, he visited Ireland to talk Brexit with Varadkar last year. He took time to visit the border region with the Minister for Business Heather Humphreys. Belgium and Ireland are considered to have excellent bilateral relations and strong trade relations. The Taoiseach has previously pointed out Mr Michel’s strong support in relation to our very individual Brexit concerns. In fact, the two were spotted sharing a drink in the Lincoln Inn pub last May.

Ms Lagarde, for her part, has visited Ireland multiple times to speak about the economy, gender balance and lack of diversity on the boards of financial institutions. Her first visit was in 2013 so she is no stranger to these shores.

If you're wondering why the whole fandango took so long, read this piece by Pat Leahy.He writes of the "astonishing rebellion in the EU's largest and most powerful political grouping, the EPP or European People's Party against its most powerful figure, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel."

“Returning home from the G20 meeting at Osaka in Japan on Sunday, Dr Merkel presented a her compromise plan to EPP colleagues on Sunday night, which ceded the presidency of the European Commission to Franz Timmermans, the Dutch socialist.

“Rather than praise her for finding a way through the intractable disputes of recent weeks, the EPP instead rebelled against Merkel’s proposed deal, fatally damaging it.”

There were Polish and other Eastern European rebels but in the rebel camp, too, stood out very own Leo Varadkar.

Varadkar’s break with Merkel was “as much about building EPP alliances as it was about backing (Manfred) Weber for a cause he must have known was lost,” Leahy writes.

The Cabinet of Curiosities

The Cabinet was originally due to meet on Tuesday, but as the European wrangling dragged on it became clear this would not be a runner.

Nor will it happen this morning. It is, in fact, now scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Martin Wall writes that the Government is expected to announce a new pay review for up to 2,500 members of the Defence Forces with specialist or technical skills.

This will be on top of the proposed increase in allowances which the Government is set to announce this week as part of an initiative to address recruitment and retention problems in the military. Ministers believe the review will only take a few months, but in all likelihood this will push the issue into the next budgetary year at least.

There are no guarantees the main groups like the Defence Forces’ rank-and-file representative organisation PDFORRA will recommend accepting the proposals either, with ballots possible.

Herein lies another example of the Government trying to offer just enough in response to growing pay demands without going so far that their whole pay agreement unravels.

Best Reads

Here's Miriam Lord on how all parties and groups lined-up against the Government in opposition to the Mercosur deal:

Sorcha Pollock has an eye-opening piece into the undocumented in Ireland: "I feel as Irish as they come."

Greyhound and coursing bodies will face questions from an Oireachtas committee about animal welfare

Pig farm protest to prompt meeting of gardaí and agriculturalists

Dáil Éireann

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed will field questions on his brief at 9.30am - we can expect plenty of questions on the controversial Mercosur deal which the IFA claim will be worse than a no-deal Brexit for farmers

Government business is taken at 11.00am with statements on that EU Mercosur trade agreement. This is scheduled to last around an hour before a debate on the Parole Bill 2016.

As is usual on a Wednesday, Leader’s Questions is up at noon

There are questions on promised legislation at 12.32pm

Shortly after 1pm there will be expressions of sympathy on the death of former member, Mark Killilea, a former Connacht-Ulster member of the European Parliament (MEP), Fianna Fáil senator, TD and Galway county councillor.

Taoiseach’s Questions will be taken at 1.17pm

At 3.02pm, Topical Issues are up

The Solidarity-People Before Profit grouping have a motion in relation to the Cork mail centre during Private Members Business at 3:50pm

The Parole Bill returns at 5.50pm, alongside the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government (Rates) Bill 2018

At 23.45pm, the Dáil adjourns


Proceedings kick off at 10.30am with commencement matters

The Order of Business is up at 11.30am

At 12.45pm, senators will discuss the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Residential Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2019 as well as the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018

At 3pm there are statements on defence matters on a day in which the Government are due to announce their new plans to reform the pay in the Defence Forces

Private Members Business is up at 17.30 with the Criminal Justice (Judicial Discretion) (Amendment) Bill from senators Marie-Louise O’Donnell, David Norris, and Gerard Up Craughwell. Under this Bill, courts would still be obliged to impose the mandatory life sentence for those convicted of murder. However, they would then be given the discretion to impose a minimum tariff that must be served before parole may be considered.


There is plenty up at Oireachtas committees this morning for all the political anoraks out there who fancy tuning in.

At 9am, the Joint Committee on Health meet with the new chairman of the HSE Mr. Ciarán Devane

At 10.45am the Select Committee on Health will then consider the CervicalCheck Tribunal Bill 2019 with the Minister for Health Simon Harris. This tribunal is intended to provide a less adversarial route for women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

At 11am, the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport will discuss international recognition for Irish Athletics

At 1.30pm, the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight CR2, LH 2000 meets to discuss the Summer Economic Statement with the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe

The Joint Committee on Public Petitions meets at 1:30pm.

At 5.30pm, the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment will continue their investigations of the National Broadband Plan, this time with officials from Department of Communications.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times