Old-fashioned preparation key to Phil Hogan’s success

Analysis: Hogan’s apparent command of the agriculture brief assured his victory

European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan of Ireland speaks before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in Brussels. Photograph:  Francois Lenoir/Reuters

European Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan of Ireland speaks before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in Brussels. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

 

Phil Hogan’s appearance at the European Parliament this morning was a master-class in political performance, as Ireland’s commissioner-designate successfully navigated his three-hour hearing.

Relaxed and assured, Mr Hogan even managed to rein in the odd flicker of sarcasm, which surfaced when dealing with questioning from Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy and Independent MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.

An uncharacteristically weak line of questioning from Luke Ming, as well as a withering put-down to Sinn Féin, undoubtedly helped Mr Hogan along, while the fact that he is a native English speaker was a distinct advantage. But it was his apparent command of the agriculture brief that assured his victory.

For all his charm and impeccable English, Britain’s nominee Lord Hill yesterday has been ordered to re-appear before his committee for not displaying enough understanding of his brief.

What was Mr Hogan’s secret? Good old-fashioned preparation, it seems.

Unlike some other nominees, Mr Hogan has spent most of his time in Brussels since the allocation of portfolios.

Speaking to the Irish Times on the day of his nomination as agriculture commissioner three weeks ago, one source close to Mr Hogan said that Mr Hogan would be “locked in a room” with mountains of agriculture dossiers and agricultural experts on call. The plan evidently worked.

Over the last few weeks, Mr Hogan has had access to staff in DG Agriculture, the European Commission’s agriculture directorate-general, with Gerry Kiely, former spokesman for Ray MacSharry understood to have worked closely with Mr Hogan. In addition, Mr Hogan and his advisors were able to meet with experts from DG Agriculture in areas as diverse as dairy, forestry and nitrates, as needed.

Mr Hogan has been meeting with various MEPs at the European Parliament over the last few weeks in an effort to ascertain the issues of most concern to them.

Mr Hogan’s two main advisors since his nomination have been his chef-de-cabinet Peter Power, a Brussels veteran who spent twenty years working in the European Union, and Dermot Ryan, a Department of Agriculture attaché at Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels.

Mr Ryan, who previously worked for Charlie Mc Creevy and Brendan Smith, led the CAP negotiations last year during the Irish presidency and is said to have an “encyclopaedic knowledge” of EU agricultural issues.

Mr Hogan has yet to name the remaining four members of his cabinet, three of whom must be non-Irish.

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