Von der Leyen’s Israel visit unlikely to deter Ireland from supporting second term – McGrath

European Commission president pledged unequivocal support for Israel in comments criticised in ireland

The Government would not view a visit by Ursula von der Leyen to Israel in the wake of October 7th as a reason not to support her bid for a second term in the office, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath has said.

Ms von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, unequivocally pledged EU support for Israel’s right to defend itself during the visit and has not, over the past five months, criticised the large-scale onslaught by Israel on Gaza.

She is running for a second term as president towards the end of 2024, seeking nomination from national leaders in the European Council before election by the European Parliament.

Opposition parties, including Sinn Féin, have issued statements saying they oppose the reappointment of the German politicians because of her unwavering and continuing support for Israel.


The Government has yet to make a decision on what position it will adopt..

But speaking at a launch in the Department of Finance on Wednesday, Mr McGrath gave an indication that the Government is unlikely to oppose her nomination.

“As a Government we haven’t discussed a candidacy for a second term in the European Commission so I don’t want to pre-empt discussion,” said Mr McGrath.

Referring to her contentious visit to Israel the week after the Hamas massacre, Mr McGrath said the Irish Government and other member States had responded to it appropriately at the time.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in the Dáil later in October that he had told Ms von der Leyen at the EU Summit in Brussels her comments had “lacked balance”.

Yesterday Mr McGrath said the position of the European Union since then, as a collective, had evolved and was now closer to the position adopted by Ireland and by several other EU countries, all of which have condemned the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Almost 30,000 have now been killed in Gaza.

“Ireland has been quite consistent from the very beginning. (The State’s) position has moved more centre-stage in terms of the thinking across the European Union,” he said.

Separately, Mr McGrath also said that Ireland still had a chance to win a competition that would see the headquarters of the new EU Anti-Money Laundering Authority located here.

Ireland is one of nine Member States that has bid to be the location of the new agency. The outcome of the process (which involves votes by the EU Council and by the EU Parliament) will be known on Thursday.

The proposed new Authority aims to improve the detection of suspicious financial transactions and close loopholes used by criminals to launder illicit proceeds or finance terrorist activities.

Mr McGrath said that senior Cabinet Ministers, officials, and diplomats have continued to lobby the decision-makers heavily.

“We are giving it our best shot. We are really competitive,” said Mr McGrath.

“Yes, we do have a chance. But we’re up against large Member States that have a lot of influence and a lot of power.”

It is understood that Ireland’s application puts significant emphasis on the geographical spread of EU institutions and the relative lack of headquarters here in Ireland compared to other countries.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times