Political top job merry-go-round not confined to Brussels

EU leaders horse-trading and decisions about Ireland’s nominee for European Commissioner

Ursula von der Leyen is set for another five years as President of the European Commission, the single most powerful EU post. Photograph: Getty Images

Nothing animates the public less and politicians more than the question of which politician should get what job. But jobs must be filled one way or another, and EU leaders were horse-trading into the early hours at a special summit in Brussels last night. It makes our lead story this morning.

Ursula von der Leyen, as our man in Brussels Jack Power reports, is set for another five years as president of the European Commission, the single most powerful EU post. Although many leaders were annoyed at her unilateral and, at the time, unqualified backing of Israel in the wake of the October 7th massacres by Hamas, she has nonetheless emerged as the candidate with the most support among national leaders – who make the decision, though it must be ratified by the European Parliament in a vote, most likely in July, as Jack describes here.

Taoiseach Simon Harris told reporters that “a consensus” was emerging around a second term for VDL, and it’s likely that the Government will join that – though several Irish MEPs, including all the Fianna Fáil ones, have said they will not support her. The European People’s Party (EPP) – the centre-right political group to which both VDL and Fine Gael belong – is confident she can get over the line when the parliament votes. Secret ballot, mind you.

The top jobs merry-go-round isn’t confined to Brussels. The Government must also decide its nominee to be Ireland’s next European Commissioner, and as we report this morning, a decision is thought to be imminent. All the speculation in and around Government centres on Minister for Finance Michael McGrath. If that is what comes to pass, it means Micheál Martin has to find a new finance minister to manage the Coalition’s final budget – the budget many Government TDs hope will help them keep their seats. On that, meanwhile, the Central Bank has warned about the dangers of a giveaway budget. We’ll see how that goes.



The Cabinet meets today – once Taoiseach Simon Harris gets home from Brussels – and will be confronted by a busy agenda. Harry McGee has much of it here.

Decisions expected include early adoption of the EU Asylum and Migration Pact, allowing its toughest measures to be used in Ireland. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will tell ministerial colleagues that she intends to introduce new legislation to replace the International Protection Act 2015 that will allow Ireland to opt in fully to the migration pact. It will include some of its most controversial measures including stronger border security, with more collection of fingerprints and photographs of new arrivals, Harry reports. As it happens, the migration pact is being debated in the Dáil today.

Elsewhere, Kevin O’Sullivan reports how the EU’s nature restoration law – approved by environment ministers yesterday – will impact in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Barry O’Halloran says that strikes at Aer Lingus, perhaps as early as next week, are “almost inevitable”.

Best reads

Fintan O’Toole on record-keeping by the religious orders, how those in the north are sharing what they have but those in the south are concealing them.

This week’s head-to-head is on the planning Bill.

Long read on how Saudi Arabia won back the US.


The Dáil meets at 2pm for the first Leaders’ Questions of the week – will be interesting to see if Mary Lou McDonald adopts the same low-key approach as she did in the immediate wake of the election results last week.

There’s nearly five hours of debate scheduled for the EU’s migration pact in the Dáil. Will be interesting to watch the tone, as well as the content, of the debate. That’s followed by a Sinn Féin motion on carers, and questions to Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman. The Dáil isn’t due to adjourn until nearly 12.30am – which is hardly a triumph of parliamentary scheduling.

Much quieter in the Seanad, while there’s a whole bunch of committees holding what look like interesting hearings. Eamon Ryan is in at the Seanad select committee on EU statutory instruments; the Ukrainian ambassador is in at the foreign affairs committee; Uisce Éireann is at the environment committee. Details, as well as all the rest, are here.

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