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Speculation for European Commissioner job centres on Michael McGrath

When asked, McGrath himself has parried the question, confirming only that he would ‘give it serious consideration’

What is certain is that it will be a Fianna Fail nomination. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

“We need to get it done.”

That is the view of people inside Government about the impending nomination of Ireland’s next European Commissioner, which some senior figures expect to happen within the next week. It is a nervous few days for the contenders for what is regarded as one of the top posts any Irish politician can aspire to.

In the wake of the European election results last week, EU leaders were meeting in Brussels on Monday and were expected to agree on a series of senior appointments. Nothing is yet finally settled and many of the appointments have to be approved by the European Parliament – which is not a foregone conclusion. But the widespread expectation in Brussels is that Ursula von der Leyen will get another term as the President of the European Commission, while the job of President of the European Council – chairman of the EU’s most powerful decision-making body, the council of all the heads of government – will go to the former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa, while the next EU foreign policy chief will be the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas.

Meanwhile, each member state government is also considering who they should nominate to serve in the next Commission. Each state gets one commissioner but there are a smaller number of impactful and important jobs, which countries will compete for. Hence the desire to get a nomination in early, in order to be able to lobby for one of the top jobs.


“We’ve got to get in quick,” says one senior Irish source, based in Brussels. “Ideally for this meeting, but if not, certainly for next week.”

EU leaders are due to meet again next week for a two-day summit at which the horse-trading over jobs will continue.

The name on everyone’s lips around Government is that of Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath. True, some say Charlie McConalogue, currently Minister for Agriculture. A few people have floated the possibility of the former Attorney General Paul Gallagher, though senior sources brushed off the notion. One person mentioned Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Health. But all the speculation points towards McGrath.

What is certain is that it will be a Fianna Fáil nomination. That was agreed when the Programme for Government – and the associated agreements on jobs – was being settled between Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan back in 2020. There was a long-held, and perhaps not entirely ungrounded, perception in some quarters that Martin might take the job himself. But he has firmly dismissed that now, not least because he formed the judgment some months ago that he has a good shot at leading Fianna Fáil back into Government and becoming Taoiseach again after the next election. Last week’s results have certainly borne out his judgment.

When asked, McGrath himself has parried the question, confirming only that he would “give it serious consideration”. Within Government it is expected he would accept an offer. The party has a ready-made successor in his Cork constituency in the shape of his brother Seamus, who topped the poll in the local elections.

It would mean Martin has to find a new finance minister just weeks before the summer economic statement and a few months before an election budget due (currently at least) in early October. In those circumstances, there are two options – a replacement from within the Cabinet, or from outside it. Some insiders feel that a Cabinet reshuffle is messier than an outside appointment and have suggested that Dara Calleary or Jack Chambers could be promoted. Chambers’s star is especially high right now, having served as director of elections for the local election campaign. But it would be a big step up for either man.