Attention turns to who will deliver Coalition’s last Budget as Michael McGrath heads to Brussels

Potential successors as new minister for finance could be Dara Calleary, Jack Chambers or Darragh O’Brien

Speculation in political circles is over and Minister for Finance Michael McGrath is today set to be nominated as Ireland’s next European Commissioner

The months if not years of speculation in political circles is over and Minister for Finance Michael McGrath is today set to be nominated as Ireland’s next European Commissioner.

As Jennifer Bray reports Tánaiste Micheál Martin is due to bring a note on the nomination to Cabinet on Tuesday morning to officially begin the process that should see McGrath Brussels bound for the next five years.

But it is a case of ‘the speculation is dead, long live the speculation’ as attention will now immediately turn to exactly who will deliver the Coalition’s last Budget this autumn.

Potential successors to Mr McGrath could be Minister of State in the Department of Enterprise Dara Calleary, Minister of State in the Department of Transport Jack Chambers or Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.


Mr Chambers was appointed as Fianna Fáil deputy leader last week.

Michael McGrath TD is Ireland's nominee for the European Commission with Jack Chambers set to take over as finance minister. Video: Bryan O'Brien

A move into the Department of Finance by any of these three would then open a vacancy for their positions.

Sources have said Mr Martin will move fast to appoint successors – so the speculation may not actually be that long-lived.

He is said to be “keeping his cards close to his chest” until Mr McGrath’s nomination is noted at Cabinet.

It is less than three weeks since the European Elections the end of which sparked the process of forming a new Commission.

Coalition party leaders agreed not to delay nominating a new European commissioner in the hopes of securing a high-profile portfolio in the new Commission.

There was an unwritten agreement between the three Coalition parties that the next commissioner would be a Fianna Fáil nominee.

In the end McGrath was the obvious choice on the Fianna Fáil benches to be Commissioner.

For one thing he leaves behind a safe seat for the party in Cork South Central.

In the recent local elections, Mr McGrath’s brother Seamus McGrath pulled in the largest first preference vote in the State, breaking the 5,000 mark in Carrigaline and easily passing the quota.

But McGrath is also one of the party’s most impressive politicians.

As Bray writes in a profile he sat his Leaving Certificate at only 16, contested his first election at 22 and delivered his first budget as minister for finance at the age of 47.

When he unveiled the last budget, he became the first Fianna Fáil Minister to do so in more than a decade.

It was not lost on political observers that, notwithstanding the scale of the €14 billion package, McGrath was keen to place a strong emphasis on caution and prudence as he also announced multibillion euro future-proof funds.

After years of struggling to shake off accusations by Fine Gael and others of “wrecking the economy”, McGrath’s even-handed and calm delivery of a budget that was both large in scope but also future-aware was a key moment for Fianna Fáil in repairing its standing with the public and detoxifying the brand.

Along with Minister for Public Expenditure (and previously finance) McGrath was one half of the pair that has provided stability during the current Coalition’s budgetary deliberation.

It will be interesting to see if the same dynamic can be maintained when his successor assumes the role at the Department of Finance as the Government prepares for its last – and perhaps most crucial – Budget as the general election looms.

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The Cabinet meets this morning. It’ll be a busy meeting between plans to give the Electoral Commission new powers to counter online misinformation, RTÉ's plan to implement the recommendations of recent expert group reports commissioned as a result of its woes over the last year and proposals to pipe water to Dublin from the River Shannon. Find our tee-up story for the non-European Commissioner agenda items here: Dáil proceedings kick off at 2pm with Leaders’ Questions.

People Before Profit’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2024 is to be introduced to the Dáil at First Stage at 3:04pm.

Government Business in the afternoon (from 3:55pm) includes the annual motion about renewing the Offences Against the State Act – the legislation that underpins the non-jury Special Criminal Court which tries terrorism and serious organised crime cases.

A motion on the European Union’s Migration Pact is also listed for debate from 6:22pm.

Sinn Féin have a motion on affordable electricity to be debated from 7:22pm.

Minister for Higher Education Patrick O’Donovan is due to take Parliamentary Questions from 9:24pm.

TDs have an opportunity to raise Topical Issues from 10:54pm.

The Committee on the Environment will be looking at long-duration energy storage from 11am.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan will be before the Select Committee on the Environment to be quizzed on funding for his Department from 1pm.

Representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service will update the Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage on their strategic review from 3pm.

Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman will be before the Committee on Children and Integration to discuss the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, also at 3pm.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs will hear from the UCD Ukraine Trauma Project about their work at 3:15pm.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedules can be found here, here and here.

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