Monday 17 June 2019

Fears Ireland will lose clout as UK Eurocrats play the 'granny rule'


European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
John Downing

John Downing

Irish EU heavy-hitters fear this country's loss of key posts due to age and retirement are being compounded by UK-born Eurocrats playing the "granny rule".

Since Brexit was voted for in June 2016, many British EU officials have sought to change nationality to keep their footing inside the system and many of these are rediscovering their Irish roots. "The 'Tony Cascarino effect' appears to now be rebounding on the Brussels Irish," one senior Brussels diplomat summed up.

The EU civil services have long operated an informal quota system of allocating jobs and promotions roughly in proportion to member states' populations. Ireland has done especially well in this since joining up in 1973, landing key jobs which in real terms improve the Dublin Government's access to influence and information inside the often complex Brussels system.

The high water mark of Irish EU influence was between 2000 and 2015 when two Irish people in succession, David O'Sullivan and Catherine Day, were secretary general of the EU Commission. But the march of time has seen a big increase in these officials retiring and by now one in three Irish EU officials is aged over 58.

The total number of Irish officials in the EU Commission is expected to dip from 522 at present to 416 by 2025. But concern is focusing on 41 high-ranking jobs currently held by Irish people.

Ireland's EU ambassador, Declan Kelleher, has been assessing the situation and Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has been asked to use what influence he can to address the issue. He said initial EU responses to Ireland's case are positive.

"There is a challenge for Irish personnel seeking promotion, or work in the EU services, from 'badging' by UK citizens getting Irish citizenship. I'm glad to say the Irish authorities are vigilant and I think they are getting a good hearing from the EU authorities on this," Mr Hogan told the Irish Independent.

Some 42,000 people work in the various EU institutions. Apart from the EU Commission, which has 32,000 officials, Ireland has 123 people working in the European Parliament, and 60 people in the EU Council of Ministers secretariat.

Irish Independent

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