MEPs split on Big Phil's suitability for EU Ag post
Ireland's MEPs are split on the question of Phil Hogan's suitability for the position of EU agriculture commissioner but his candidacy is supported by all the main farm organisations.
There have been strong suggestions that Ireland has been lobbying for the former minister for the environment to get the high-powered agriculture portfolio.
However, while he has the undoubted backing of his own Fine Gael party, Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy and Roscommon-based MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan have confirmed that they will oppose his appointment.
Mr Carthy called on Enda Kenny to reconsider the appointment of Mr Hogan to the European Commission.
"He is a bad candidate and the Government will use up all its political capital trying to get him across the line," he said.
"We are in touch with a number of parties in the parliament and there are many questions around concerning his suitability," Mr Carthy said.
Mr Carthy listed what he described as a "litany of disasters" associated with Phil Hogan's record.
"We have the debacle of Irish Water and the reconfiguration of the Leader programme," he said.
"I have no faith in Phil Hogan to deliver for Irish farmers," he added.
But Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness is fully behind Mr Hogan.
"This is not a party political thing, I was equally firm in my support for Maire Geoghegan- Quinn," she said.
Ms McGuinness pointed to Mr Hogan's record as a minister.
"His work rate was enormous, he was given a tough portfolio and he delivered what was asked of him," she said.
Ms McGuinness maintained that the Kilkenny man would be a more than capable performer in the position of Commissioner for Agriculture.
"In advance of the up-coming EU/US trade negotiations, we will need someone at the table who knows farming. Also, the current CAP is anything but a done deal and Phil Hogan's knowledge of the farming sector would be invaluable in bringing it to a conclusion," she said.
Mr Flanagan said he was totally opposed to the prospect of Mr Hogan getting the agriculture portfolio especially, pointing out that 80pc of Ireland's farmers got just 20pc of farm payments.
"I don't accept all this talk about pulling on the green jersey. If Simon Coveney had been the commissioner instead of (Dacian) Ciolos, then 80pc of Irish farmers would be even worse off after the recent CAP reforms," he claimed.
Mr Flanagan said that when it comes to the mid-term review of the CAP, Mr Hogan would support the same "agenda" as Mr Coveney and the IFA.
He recalled the opposition of the IFA to Commissioner Ciolos, when he tried to introduce what he described as "a measure of equality to the farm payments system".
"They brought the farmers on to the street to protest against changes that would benefit the majority of them. That is incredible. Without a shadow of a doubt, I will be opposing the appointment (of Mr Hogan)," Mr Flanagan said.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin gave Mr Hogan qualified support.
"While I would have huge disagreements with Mr Hogan in relation to what he did to the Leader companies, I believe agriculture is very important to Ireland. With the looming EU/US and Mercosur trade negotiations and the mid-term review of the CAP, I think it will be essential to have a strong Irish commissioner to defend our agricultural interests," she said.
In a thinly veiled message to MEPs, IFA President Eddie Downey has warned against damaging Ireland's prospects of securing the agriculture portfolio.
"As the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker begins to assemble his team, the political posturing by some could jeopardise our chances. The focus should be on the best outcome for Ireland," Mr Downey said.
ICSA President Patrick Kent also supports efforts to secure the EU Agriculture portfolio for Phil Hogan.
"It would be a huge boost to Irish agriculture, and particularly the struggling drystock sector, to have an Irish commissioner in this post," he said.
ICMSA President John Comer said that his experience of Mr Hogan's capabilities and drive leaves him in no doubt about his capacity to master whatever brief he is given.
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