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Former FF minister tipped for plum EU budget role

FORMER Fianna Fail minister Maire Geoghegan-Quinn is hotly tipped to become the EU Commissioner in charge of budgets -- even though the Government would prefer an agriculture portfolio for the Irish representative.

Nine years of serving in the Court of Auditors and dealing with the detail of the EU's multi- billion-budget gives Ms Geoghegan-Quinn unrivalled credentials for the post of Budget Commissioner.

"The post is hers if she and the Irish Government want it," said the source.

However, the Government still hopes to secure the agriculture brief although sources in Brussels say it is unlikely to go to Ireland.

Last week, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that commission portfolios were allocated to individuals, and not to countries.

And Ms Geoghegan-Quinn's experience in Luxembourg, where she audited the EU's external action budget, makes her an ideal candidate to be Budget Commissioner, according to sources.

But Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is one of the Irish politicians singled out in EU circles as being potentially ideal for the job of Agriculture Commissioner.

Yesterday, she once again refused to rule herself out of the running but said another cabinet colleague should be asked about his interest in the plum Brussels job.

Rewarded

Ms Coughlan also refused to comment to reporters in Cork on whether she would be interested in the EU post.

"I think I have answered that on Friday evening when I said that it was entirely a matter for the Taoiseach -- he will be looking at who is the most appropriate and, you know, you should have asked the same question of Micheal (Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin)," she said.

The Donegal South-West TD declined to express any personal interest in the EU post or whether she would consider the role if asked by Mr Cowen.

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However, she is understood to remain a favoured choice for the post by EU officials who are determined that Ireland should help with "gender-balancing" the new commission.

Ireland has never had a female EU commissioner -- and if Mr Cowen does nominate a woman it is likely Ireland will be rewarded with a high-profile post.

Yesterday, both Ms Coughlan and Mr Martin signalled that the post will have to be filled in the immediate future.


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