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Saturday 17 March 2018

Geoghegan-Quinn unscathed after MEP grilling over post


Former Justice Minister Maire Geoghegan-Quinn last night admitted she was "drained" after being quizzed for three hours by European parliamentarians.

The EU commissioner-designate faced a barrage of questions on topics from nuclear energy to stem cells.

As the EU's new Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner -- if MEPs give her the nod, which is likely -- she will manage a €50bn budget and oversee a portfolio with a wide remit.

She was careful not to make any controversial statements and had been well briefed by her handlers, who were painfully aware of the grilling parliamentarians were prepared to give Ms Geoghegan-Quinn.

"Her experience in politics stood to her," said Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly. "She was calm, collected and knowledgeable."

Her advisers were aware of the willingness of MEPs to browbeat candidates, as they did on Tuesday to Bulgarian humanitarian aid nominee Rumiana Jeleva, who had to face down claims of financial irregularities relating to her links to a consultancy firm.

But Ms Geoghegan-Quinn appeared unfazed during her interrogation, telling MEPs early on that she was no bureaucrat. "I'm a doer, I'm not a yes woman. I have strong views," she said.

"You're not dealing with a civil servant. I'm a politician who wants action and delivery."

Fianna Fail MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher said: "Maire Geoghegan-Quinn put in an outstanding performance at her ratification hearing before the European Parliament. She answered 64 questions covering a range of very complex political matters."


She also had the advantage of having appeared before parliament twice during her 10-year stint in the Luxembourg-based European Court of Auditors.

Part of her new job will be to steer a committee of commissioners dedicated to promoting innovation, where she will be working with her colleagues in the industry, energy and information technology fields.

"I don't believe in talking-shops," she said of the group. "I don't like the idea of committees that talk forever."

A question from the floor on nuclear energy prompted a swift response from the former justice minister, who said she would uphold the EU's policy into nuclear research despite the view of it in Ireland. "Nuclear energy remains a technology of choice in many member states. It's a carbon-free technology and the research into this area should be maintained as an option for those member states who wish to pursue it."

But the first item on her radar will be how to promote economic activity and create jobs across the bloc.

"If we want to address the global challenges and take Europe out of the global crisis, we have to innovate, we need to translate that into jobs at the end of the day," she said.

Labour MEP Alan Kelly said she had to rebuild Ireland's name in Europe after Charlie McCreevy's stint as internal market chief, where he oversaw the financial sector.

He has been pilloried in some Brussels circles for his light-touch approach to banking regulation.

"First among Ms Geoghegan-Quinn's priorities must be to restore Ireland's reputation in Europe following the fiasco of a commissioner that Charlie McCreevy proved to be. Our commissioners have traditionally been held in high esteem in Europe and we all hope it would continue."

MEPs will vote on January 26 for the 26-strong college of candidate commissioners.

Irish Independent

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