Sunday 19 November 2017

Coalition row as Labour want Gilmore for EU post

FG insist commisioner's job is theirs

Eamon Gilmore
Eamon Gilmore
Phil Hogan
Mairead McGuinness
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

FINE Gael and the Labour Party are set for a showdown over who gets the European Commissioner's post.

Labour figures are touting Eamon Gilmore as a candidate, saying the Government needs to put forward a heavyhitter to get a big portfolio.

But Fine Gael says there is a "blue flag" on the position, meaning it is going to the senior coalition party, but Labour says there is no such deal.

Ireland has been linked with the powerful Competition Commissioner's post, but the carve-up of the positions won't be decided until the new European Commission President is appointed and candidates nominated.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan is the outright favourite to take up the position, but MEP Mairead McGuinness' name has also been casually mentioned.

Labour says nothing has been agreed on which party gets the post and it was not part of the deal which saw the junior coalition partner get the Attorney General's job.

"There is nothing settled, despite suggestions it was tied to the Attorney General's job. It was their call on the Ceann Comhairle. That was the agreement there," a senior government source said.

When the Government was formed, Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett became the Ceann Comhairle, while Labour activist Maire Whelan became the Attorney General.

Since he announced his pending resignation, Mr Gilmore is understood to have been approached by a number of his counterparts in the EU suggesting the Government should put his name forward.

As a former deputy prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Gilmore would have a bigger profile at EU level.

"He's the type of figure to secure a good portfolio," a senior coalition source on the Labour side said.


However, government figures on the Fine Gael side say the position will be taken by the senior coalition party.

"There's a blue flag on it. All that would be part of the dividing out of positions," a senior Fine Gael source said.

Meanwhile, former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker's candidacy to become European Commission President has been boosted by further signs of support from France and Germany.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants Mr Kenny to put his name forward for the high-powered position.

But the Taoiseach has said he does not see "any circumstances" where Mr Juncker will not become the President.

Mr Cameron is staunchly opposed to Mr Juncker and is preparing to force an unprecedented vote on the position this week in a move that will cause deep divisions in the EU.

But support is hardening around Mr Juncker with French President Francois Hollande and German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel being the latest to indicate support.

Mr Hollande and Mr Gabriel met in Paris, along with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Belgian Premier Elio di Rupo and five other heads of governments from European Union countries to stake out a common socialist position before all EU leaders gather in Ypres on Thursday.

The summit is being held in the Belgian town as part of World War I centenary commemorations.

The centre-right parties backing Mr Juncker won the most seats in elections to the European Parliament last month.

"We said, let's respect the spirit of the European elections, which is to say that the party that came in first should propose the candidate that was presented – in this case Mr Juncker," Mr Hollande said.

The French President said the group of left-wing parties would like socialist candidates to be considered for other European Commission jobs.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose coalition includes Mr Gabriel's Social Democratic Party, also backs Mr Juncker.

Irish Independent

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