Sunday 18 August 2019

Mairead McGuinness fails to be selected in EU presidential bid

Taoiseach Enda Kenny in conversation with Mairead McGuinness MEP
Taoiseach Enda Kenny in conversation with Mairead McGuinness MEP

Sarah Collins

Midlands north-west MEP Mairead McGuinness has failed to be selected for the job of president of the European Parliament.

Ms McGuinness is Parliament's vice-president and a long-standing member of its agriculture committee. She, along with her Fine Gael colleagues, belong to the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) group, the largest in the Parliament.

She put herself forward after the incumbent president, socialist Martin Schulz, announced he would step down next year to run in the German national elections.

The EPP selected its candidate this evening, opting for Italian MEP Antonio Tajani.

Antonio Tajani received 94 votes to Mairead McGuinness's 57. Frenchman Alain Lamassoure finished in third place with 34.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Ms McGuinness would make an "outstanding" president.

Agriculture minister Michael Creed said a win for Ms McGuinness would be "a great help to the agriculture sector, generally, and in particular the Irish agriculture sector".

And Social Protection minister Leo Varadkar told the Irish Independent this week that having an Irish person at the helm of the Parliament would be crucial during Brexit talks.

"The election of an Irish person as president of the Parliament would send out an absolute, clear signal through the European system that, not only are we staying, we're at the top table, and that our perspectives will be recognised within Europe," he said. "So I really hope she pulls it off."

Under a deal done in 2014, the Parliament's presidency was due to pass from the socialists to the EPP next year.

But the leader of the socialist group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella, threw a spanner in the works when he decided to run last month.

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