Sunday 18 November 2018

Phil Hogan: I'm honoured to be selected as Europe's new Commissioner

European Union Commissioner designate for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, talks during a hearing at the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, at the European Parliament in Brussels, on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
European Union Commissioner designate for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, talks during a hearing at the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, at the European Parliament in Brussels, on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

Niall O'Connor in Brussels

PHIL Hogan has said he is "truly honoured" after being selected as Europe’s new Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Mr Hogan was overwhelmingly backed during a secret ballot of MEPs this afternoon after undergoing a two and a half hour interrogation at the European Parliament in Brussels.

European Union Commissioner designate for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, talks during a hearing at the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, at the European Parliament in Brussels, on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
European Union Commissioner designate for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, talks during a hearing at the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, at the European Parliament in Brussels, on Thursday Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

Some 33 members voted in favour of his candidacy, while 10 said they were opposed.

The news means Ireland has landed the largest spending commissioner position with an annual budget of €60bn.

Speaking to independent.ie, Mr Hogan said: “I am truly honoured to have received such a massive endorsement of the agriculture committee whereby almost 80 per cent of the members voted for my nomination. It is a wonderful start for my mandate in the commission.”

But Mr Hogan was forced to deal with criticism after it emerged he directly sent three CVs belonging to constituents the head of Irish Water John Tierney.

He said there was nothing “untoward” about directly sending three CV’s to the semi-state company, adding: That’s representation in politics in the Irish sense”.

Mr Hogan comfortably dealt with criticism from two Irish MEPs as well as answering 45 questions on a range of issues from farming to wine production.

The much anticipated session was followed by the formal approval of Mr Hogan as Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

But during a press conference following the hear, Mr Hogan was questioned over his decision to send three CVs to Irish Water chief John Tierney on behalf of constituents.

He rejected suggestions that his actions were a mistake.

“Politicians make representations to the public and private sector on behalf of constituents, I’d say, since democracy was introduced,” Mr Hogan said.

“I certainly have made representations for many people to public authorities, local authorities and the private sector to assist my constituents. They go through the normal competitive and competition arrangements after that and at the end of the day they understand that the people I’ve made representations for, in particular the people in the Irish Independent today, don’t think anyone got a job, so I might be losing my influence with Irish Water.”

MEPs from all member states questioned Mr Hogan on why he believes he has the credentials to serve as Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

But attempts by Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy  and Independent MEP Luke ‘MIng’ Flanagan to raise a series of controversies proved unsucessful as Mr Hogan dismissed all criticism of his performance as Environment Minister.

Mr Carthy, an MEP for Midlands-North-West, used his slot to raise the issue of legal letters Mr Hogan has allegedly sent to “politicians and journalists”.

He was referring partly to a bitter legal row between Mr Hogan and Dublin MEP Nessa Childers.

Mr Hogan has sent Ms Childers three legal letters following remarks she made about his handling of a case involving a traveller family in his constituency of Carlow/KIlkenny.

In response to Mr Carthy’s question, Mr Hogan replied:

“You would expect Irish politicians to defend themselves in they are defamed.”

Mr Hogan further dismissed accusations by the Sinn MEP that he has “misled” the public in relation to the establishment of Irish Water and the €50m spend on consultancy.

“If you are going to set up a new system it costs money to do so,” he replied.

Mr Hogan then turned the heat on the newly elected MEP, pointing out that he has received a letter from the Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister in the North Michelle O’Neill sent him a letter congratulating him on his expected appointment

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