Thursday 19 September 2019

Taoiseach considers next move on future for Hogan

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is still considering whether to reappoint Phil Hogan as Ireland's EU commissioner and has no immediate plans for an announcement, his spokesman said yesterday.

Mr Hogan, the Agriculture Commissioner, has been criticised by colleagues in Fine Gael in the wake of the EU-Mercosur trade deal.

The deal has angered Irish farmers worried about cheap imports of beef from South America that could affect their industry.

Mr Varadkar's spokesman said in relation to Mr Hogan securing a second five-year term in Brussels that "the matter is under consideration", even though the Taoiseach said last Sunday that he would make a decision once a new European Commission president was in place.

EU leaders nominated Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, but her elevation requires the approval of MEPs later this month.

"There are no immediate plans for an announcement with regard to the commissioner," Mr Varadkar's spokesman said. "The matter is under consideration. I wouldn't read anything into that. The Taoiseach has said on a number of occasions that Phil Hogan has done an excellent job as a commissioner."

Mr Hogan's reappointment would require the approval of Cabinet.

Fine Gael TD Pat Deering, who chairs the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, told the Irish Independent that Mr Varadkar should "reconsider" appointing Mr Hogan for a second five-year term amid unease within the party over the impact of the beef deal.

Two Fine Gael Cabinet ministers privately raised doubts about Mr Hogan's reappointment, with one saying his future was "on the line" over the Mercosur deal.

But other Fine Gael ministers and TDs have backed Mr Hogan and believe he is well-positioned to secure a second term in Brussels.

One minister argued that Mr Hogan's existing connections in the EU, where he is much admired, could help him secure a top position such as European Commission vice president.

Mr Hogan has also been linked to the trade or internal market portfolios.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary yesterday accused the Government of trying to trying to hide its failure to protect Irish beef farmers by "making a scapegoat" of Mr Hogan.

He accused Fine Gael ministers of trying to shift the blame to their former party and Government colleague, Mr Hogan.

"There are more Fine Gael tanks on Commissioner Hogan's lawn today," the Fianna Fáil TD told the Dáil.

Replying for the Government, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the Government would defend all Irish farmers. "You are playing the man rather than dealing with the issue," she said.

The Mercosur controversy will return to the Dáil agenda next week with Sinn Féin set to table a private members' motion calling on the Government to reject the deal.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section