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Taoiseach steps up efforts to get Hogan big EU job

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Commissioner designate: Phil Hogan

Commissioner designate: Phil Hogan

Commissioner designate: Phil Hogan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to increase efforts in the coming days to get an influential post for Ireland's Commissioner designate, Phil Hogan.

Two factors appear to have improved Mr Hogan's prospects as Irish lobbying of the new Brussels' administration heads into a crucial week.

The first was the weekend decision of EU leaders to appoint Italian candidate, Federica Mogherini, as EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner - a move which improved the gender balance of the new Commission.

The second was Romania's decision to signal that they would send a woman nominee in place of their current Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, who holds the agriculture portfolio.

Mr Kenny has always insisted that he would not change Mr Hogan's nomination despite a warning from Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that if he did not get more women nominees, he would give the majority of top jobs to the women who were nominated.

Mr Juncker is struggling to get the minimum of 10 women nominees, as demanded by the European Parliament, for the incoming Commission, which has 28 members and is due to take office on November 1. Failure to nominate enough women commissioners could lead parliament to use its powers to veto the entire commission after hearings next month.

The Irish Government is continuing efforts to get the Agriculture Commissioner's post which was last held by an Irish man between 1989 and 1992 when Ray MacSharry served with distinction.

The job controls one-third of the EU's €150bn per year budget and is a politically pivotal role in the whole system.

But the Taoiseach has already made it clear that he would consider another post that was related to economic policy, growth and jobs.

"Yes, our focus remains on seeking a portfolio that can serve jobs and growth. Is agriculture one of those posts? Yes, it very much is," a spokesman for the Taoiseach told the Irish Independent.

Ireland's outgoing commissioner, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said taking control of the agriculture post would be a major coup for Ireland.

Regardless of what job he secures, Mr Hogan can look forward to payments totalling more than €336,000 in his first year as a commissioner.

In Brussels, officials expect there could be an announcement on jobs soon - perhaps as early as this weekend. Each commissioner will then face a grilling from MEPs.

It is expected that the process will move quickly now that Ms Mogherini has been approved as the Foreign Affairs Commissioner and Poland's Donald Tusk is the new as European Council president.

Mr Tusk's appointment is seen as significant as it comes just 10 years after Poland joined the union. He will be charged with leading negotiations between Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and other European leaders, including Mr Kenny.

Irish Independent