Thursday 14 November 2019

It may be a 'matter for the Taoiseach' but Phil Hogan is tipped to be an EU Commissioner

Hogan happy to compare himself to FF bruiser Neil T Blaney

Neil Blaney, Fianna Fail TD and government minister
Neil Blaney, Fianna Fail TD and government minister
John Downing

John Downing

IS the man who delivered the property tax and water charges now about to leave the country to be an EU Commissioner? "That is a matter for the Taoiseach," comes the stock answer from Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

If the Taoiseach offered him the job would he take it?

"If the Taoiseach offers me the appointment – I'll consider it," he parries again.

In government circles it is a given that a minister who puts his name to two new taxes cannot be top of the pops with the public. But Hogan's robust style of politics may also have a bearing, as an opinion poll last summer bracketed him along with Health Minister James Reilly and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

He insists that he is not seeking short-term popularity and that water charges, to ensure quality and continuity for future public health and jobs, are the only alternative. "I advocated water charges in opposition back in 2009," he says.

The minister argues that the range of his achievements has not been surpassed since Fianna Fail's Neil T Blaney who was in that same department from 1957 to 1966.

Hogan is surely the only Fine Gael politician known to compare himself to Blaney.

Apart from the allegations of involvement in arming the Provisional IRA in 1969/70, the late Donegal politician is recalled as a real political bruiser – but Hogan insists on the comparison.

"No, the planning acts, the housing acts and the sanitary acts were all done by Blaney in the early 1960s. That was before he got distracted by other things," Hogan argues.

Apart from the two new taxes, Hogan cites a raft of other things achieved.

These range from compliance with EU environmental obligations; a revamp of local government; changes to political donations; efforts to resolve problems caused by pyrite; moves to deal with ghost estates and a pledge to have a climate change bill in place by the end of this year.

Climate change is not the first thing that springs to mind when you mention Phil Hogan's name. But he insists that he is not – and never was – a 'climate change denier'.

"It is a mainstream view by now and it is one that I share. We have to adapt to climate change and deal with it," he says.

Hogan is promising that a climate-change bill will be passed into law by the end of this year.

He says Ireland is continuing to support the EU efforts to support EU efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But a big part of the response must be to adapt to the consequences of change.

The minister argues that the work dovetails with efforts to cope with coastal and river flooding.

This is largely in the domain of the Office of Public Works which comes under the aegis of the Finance Department.

It also enmeshes with a growing sense of impatience with insurance companies for their response to providing flood and storm damage cover.

Hogan is not saying anything about the prospect of him being named Ireland's EU Commissioner this summer.

Rightly or wrongly, the assumption that his name is on the job, is the received wisdom around Leinster House for now at least.

Irish Independent

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