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Triumph as Big Phil gets top EU job in agriculture

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Phil Hogan

Phil Hogan

Phil Hogan

The elevation of Phil Hogan to EU Agriculture Commissioner is a personal triumph for the former Fine Gael Minister and a coup for Ireland, where agriculture plays such a pivotal role in everyday life.

The recently-departed Minister for the Environment will now preside over a €55 billion agriculture budget and will define the priorities for the future of European agriculture.

Of course, Irish farmers will expect him to don 'the green jersey' in Brussels, but this is not necessarily what will happen. Mr Hogan will have to put the common good of the EU first, even when it displeases vocal Irish farmers. However, it can be of much benefit to have an Irish Commissioner in such an important and high-profile role and there can be little doubt that he will do the right thing by his country where possible.

Agriculture may no longer be Ireland's biggest industry, but agriculture and agribusiness contributes much to our GDP, and Irish companies such as Kerry, Glanbia and Fyffes are global players in the food industry.

As to Mr Hogan himself, there can be little doubt that he will do well in his new portfolio, just as former Minister Ray MacSharry did in the 1990s.

As Commissioner for Agriculture Mr Hogan will be on the front line in deciding the future of the industry. But he is probably lucky in that the latest reform of the contentious Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is already in motion and decisions to 'level the playing field' between new and old EU states have already been taken.

Mr Hogan does have a number of hurdles to overcome in the ratification process, but these should not trouble him unduly, even if some come from fellow countrymen such as MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

As a Minister in the Coalition government Mr Hogan carried through a number of much-needed reforms which, though unpopular - like the reform of local authorities and the introduction of water charges - were needed. He is his "own man" as they say in Kilkenny and we can look forward to interesting times from our new Commissioner in Brussels.

So much more than drink to celebrate

Why is it that - although we are turning out smarter, brighter and more confident Junior Cert students - the focus of results night is always alcohol and the madness that surrounds it?

The fact is that hardly any Irish celebration is complete without alcohol - and that is a reflection on parents and the older generation, rather than 15-year-olds who should know better, but don't.

In an ideal world people should be able to enjoy themselves without having to resort to drink. But in Ireland we have yet to reach that point, although statistic do tell us that overall alcohol consumption is falling.

All we can hope for tonight is that students will enjoy their success and refrain from making a public spectacle of themselves.

In most cases they probably will but, inevitably, there will be some who will over indulge and cause other people grief in the process. Hopefully that will not be the image of Junior Cert night 2014 when there is so much more to celebrate and enjoy.

Irish Independent