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Coveney in plea for Coalition to swiftly fill Hogan EU role

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Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney has said the decision on Ireland's next EU Commissioner cannot be allowed to "drift" as the Government leaders continue to deliberate on who will replace Phil Hogan in Brussels.

Th Foreign Affairs Minister made the remarks at a private Fine Gael meeting where Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told attendees that the Coalition will comply with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's request and put forward names of a woman and a man.

It comes as the Government continued to deal with the fallout from the massive 'Golf-gate' controversy which led to the resignation of Mr Hogan as Trade Commissioner and the departure of Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary as Agriculture Minister.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night announced Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue as Mr Calleary's replacement.

He is the third politician appointed to the role since the new Government was formed.

The first, Barry Cowen, was sacked due to controversy over an old drink-driving incident.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed a third agriculture minister in less than three months had been appointed "as a result of what is a deep dysfunction at the heart of this Government".

She said "controversy, chaos, confusion have consumed this Coalition".

However, while the Agriculture portfolio has now been filled, the decision on who will be put forward as nominees for Commissioner is dragging on a week after Mr Hogan resigned.

Mr Coveney - one of the frontrunners for the role - told Fine Gael colleagues that the decision needs to be made so that the Coalition can "move on" as "we have important work to do as a Government".

The three Coalition leaders are still in talks about who to nominate for the position vacated by Mr Hogan, with a final decision not now expected until today at the earliest.

Others in contention for the Commissioner job are Fine Gael MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Frances Fitzgerald, while Andrew McDowell, a former economic adviser to Enda Kenny, has also been sounded out.

Mr Varadkar told the Fine Gael meeting that the Commissioner issue will be resolved by the end of the week and that the Government will comply with Ms Von der Leyen's request that the names of a woman and a man be put forward.