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Coveney likely for EU nod as battle on for second slot in bid to replace Big Phil

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Frances Fitzgerald is a front-runner

Frances Fitzgerald is a front-runner

Frances Fitzgerald is a front-runner

The Government is expected to comply today with Ursula von der Leyen's demand for the names of both a man and a woman as Ireland's next European Commissioner.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is almost certain to get the nod, with MEPs Frances Fitzgerald and Mairead McGuinness in a battle for the second nomination.

Pressure

It comes amid mounting pressure - both inside and outside Government - to ensure gender balance in the nominations process as well as indications from Brussels that Commission President Ms von der Leyen would take a dim view if Ireland failed to do this.

The vacancy arises due to Phil Hogan's resignation as Trade Commissioner amid the 'Golfgate' controversy.

There are fears Ireland will lose the trade portfolio after Mr Hogan's departure.

A second-term Commissioner, Mr Hogan's name was the only one put forward last year when Ms Von der Leyen was forming her College of Commissioners.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan are to meet again today to discuss the nominations ahead of a Cabinet meeting.

Last night, there was a growing expectation two names will be offered to Ms von der Leyen.

One minister told The Herald: "The optics of defying her wishes would be disastrous. The Government needs to do itself some favours after making some bad mistakes."

The Green Party - including a Cabinet minister - have publicly called for a woman's name to be put forward.

Children and Equality Minister Roderic O'Gorman said he is "strongly" of the view Ms von der Leyen should be offered two names.

'Disrespectful'

"Ireland would be well advised to follow the President's request," he told RTÉ Radio's Drivetime.

Meanwhile, Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan said the last government didn't honour Ms von der Leyen's request adding, "I think it's time to do so now".

National Women's Council of Ireland director Orla O'Connor said not putting forward a woman's name, as well as a man's would be "disrespectful" of the Commission's policy.

She also argued it would undermine the Government's own efforts to move towards gender balance at high levels.