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'Coveney would be a good pick to replace Hogan' - MacSharry

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Ray MacSharry (pictured) has suggested former Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan could be replaced by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney or MEP Mairead McGuinness

Ray MacSharry (pictured) has suggested former Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan could be replaced by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney or MEP Mairead McGuinness

Ray MacSharry (pictured) has suggested former Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan could be replaced by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney or MEP Mairead McGuinness

Ireland's most successful former EU commissioner Ray MacSharry believes Simon Coveney would do a good job for Ireland if he were to replace Phil Hogan in Brussels.

He also said he would back MEP Mairead McGuinness and former Euro civil servant Catherine Day for the slot - comments that will dismay Fianna Fáilers who see their party as leading the Government.

"There is no such thing as a Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Green job any more. It's just how the three leaders will agree on Ireland's names," Mr MacSharry said.

Controversy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan sat down last night to discuss who will succeed Mr Hogan after his resignation due to the Golfgate controversy.

Sources said the leaders will not rush the decision as there is no pre-existing agreement for this scenario and it was not part of the Programme for Government negotiations.

Fianna Fáil has not conceded that the nominees will definitely be from Fine Gael.

Speaking ahead of that meeting, Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said: "No one party owns the position.

"It's about getting the best person, not from what stable they come. It's about expertise, ability and experience, not their party badge."

However, Mr MacSharry (83), who delivered unprecedented bounties for Irish farmers under CAP as Agriculture Commissioner, warned that Ireland now had a "slim chance" of holding on to the Trade brief after Mr Hogan's fall.

He also joked: "If I was 20 years younger I'd do it myself."

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Phil Hogan

Phil Hogan

REUTERS

Phil Hogan

Former finance minister Mr MacSharry was renowned for being tough, and earned the nickname Mac the Knife for savage cuts as Fianna Fáil pruned public spending in the late 1980s under Charles Haughey.

He later brought agriculture under the World Trade Organisation, then known as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

"That function [the Oireachtas golf society dinner] should never have been held. It was a very big mistake," Mr MacSharry said. "All who were there were wrong.

"It's sad that the penalty is so high for both Dara Calleary and Phil Hogan, and it might have been better if there were lesser penalties, but that's the way of it.

"Phil Hogan did the right thing in the end.

"It's a pity, but the Brexit negotiations are in the hands of Michel Barnier.

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Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

"The chances of us holding on to Trade are slim because there will be other member states lobbying and looking to get it."

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has sought the names of a man and a woman to be nominated by the Irish Government.

Mr MacSharry said that would suggest that "perhaps she would be looking towards a woman".

He identified Ms McGuinness and Ms Day as contenders, but added: "If, for argument's sake, Simon Coveney was sent, I do think he would probably do well."