| 12°C Dublin

'I wish them luck' - Coveney pulls out of race to succeed Hogan in EU

Close

MEP Mairead McGuinness

MEP Mairead McGuinness

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

MEP Mairead McGuinness

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney withdrew his name from consideration in the race to succeed Phil Hogan as European Commissioner - but last night remained silent on his reasons for doing so.

Long-serving MEP Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell - an economic adviser to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny - were named by the Government as Ireland's nominees for the vacant Irish seat on the Commission.

The Government complied with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's request that the names of a man and a woman be put forward.

Last night she said: "I will interview them early next week on their qualifications for the job."

Mr Coveney - who was widely considered the front-runner for a nomination - did not respond to queries on why his name did not go forward, instead saying: "We have two extraordinary candidates here. I wish them both luck."

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: "Simon Coveney is somebody with enormous ability and certainly would have been a top-class Commissioner had he decided to go forward.

"For Ireland and for the Government, I'm really glad he's staying, quite frankly. He's somebody we need, for the next stage of Brexit, because of events in Northern Ireland, and somebody I think the Government needs to bring experience, maturity and stability.

"So I'm really glad that he hasn't put his name forward"

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was asked about what caused Mr Coveney to take his name out of the race.

Role

He said: "Minister Coveney has clearly a crucial role to play in relation to the Brexit situation which is coming fast and will be an urgent issue on our agenda for the remainder of the year in terms of some resolution to that that's optimal."

Mr Martin didn't answer directly when asked if Mr Coveney dropped out as it's unlikely Ireland will hang onto the trade portfolio held by Mr Hogan.

He added: "Given the quality of the candidates we have put forward I believe we can get a portfolio of substance and of quality."

The Taoiseach denied that any consideration was given to any proposal to send just one nominee to Ms von der Leyen in defiance of her request.

The vacancy arose after Mr Hogan fell on his sword amid the controversy over his attendance at last month's infamous Oireachtas Golf Society Dinner.

Ms McGuinness - a four-term MEP and first vice-president of the European Parliament - will now compete with Mr McDowell, who most recently worked as vice-president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), to be selected by the Commission President.

Last night they both said they were honoured to be nominated.