Mairead McGuinness named as Ireland’s European commissioner

Mairead McGuinness has been picked to be the next Irish commissioner following the resignation of Phil Hogan and will be given the financial services portfolio.

“Mrs McGuinness has significant political experience on EU issues having been an MEP since 2004, and currently holding the post of first vice-president of the European Parliament,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said as she made the announcement.

“This experience is crucial in carrying forward the EU’s financial sector policy agenda and ensuring it supports and strengthens the commission’s key priority, notably the twin green and digital transition.”

The long-serving Fine Gael MEP, who has been vice-president of the European Parliament since 2014, has a high profile in Brussels and was widely tipped for the role.

The trade portfolio will be assumed by Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis, a former prime minister and commissioner since 2014 who had been caretaking the position since Mr Hogan stepped down amid controversy over his breaking of Covid-19 self-isolation rules in Ireland.

The Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union portfolio that McGuinness will assume was previously part of Mr Dombrovskis’ brief, and involves leading the commission’s banking and finance reforms.

The decision came a day after Dr von der Leyen interviewed McGuinness and fellow nominee, the former European Investment Bank vice-president Andrew McDowell. The Irish Government put forward the two names after Dr von der Leyen requested both “a woman and a man” be nominated for the role.

Dr von der Leyen described both as “excellent candidates” with “experience of EU matters, of course from different perspectives”.

McGuinness will now be subject to scrutiny and a hearing in the European Parliament, before the new make-up of the commission must be approved by MEPs in a vote.

Welcomed

Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed the appointment of Ms McGuinness to the “important financial portfolio”.

“I’ve no doubt whatsoever that she will serve with distinction and will play a key role in the work of the commission,” said Mr Martin.

Ireland is viewed in Brussels to have fared well in the reshuffle, following speculation that Dr von der Leyen could opt to allocate the new commissioner a less high-profile portfolio as a reprimand to Dublin for putting unwelcome political pressure on her to sack Mr Hogan.

Financial services is a significant brief that involves working on the creation of a single market for capital in the EU, and leading reforms of the financial and banking industry aimed to strengthen stability and avoid repeats of past economic crises.

The brief has an overlap with the EU’s landmark plan to borrow €750 billion on international markets to finance economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. It will also be significant in the context of the challenges posed to the City of London by Brexit, and the relocation of some financial services to EU hubs including Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dublin.

Ireland’s reputation as a liberal outlier on banking and finance had made some Brussels sources doubt that Dublin would be granted the portfolio prior to the announcement.