Carthy brands Hogan's tenure as EU commissioner a “failure”

Former Sinn Féin MEP, now TD, believes Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly should be appointed commissioner in Hogan's place

A local TD believes the departure of Phil Hogan from his role as EU commissioner will not damage Irish interests, and has named who he believes should next hold that high powered position.

Sinn Féin Deputy Matt Carthy voiced his opinion that Mr Hogan's time as an EU commissioner was "a failure", and insists that he "never rated him".

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan resigned on Tuesday evening last from his role as EU Commissioner over the controversy to do with his travel in Ireland during the Covid-19 restrictions. Mr Hogan was among 81 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden earlier this month.

“I never held Phil Hogan in high regard. I never rated him. I opposed his original nomination and his reappointment as Commissioner at European level. I didn't rate him as being this fantastic voice for Ireland as so many are now. In fact I would have considered his tenure as a Agriculture Commissioner to be a failure.”

Deputy Matt Carthy elaborates his view: “He negotiated and supported a European Commission proposal that would have seen a devastating cut to the CAP budget. Even the bad deal [Taoiseach] Micháel Martin came back with this year is better than what Phil Hogan accepted."

Deputy Carthy added that Commissioner Hogan didn't take the opportunity to defend European and Irish farming interests in relation to the Mercosur deal.

“So I don't buy into this argument that Phil Hogan was this great fighter for Irish interests, as has been the recent narrative, but I see no evidence to support that case.”

The 60-year-old Fine Gael politician had served as European Commissioner for Trade between 2019 and 2020, and before that as Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development from 2014.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Mr Hogan said he took the decision to resign himself, which has been supported and received praise from members of the Irish Government, including Tainaiste Leo Varadkar.

Deputy Carthhy accepts that Mr Hogan has paid a “heavy price” for his alleged Covid restriction transgressions.

“Personally I take no joy or delight in seeing anyone forced to resign their position in such acrimonious circumstances. But I think it's important that context is applied, and not subscribe to this mythical idea that Phil Hogan was this fantastic advocate on behalf of Ireland.”

Deputy Carthy was elected to the Dáil at the start of this year, but was in Brussels as an MEP for this EU constituency (2014-2020) at a time that overlapped with much of Mr Hogan's tenure as Commissioner.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week called on the Irish government to present two names, one male and one female, as candidates to replace Mr Hogan as EU Commissioner.

In a television address on Thursday morning last, Ms von der Leyen said she respects Mr Hogan’s resignation, adding that she expected her commissioners to be “extra vigilant” in respecting Covid-19 regulations.

She said that it is for the Irish Government, under the laws governing appointments, to propose suitable candidates, and that she will only decide on the allocation of portfolios after deciding first on the Irish nominee.

Deputy Carthy feels it is important that Ireland retains a place at the Commissioners' table, and ensure the country's interests are maintained, regardless of the over-arching impartiality of the role.

Whoever is elevated to the role, the local Oireachtas representative hopes it “isn't just some political appointee”.

Deputy Carthy said: “I actually think who we send should be effective and be able to defend Irish interests and stand-up to vested interests as opposed to placate them.”

One suggestion for the post, highly regarded by Deputy Carthy, is award-winning author and former journalist and broadcaster, Emily O’Reilly.

Ms O'Reilly became Ireland's first female Ombudsman in 2003, succeeding Kevin Murphy. On 3 July 2013, she was voted European Ombudsman by the European Parliament.

The married mum-of-five, a native of Tullamore, was re-elected in 2014 and again in 2019. Her current term expires in 2024.

She previously served as Commissioner for Environmental Information.

“It's probably the kiss of death, but I've always thought and felt that Emily O'Reilly would be a brilliant Commissioner. So somebody of that ilk, somebody who is a proven fighter and has taken on significant challenges in the past and left her mark.

“One of the main reasons I was disappointed in Phil Hogan's appointment was that it was, above all else, a political manoeuvre. It fitted into that old school way of rewarding someone for party loyalty instead of sending the person best capable of defending Irish interests at European level.”

Whoever is appointed to the post in place of Mr Hogan, Deputy Carthy feels the “greatest challenge” still to face are concerns around Brexit and how it will impact Ireland.

“Commissioners aren't suppose to work on behalf of any one country, but what I do think is we need to nominate a person who will serve as commissioner whilst defending the values of the Irish people.”