EU trade commissioner nominations for Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell

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image copyrightPA Media

image captionMairead McGuinness has a wealth of experience working in the European Parliament

The Irish government has nominated Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell to become its next EU trade commissioner.

Phil Hogan

resigned from the job last month after he faced accusations of breaching Covid-19 guidelines.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had asked the government to nominate one male and one female candidate.

Both candidates are “of the highest calibre”, said the government.

Mairead McGuinness is currently vice-president of the European Parliament and represents the north west constituency of the Republic of Ireland in the European Parliament.

She has been a vice-president of the parliament since July 2014.

Ms McGuinness is the higher profile of the two candidates.

Mr McDowell is former chief economic adviser to the government from 2011 to 2016, working closely with then-Taoiseach (Irish PM) Enda Kenny.

Since then he has been vice-president of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg.

The Irish government said a meeting of cabinet members would take place to sign off on the nominations.

image copyrightReuters
image captionEuropean Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will lead the appointment process

In a statement, it said both candidates possessed “the necessary competence, independence and European commitment to serve” in the role of commissioner.

President von der Leyen will now consult the European Parliament before the appointment of a new commissioner is made by the European Council, the government added.

“The question of the allocation of roles within the commission is also one for President von der Leyen.

“However, the government firmly believes that both candidates have demonstrated that they have experience, skills and capacity to serve and to make a contribution in the most demanding roles.”

President von der Leyen said she would interview Ms McGuinness and Mr McDowell early next week.

Why did Phil Hogan resign?

Mr Hogan stepped down from the EU trade commissioner post on 26 August, after facing criticism for attending a golf dinner with more than 80 people in County Galway on 19 August.

He was also accused of not complying with quarantine rules when he arrived in Ireland from Brussels.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPhil Hogan attended the Irish parliamentary golf society event at a County Galway hotel

Mr Hogan said he did not break any law but he “should have been more rigorous” in adherence to the Covid guidelines.

Mr Hogan – who would have been leading the EU’s post-Brexit free trade negotiations with the UK – had been facing calls to quit in the wake of #GolfGate, as it has become known in Ireland.

The now infamous golf dinner was attended by a host of high-profile figures from Irish political life.

The controversy surrounding it has already cost the jobs of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and Jerry Buttimer, deputy chairman of the Irish senate.

Gardaí (Irish police) have said they are investigating what happened at the dinner.

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