Cox to stand down from EU post

PRESIDENT of the European Parliament Pat Cox will make his farewell speech today after two and a half years as its president, but his future career path is still uncertain.

The Munster MEP was refusing to give any clues about his intentions last night but the general feeling was he will step down after 15 years in the Parliament.

Today will be the last day in the Parliament for seven of Ireland’s 15 MEPs: John Cushnahan, Joe McCartin and Mary Banotti, Fine Gael; Liam Hyland, Niall Andrews and Jim Fitzsimons, Fianna Fáil; and Nuala Ahern of the Greens will not run again. Neither will John Hume and Ian Paisley in Northern Ireland.

A large contingent of Mr Cox’s supporters are in Strasbourg for the event, as they were for his inauguration speech in February 2001.

His career preference would be to become Ireland’s next European Commissioner which would give him an opportunity to be President of the Commission.

However, Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has given no indication that he would consider Mr Cox for the post.

The former economics lecturer and RTÉ journalist gained a formidable reputation during his term as president of the Parliament, with a particularly high profile in the new member states.

The Munster constituency, now called South, is losing one of its seats to become a three seater. While FF MEP Brian Crowley is expected to repeat his past performance of getting a quota and a half, the second and third seats will be closely fought for and Mr Cox could not be certain of retaining his seat.

Sitting FF MEP and former Foreign Minister Gerard Collins will be battling it out with the FG newcomer, TD Simon Coveney, and with Mr Cox if he decided to run again.

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