Hogan confirmed by three to one vote

A defiant Phil Hogan, newly confirmed as the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner, repeated his threat to sue MEP Nessa Childers for defamation, demanding that she withdraw her accusation that he discriminated against a Traveller family in Kilkenny.

Hogan confirmed by three to one vote

Despite being voted by a three to one majority of members of the European Parliament to take the job as Agriculture Commissioner, Mr Hogan said he will pursue his legal action against the Dublin MEP.

Afterwards, Ms Childers, who denied she defamed him, said she has been assured that the Parliament will defend her immunity if he tries to act against her. She turned down his request to meet her last week. “As long as the legal threat remains I have been advised it would be very unwise to talk to him,” she said.

The Socialists, of which Ms Childers is a member, have stayed out of the dispute up to now except for a vaguely worded question during the hearing, but afterwards vice president of the group, Isabelle Thomas, issued a statement.

“There are suspicions that Phil Hogan’s behaviour was discriminatory in the past, and indeed he admitted making sexist remarks to a female political colleague to whom he was later obliged to apologise,” the French MEP said. “However, apologies do not excuse misconduct. Non-discrimination is one of the key values of the EU.”

Quizzed by Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy and Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Mr Hogan dismissed claims that he was involved in clientelism, but admitted sending the CVs of people he knew to Irish Water. He said he tried to help his constituents, as any public representative would, to get work. “But I must be losing my influence over the company I founded,” quipped the former environment minister, saying none of those he referred got a job.

Mr Flanagan accused him of supporting big farmers and pointed to the fact that 80% of EU grants in Ireland go to a small proportion of the farmers, while Mr Carthy accused Mr Hogan of avoiding answering tough questions.

Mr Hogan accused Sinn Féin of being against him and against the EU and produced a letter from the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, a Sinn Féin member, saying she looked forward to working with him.

He touched on many issues of concern to Irish farmers, insisting that dairy quotas would not be reimposed, holding out some hope for a revision of the sugar industry, and saying he would “lead from the front” in protecting the most sensitive sectors in the EU-US TTIP trade agreement.

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