Coveney's nomination to commission moves closer as Hogan gets €440k payoff

Coveney's nomination to commission moves closer as Hogan gets €440k payoff
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told the 'Irish Examiner' that he had been preparing to send his children to school and was not focused on any potential job in Brussels. File picture: Stephen Collins /Collins Photos Dublin

Former European trade commissioner Phil Hogan will be entitled to be paid €441,000 before tax over the next two years by the European Commission, as Simon Coveney's nomination to replace him moves closer.

Mr Coveney's nomination for the role vacated after Mr Hogan's resignation could be done as early as this weekend after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar ruled himself out, saying that he wanted to lead Fine Gael into the next election.

A Government source said that the aim was to "get it done fast and get it done right" when it comes to replacing Mr Hogan, who resigned six days after his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society event last week. The Government is keen to show the EU that it is acting fast and sending a European heavyweight, such is their determination to keep the trade portfolio.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has given a clear signal Ireland will lose the trade portfolio when it nominates its new EU commissioner.

In a televised address delivered in Brussels without any media questions, Ms von der Leyen said she will decide on the final allocation of portfolios in the College of Commissioners at a later stage.

Senior Government sources have accepted it will be an uphill battle to keep the trade portfolio but the sending of a heavyweight figure from the current Government is seen as required if the influential post is to be retained.

Ms von der Leyen has requested that a male and female candidate be nominated for the role.

When asked about his intentions, a spokesman for Mr Coveney told the Irish Examiner that he had been preparing to send his children to school and was not focused on any potential job in Brussels.

They said: “The minister has been busy today attending the informal Foreign Affairs Council in Berlin, remotely from Cork. His entire focus has been on that today and, like thousands of families, getting the children back into school.” 

Speaking in Limerick, Mr Varadkar said his intention is to continue leading the Fine Gael party. He said: “My intention is to continue to lead my party, to work hard in my job as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, and to become Taoiseach again in 2022.” 

Details of Mr Hogan's severance package emerged after he severed ties with the European Union’s executive branch earlier this week.

Mr Hogan’s Brussels salary, which he had been drawing since 2014 when first nominated for the trade commissioner portfolio, stood at €271,000 basic at his time of leaving office.

Under European Union rules all members of the European Commission are entitled to a “transitional allowance” for the two years after they leave office in order to alleviate the restrictions placed upon them by the Commission’s ethical regulations.

Meanwhile, former junior finance minister Brian Hayes said social media speculation that guests of his at the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Galway last week were directors of a vulture fund is "all made up".

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