ANN CAHILL: Why should national interest play second fiddle to party politics?

THIS time next week our fate as part of the EU will be decided.

There will either be a sigh of relief from those that matter in the Union, or a low angry groan with the Irish relegated to the eurosceptics corner.

Even if it’s a Yes, this chapter is still not closed, as the Czech eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, is threatening to delay signing despite his parliament ratifying.

But whether Nice or Lisbon rules apply, the new Commission will have to be in place before the new year. If Nice applies then the number of commissions will be reduced.

Putting together this vital part of the EU is already afoot with Jose Manuel Barroso selected to head up the commission for another five years, and countries for some time have been jockeying for the best portfolios for their commissioner.

The Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty partly over the prospect of losing its commissioner even once every 15 years. The other member states agreed to change this so every country would keep its commissioner and this has been one of the main planks of the Government’s Yes drive.

But while other countries are considering what portfolio they want and are looking around for a suitable person to fill it, there is no indication that the Government has turned its attention to this vital job or has asked any team of experts to turn up the best candidates. Instead it seems to be business as usual with everyone accepting that this job is a gift for the party in power.

So far the Government’s main consideration appears to be to avoid creating a Dáil vacancy by nominating a sitting TD. Presumably this means some of the names floating around can be discounted, like Europe Minister Dick Roche which would leave a seat vacant in Wicklow.

On the other hand if the opinion polls had not shown an increase in the Taoiseach’s popularity he might have considered jumping ship as Barroso did just before his government fell in Portugal.

Suggestions of people that would not involve by-elections include Pat the Cope Gallagher, recently elected MEP who has already left a seat to be filled in Donegal.

Former parliament president Pat Cox’s name was floated early on but whether FF would see this as being in their interest is a prime question.

One of the few Irish people who could be assured of a decent portfolio is former taoiseach John Bruton who is just finishing a successful five-year stint as EU ambassador in Washington. However, it is frightening how everyone accepts that since he, like Mr Cox, is not a member of the government party, he does not have a chance.

With people questioning every aspect of the EU, is it not time citizens questioned why the national interest should play second fiddle to that of a political party. Especially when the commissioner’s job appeared to matter so much to so many Irish voters that they rejected the Lisbon Treaty because of it first time around.


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