Michael McGrath set to be Ireland’s next EU commissioner

Finance minister Michael McGrath is set to be Ireland’s next EU commissioner.

The nomination of Mr McGrath by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was discussed at meeting of the three Government coalition leaders on Monday evening.

The move is expected to be confirmed at a meeting of the full cabinet in Dublin on Tuesday.

Mr McGrath will succeed Fine Gael-nominated commissioner Mairead McGuinness.

The departure of the Cork South Central TD from Government will necessitate at least a mini-reshuffle of the Fianna Fail-held portfolios.

Fianna Fail event
Tanaiste Micheal Martin with Minister for Finance Michael McGrath (PA)

Earlier on Monday, it was confirmed that the Government is to support the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen for another term as European Commission president.

Mr Martin said that a “high-level” agreement had been reached between three political groupings in Europe in the wake of the EU elections in June.

As a result, Ms von der Leyen will emerge as the European Council’s single candidate for European Commission president.

Under the EU’s complicated division of powers, the presidents and prime ministers get to nominate the next head of the bloc’s powerful executive branch, the European Commission, which is responsible for drawing up EU policy on everything from climate to the colossal shared budget.

Under the EU’s treaties, their choice should take into account the results of the election.

Ms von der Leyen looks likely to stay on as president for another five years after a strong showing for her centre-right European People’s Party parliamentary group.

This is despite being deeply unpopular in some corners of the EU Parliament, where she will need the support of 361 of the 720 legislators to hold on to her job.

In the 2019 vote on whether to approve her as president, she won just nine votes more than the required threshold.

Ms von der Leyen has also been criticised in Ireland for her handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict following the October 7 attack, which has led to calls for Irish government MEPs not to support her bid for a second term.

Cop28 summit
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (PA)

Asked whether he would be urging his party’s four MEPs to vote for Ms von der Leyen, Mr Martin said further discussions would need to take place before the vote in July.

“We’ll take it step by step. I think in the first instance, Government will be supporting the candidature of Ursula von der Leyen,” he said.

“Ursula von der Leyen will emerge as the single candidate from the EU Council for president of the Commission.”

He said it would be some time after that before a vote is held in the European Parliament and that “there will be ongoing engagement and discussions with a number of parties in that respect”.

After his re-election to Ireland South, Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher said he would not support Ms von der Leyen.

He added: “I’ve been very clear throughout this election, I’ve stated it in advance of the election, I’ve stated it during the election, I’m stating it after the election, that I will not be supporting the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen.”