Dáil Éireann - Volume 383 - 19 October, 1988

Ceisteanna — Questions Oral Answers - Commission Nominee.

14. Mr. McCartan asked the Taoiseach if a decision has yet been made as to who will be the Irish nominee to the new EC Commission; when the nominee will be named; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

15. Mr. Barry asked the Taoiseach when it is proposed to nominate the Irish Commissioner to the EC Commission for the next four years.

16. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach when he proposes to announce the Government's nominee as Ireland's Commissioner to the EC; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

17. Mr. Dukes asked the Taoiseach [22] when he intends to nominate the Irish member of the European Commission which will take up office in January 1989.

18. Miss Kennedy asked the Taoiseach if he has notified the President of the European Commission of his Government's nominee to serve on the incoming European Commission.

19. Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if, and when he intends to announce the name of the Government's nominee to the European Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Tánaiste: I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 to 19, inclusive, together.

In reply, I would repeat what I said in the House in reply to a similar question in March last, that an announcement on this matter will be made at the appropriate time and in accordance with the normal practice.

Mr. McCartan: Could the Tánaiste advise us as to what he and the Government consider to be an appropriate time? Would he, out of courtesy at least, advise us when this very important role is to be filled, a role which will be undertaken on behalf of all of us, not just in the interests of one party in the House.

The Tánaiste: We do not all live in goldfish bowls. We are in regular touch with the President of the Commission and everybody associated with the Commission and the institutions of the Community generally. At present the President of the Commission is engaged on a basic reshaping of the next Commission and this will involve a reorganising of the existing Commission structure and a reallocation of responsibilities. We will be fully aware of that situation soon. Naturally we will make our decisions on the proposals of President Delors having regard to his view as to what the responsibilities of the new Commissioner will be within the new Commission. We will be holding appropriate discussions with him on the matter.

[23] (Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Order, please. I am going to call Deputies in the order in which their names appear on the questions. I will be calling Deputy Quinn next, as Deputy Barry is absent.

Mr. McCartan: May I ask a very brief supplementary?

An Ceann Comhairle: A very brief supplementary.

Mr. McCartan: In view of the fact that the Commission is to be appointed and assembled on or before 1 January next and given what the Minister for Finance said on television last evening, may we take it that it will not be the present Minister for Finance who will be appointed?

The Tánaiste: The Deputy can take nothing for granted.

Mr. Quinn: I cannot help, on behalf of the rest of the House, but make the observation that the Minister's performance to date is a clear signal of his return to full health.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Mr. Quinn: Let me ask him in that vein of friendship if he would not agree that his reply to the first supplementary was very ominous because he seemed to give an indication that when the Commission has completed its recasting of the team the Government would decide on whether they are going to send a centre forward or a goal keeper and that this appears to indicate a total abrogation of the traditional responsibility in regard to sovereignty where the Government of the day would decide on who would go to the Commission and that person, in turn, would get the job allocated to them in the due process of time? Would the Tánaiste take this opportunity to allay such fears, that the Government are not [24] currently awaiting the outcome of President Delors recasting of the roles of the 17 Commissioners——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a very long question.

Mr. Quinn: ——before deciding which of these people, or perhaps others, is best suited for the job decided upon in Brussels?

The Tánaiste: Let us put this matter into perpective. The President of the Commission, Mr. Jacques Delors, is coming here next Friday week for very detailed discussions. He will be meeting the Taoiseach, members of the Government and myself and serious discussions will take place. There is going to be a major redeployment within the Commission. It is only right that he should take a very forward view on the shape of the new Commission and he wants us to be fully consulted about this and he is coming here with that objective in mind. He has been consulting and will be consulting with us in a greater degree and we will then come to an appropriate conclusion. That is the position.

Mr. Dukes: Would the Tánaiste not agree, as a matter of experience and observation, we could say that if an outgoing Commissioner with an extremely good reputation were to be nominated early that person — and the history of the Commission shows this — would advance even further in importance in the Commission? Would he not also agree — and recent history will also bear this out — that a person of considerable competence nominated six or seven months in advance, even as a new member of the Commission, would achieve a place of considerable importance? Finally, would he not agree that past experience shows that if you nominate a person after the game is largely over late in the day, as happened in the case of the unfortunate Deputy O'Kennedy who was nominated at the very end of 1980 and ended up with what has been described as a laundry bag of a protfolio, which he was so displeased [25] with that he left the place just over a year after he went there——

Mr. O'Kennedy: The Deputy would know all about that because of the request he made to Deputy O'Kennedy for a position in his cabinet.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Dukes: I will tell you a few stories about that, Gerry, that will be good.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is leading to argument.

Mr. Dukes: Would the Tánaiste not agree in the light of all of that that the Government's delay in making this nomination has now made life even more difficult for whoever is the privileged recipient——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a very long question, Deputy Dukes.

The Tánaiste: The important thing to remember — Deputy Dukes may be out of touch — is that the ball game is really only starting.

Mr. Quinn: Nonsense.

The Tánaiste: We have been in constant contact with the Commission and Deputy Dukes asked his question as if we were not in such contact. We are in constant contact with the Commission and we know exactly what is going on. The ball game has not even started yet. It is about to start and the President of the Commission of the European Community will be here in Dublin next Friday week to discuss all aspects of the future of the Community with the Government and those who will be there to meet him.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Geraldine Kennedy.

(Interruptions.)

[26] An Ceann Comhairle: Order, please. Deputy Geraldine Kennedy has been called and Deputy Dukes must desist from interrupting. The Chair has called Deputy Kennedy.

Miss Kennedy: Given that the Tánaiste has repeated about five times that the restructuring and reorganisation of the new Commission is currently taking place and that consultations have begun, could he inform the House as to whether the President of the Commission has been notified of Ireland's nominee, even though a public announcement has not been made, so that in the national interest we may lobby for a good portfolio for this country?

The Tánaiste: I am not talking about personalities but about policies which will benefit Ireland. We have been in close contact with the Commission, and with the President of the Commission in particular, on this aspect because he is a very important man as far as the next five years are concerned.

Mr. Dukes: I am glad the Tánaiste realises that.

The Tánaiste: We have maintained the utmost contact with him and, by the way, he has the utmost confidence in us.

Mr. Dukes: A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy Dukes, but Deputy Kennedy is in possession.

Miss Kennedy: Can the Tánaiste tell us if the President of the Commission has been notified who will be Ireland's nominee for the post of EC Commissioner from next January?

Mr. Quinn: Yes or no?

The Tánaiste: There is no question of a personal notification being given. That does not arise. What we are concerned about is the portfolio which will emerge [27] out of his consideration of a rearrangement of Commission responsibilities.

Mr. Dukes: The Minister has lost the game.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Order, please. Deputy Dick Spring.

Mr. Spring: Taking into account the style and manner of the replies to the questions and supplementaries, can the Tánaiste tell me if there is any information he would like to give to me that he will not give to the others in this House?

Mr. Desmond: He is not giving any, anyhow.

The Tánaiste: Touché.

Mr. McCartan: A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry but there are too many Deputies offering. I am calling the next question. Question No. 15 in the name of Deputy Peter Barry.

Mr. Birmingham: Very briefly——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, but I have called the next question.

Mr. Birmingham: May I ask one supplementary?

The Tánaiste: Question No. 15 has already been taken.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry. Question No. 20.

Mr. Boland: May I ask a supplementary in respect of Question No. 15?

An Ceann Comhairle: We have moved on to the next question. The Deputy will [28] find a way to express his views in respect of that matter. Question No. 20.

Mr. Boland: I tried.