Following Phil Hogan’s recent resignation, the Government are set to put forward European Parliament vice-president and veteran MEP Mairead McGuinness and Enda Kenny’s former chief economic adviser Andrew McDowell – an ex-vice president of the European Investment Bank – to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
A Fine Gael MEP for the Midlands-North-West constituency and first vice-president of the European Parliament, Ms McGuinness is now in her fourth term in Brussels and Strasbourg. She was first elected in 2004 for the now-abolished Ireland East constituency.
The former RTÉ presenter is one of the most highly regarded and respected Irish representatives in Brussels and serves on a number of committees including agriculture and rural development; environment; and constitutional affairs, which has responsibility for the Brexit process. The Louth-native has been a prominent Irish voice in the UK and international media during the Brexit saga.
Ms McGuinness went viral at the end of January when she told a flag-waving Nigel Farage and his fellow Brexit Party MEPs to “sit down, resume your seats, put your flags away, you’re leaving”.
As a former journalist, her CV includes stints as a researcher on The Late Late Show and a presenter on RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground. She also worked with the Irish Farmers’ Journal and as editor of the Irish Independent’s farming supplement.
She famously clashed with veteran Fine Gael MEP and party colleague Avril Doyle when she first ran for the European Parliament 16 years ago. While both were elected, Ms McGuinness topped the poll, winning one in every four votes cast in the 2004 European elections.
She was less successful in a Dáil bid in the Louth constituency in 2007 and also had an ill-fated tilt at the presidency in 2011 when she lost out on the Fine Gael nomination to Gay Mitchell. She failed in a bid to become European Parliament president in 2016 but was elected first vice-president a month later.
The outgoing European Investment Bank (EIB) vice-president, whose term expired yesterday, was chief economic adviser to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny between 2011 and 2016.
Mr McDowell was at the centre of the Fine Gael-Labour Party government’s response to the banking and financial crisis.
The coalition imposed several austerity budgets under the EU-IMF Troika programme. This partly paved the way for a return to economic growth that made Ireland one of the EU’s fastest-growing economies.
Described as “the Taoiseach’s brains” and a “walking policy machine” when he worked in Government Buildings, Mr McDowell was also a key figure in the negotiations to form the Fine Gael-led minority government with independents in the spring and summer of 2016.
The new administration then nominated him for the position of vice-president at the European Investment Bank in July 2016, a prestigious post that came with a gross salary of over €277,000 per annum. The EIB is the lending arm of the EU that loans billions to member states every year.
Mr McDowell’s four-year term at the Luxembourg-based bank saw him take responsibility for economics, evaluation, treasury, and financing of energy and agriculture.
In his time with the EIB he also oversaw the establishment of its first offices in Dublin.
He holds an MBA from the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business in UCD and has a post-graduate diploma in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.