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Hogan affair displays Irish exceptionalism at its worst
Viewed from a European context, there is disbelief that Ireland would jettison its respected and successful trade commissioner. That is not to downplay his actions or minimise the impact of the pandemic on Ireland, but a simple reflection of how important Hogan was in the EU hierarchy.

In practical terms, he had just launched a review of EU trade policy which will play a large part in guiding Europe's (and Ireland's) economic fate for the next decade. He was an influential presence in the background of the ongoing Brexit talks and a totem pole for representing Irish interests in Brussels.

The response from non-Irish EU officials and lawmakers has been remarkably consistent (an unlikely occurrence in itself) in praising Hogan's contribution to achievements as diverse as the EU-Japan trade deal and the soya beans deal brokered with the United States.

MEPs across all parties feel his punishment was a totally disproportionate response to his behaviour while in Ireland.

There are three further points which have gone totally unreported in Ireland but which need to be highlighted from a Brussels perspective.

The first is that Phil Hogan played a major role in the rehabilitation of Ireland's reputation in Brussels following Dublin's increasingly dismissive attitude towards the EU during the 2000s, including ignoring its cautions on our budget policy. This was the decade which culminated with our national bankruptcy and subsequent financial bailout in 2010.

Together with Enda Kenny, Hogan played a key role in re-establishing a constructive Irish relationship with Brussels. This was a relationship that badly needed mending following the unremarkable terms as commissioners served by Charlie McCreevy and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. And this was rewarded in Brussels by portfolios of declining real importance and clout.

Second, and notwithstanding the pro-EU media hype surrounding the modern Fine Gael party, Ireland is increasingly seen as a problem child in Brussels. Although this is largely obscured by Ireland's central role in the ongoing Brexit talks, Dublin's inability to evolve a position beyond opposition to any further forms of digital/financial services taxation or corporate tax reform has forced Ireland on the outside of many important conversations.

Hogan was the only Irish policymaker who offered a clear antidote to this Irish parochialism. By clearly advocating a less protectionist view (against vested interests in many larger EU member states), he came to represent a more open vision for Europe's place in the world, and for Ireland's role in Europe.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 31st, 2020 at 10:08:14 AM EST

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