Golfgate exposes much bigger problems for Ireland in Europe

AuthorEoin Drea
Published date24 February 2022
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
This in turn has forced many in Ireland to change tack regarding Phil Hogan's forced resignation as EU commissioner for trade. The discomfort in Ireland with the sympathetic conclusions of Hogan's recent Libération newspaper interview in France highlights the disconnect between Ireland's festering indignation and the incredulity still expressed across the rest of the EU. It has also forced the domestic Irish debate to pivot away from the non-existent legal basis underpinning the campaign for his removal

Now the domestic narrative is all about "honourable public service", prevarications and "changing stories". It's the classic Irish fairy tale of holding the moral high ground whatever the cost.

But what is even more incredible is that the Irish response to the recent Golfgate decision has - just like in 2020 - taken no account of the broader Brussels context. It fails to even acknowledge how Ireland's actions in effectively demanding Hogan's resignation have self-torpedoed Ireland's position in Brussels.

This shows that Ireland has learned nothing from Golfgate.

And it's Dublin's influence in Brussels which is continuing to pay the price.

Sadly for Ireland, Hogan isn't even the real story of Golfgate anymore. Instead, this whole saga has brutally exposed how detached the State has become from the realities it faces as a small, peripheral EU member state. A State that can no longer hide behind Britain's coattails.

The image of the Irish Government seeming to be openly seeking the dismissal of its own European commissioner will live long in the memory of Brussels policymakers. It dents Ireland's credibility - not just because Hogan held one of the most powerful commission portfolios - but because Dublin's demands were based on no criminal or corrupt actions.

Legacy

It was a panicked COVID response mixed with the stench of settling old political scores. A response that allowed domestic politics to ride roughshod over Ireland's relationships with the EU itself.

Alas, Golfgate has also provided the legacy which will keep on eroding the image of Ireland as a serious player in Brussels. It only took a week for Fine Gael's notions of European self-importance to be deflated publicly. The trade portfolio was lost and Ireland was confined to the mid-ranking hinterland of a dozen small member states.

And even that had a political cost. Mairead McGuinness's deserved elevation to commissioner cost her a likely election as president of the European Parliament in 2022.

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