Surely, not since Marshall Nugent* liberated Rome from Napoleon has an Irishman won such an impressive victory on the continent:
“The 19 finance ministers of the euro zone have elected Paschal Donohoe to be the president of their influential Eurogroup, giving Ireland a significant platform as the European Union debates how to handle the economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The successful bid means that Mr Donohoe will have the role of chairing and setting the agenda for discussions among the euro zone finance ministers, as well as setting the long-term agenda for the influential group.
Congratulating him on the win, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said his election was “a great win for Ireland”.
There are two ways of looking at this: From one point of view, it is a tremendous honour, at a very important time. With the Coronavirus recession set to dominate European politics for the next 18 months or so, the Chairmanship of the Eurozone will be much more important than it was, say, two years ago.
The management of the eurozone is of critical importance to Ireland, given our small size within the group, and the tension between Ireland’s economic strategy and those who wish to see much more eurozone integration on matters like tax, and whatnot. Having Paschal Donoghue set the agenda at eurozone meetings should grant Ireland some ability to stymie and slow-walk more threatening proposals, like the notion of common eurozone debt.
On the other hand: It’s not an executive position. It simply means that Donoghue will be chairing meetings, bringing them to order, and presiding over votes. He has no more of a vote at these meetings now than he did yesterday – just a bit more administrative work.
The real value of the position is probably the ability it gives the Minister for Finance to build close one-on-one relationships with his colleagues across Europe. If he’s skillful enough to become popular and well liked, then that could pay off handsomely if and when a proposal that particularly concerns Ireland comes forward.
And of course, should he ever want to bail out of Irish politics for a nice gig in Brussels, the experience won’t hurt him one little bit.
*Field Marshall Laval Nugent Von Westmeath, 1777-1862, was a soldier of Irish birth who served in the Army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He liberated Rome from the French in 1815 during the Neapolitan War.