Credit: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 Source: EP

The Deadwood Oligarchy

The rule of thumb in politics in the European continent is that domestic failure politically bodes well for promotion to the upper echelons of power in Brussels. After the last election for example, the government very seriously considered spiriting (since left) Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to Europe to remove him as a political liability at home. The deadwood of European politics is shifted to Brussels and it shows. An oligarchy of failed politicians and budding bureaucrats has formed which is hostile to the very democracies that spurned them, and has grown used to the level of unchecked power they enjoy – with negligible scrutiny. Europe is the Holy Land for busted domestic politicians. What’s not to love? Prestigious titles, no accountability, minimal scrutiny, access to the halls of power, whilst the vast majority of people have never heard of you despite the fact they have more effect on their everyday lives than their local TD or Councillor.

Who sits atop the oligarchy? Ursula Von Der Leyen. A failed German Defence Minister nominated to be European Commissioner and be the ‘woman to lead the continent’ as it were. Her nomination was not based on merit. I am not saying for a moment it was because she was a woman. Rather, I contend she perfectly fitted the profile of a candidate for European power; in other words, she was a domestic failure worthy of elevation to Brussels. As was reported at the time by the Guardian, she was such a divisive figure at home that ‘Germany abstained from the vote to nominate her.’ Nigh on every German political party – including the original choice for the Commission Manfred Weber of the Christian Democratic Union – cried out at her nomination. The leading German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, queried how Von Der Leyen who had so disastrously bungled her management of the German Army, was suddenly going to be able to preside over the entirety of Europe?

Her tenure as Defence Minister is perhaps best put by Kevin Myers:

“Her political career rapidly took off and she was soon appointed as the German Minister for Defence, in which role she turned the Bundeswehr into an exquisite embodiment of political correctness. That it was quite unable to defend Germany is of course irrelevant.”


“But never fear! In other areas, the Wunderbear’s Bundeswehr has been a stunning success. The driver-seats in the few German army tanks that actually work have been redesigned to accommodate pregnant she-soldiers, who clearly make fearless warriors with babies in their womb.”

Why are we then surprised over the Commission’s wrongful imposition of a hard border upon the North when this is who heads up Europe? If this is who is in charge of Europe, then how can we so assuredly say Britain is to blame for the icy relations between London and Brussels?

Her predecessor Jean Claude Juncker had been the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, but was forced from office following a Parliamentary Inquiry finding he had not properly controlled the State’s Intelligence Services, including illegal wiretapping and covert operations in, inter alia, Iraq and Cuba. His negligence in presiding over his state’s security led to the collapse of the coalition. Soon after becoming the Head of the European Commission, it was shown Juncker had presided over Luxembourg becoming Europe’s premier hub for tax avoidance and ironically had torpedoed European efforts to tackle tax avoidance internationally! Having failed to control his own security forces and having torpedoed European efforts to tackle tax avoidance, it shows the complete absence of scrutiny of European politicians that this man could become the de facto Leader of Europe with little criticism or opposition.

Former Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan who was forced to resign last summer in the fall-out from the Golf gate debacle, hardly was famed for his ministerial accomplishments prior to his departure for Brussels. However, he may just hold the exclusive spot in history as being the only man forced to resign from the Commission following a push for accountability. Albeit, it must be said this was for his actions when he was firmly back on Irish soil. As Minister for the Environment, he had been the first to preside over the Irish Water debacle. After years of austerity, Phil Hogan sought to introduce water charges which were such a blunder it was still coming up as an electoral issue in the 2016 election. Furthermore, the contract for the installation of water meters was won by none other than Denis O’Brien.

After denying that he had been aware that over €50 million had been spent on private consultants by Irish Water, it was then revealed he had signed and approved the allocation of funding for consultation. It would later emerge that over €86 million would be spent on Irish Water on consultants, independent contractors and professional ‘advice.’ Against this backdrop and with his suitability for European Power beyond doubt, Hogan was spirited away to Brussels to take up a high powered Commissioner post. A trend is not emerging but is boldly standing out as we look at those sent to Europe.

The proof is in the pudding. Failure on the domestic front, is often a good indicator for success on the continent.

Peter Mandelson was forced to resign twice from cabinet following improper conduct – the first time failing to disclose an interest free loan he had received from a cabinet colleague whom he was meant to be investigating. He was also shown such confidence by Tony Blair, he was made Minister Without Portfolio – in other words, Minister who cannot be trusted with responsibility. With this sterling political pedigree behind him, Mandelson was shipped off to Europe to spare the Labour government having to give him another cabinet position.

Ray MacSharry who had been forced to resign following his involvement in the phone-bugging scandal of the Haughey Administration in 1983, was another nominee to Europe. After having been found to have used Garda tape recorders to record secret conversations with a cabinet colleague, MacSharry made a political comeback and in return for his fealty to Haughey, was rewarded with a plush number as Ireland’s EU Commissioner.

The list goes on.

Former European Commissioner Jacques Barrot nominated by Jacques Chirac was exposed as having been convicted for embezzlement of over £2 million in government funding into the pockets of his own political party.

Former President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso was found to have failed to declare a holiday worth over £10,000, he and his family had enjoyed on the yacht of Greek Billionaire Spiro Latsis – who would go on to receive €10 million in state aid from Greece following Commission approval.

These are scandals unheard of by the overwhelming majority of voters. The culture of silence as to the corruption and actions of the Commission, or to scrutinise the most powerful authority in Europe like a national government would be is scandalous. The European Commission is powerful and has no check or balance on its authority. There is a democratic deficit within European politics whereby democratic decision-making by the people is far away from actually influencing or inputting into who runs the show in Europe. The Commissioners nominated are not done on the basis of merit but damage control.

The Commission is an oligarchy composed of the deadwood of Europe. Why then are we surprised that the Commission is unaccountable, secretive but extremely powerful? The Leaders of the Commission are made up of failed domestic politicians burnt by accountability, scrutiny and above all democracy. . I dare say offices are being reserved for Simon Harris and Stephen Donnelly as we speak. Till such a time as we admit the faults and flaws of Europe, these problems will go unaddressed and the peoples of Europe subsidy of this oligarchy shall continue.

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