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Paddy Clancy column: Simon Coveney was right to turn down EU job – we need him for Brexit

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Simon Coveney’s refusal to be considered as Phil Hogan’s replacement in the EU may not be a bad thing.
It looks like he’ll be badly needed at home to deal with the Brexit skulduggery Boris Johnson’s government seems to be planning.
It’s not that Mairead McGuinness or Andrew McDowell are better for the EU than our Foreign Affairs Minister!
His services will be needed for a much greater task now that, according to reliable reports, Britain may undermine the legal international agreement to prevent a hard border in Ireland.
Once Ireland was aware the new Euro Commissioner wouldn’t get big Phil’s trade portfolio, it was more important for Coveney to retain, even strengthen, his position as Foreign Affairs Minister.
The new Irish commissioner in the EU will never have the Hogan clout, especially with a Mickey Mouse portfolio to replace the powerful trade slot our former Commissioner held.
Golfgate’s disgrace finished Hogan’s political career and now he’s gone from the EU team negotiating with Britain on Brexit.   
So, the upcoming Brexit war – for a dirty war of words it will be in the next few months – needs a firm hand on the Irish tiller.
That’s more likely to be with Coveney heading Ireland’s diplomatic battle in Foreign Affairs than with McGuinness or McDowell, whichever gets the new role in the Euro Commission.
So in a way it was comforting to read on Sunday that Coveney is ready for the war ahead.
He pulled no punches when he pinpointed the British political attitude.
It’s “pride, emotionalism and nationalism” is already threatening to bring about a no trade deal.
That will cost Ireland billions and to his credit Coveney, when he worked along with Leo Varadkar in the previous Fine Gael-led government, played a major part in defending Ireland’s border interests in the initial Brexit talks.
Coveney’s diplomacy will be vital to Ireland’s interests in the renewed brinkmanship between the EU and Boris Johnson’s government.
With Covid continuing to be a massive problem all around Europe, many EU countries which don’t have Ireland’s close trade links with Britain are – as Coveney acknowledged – prepared to move on irrespective of whatever happens in Brexit. Most of the EU has had enough of Brexit.
Frankly, most of Ireland has had enough of it, too! As Morning Ireland presenter Audrey Carville so brilliantly commented: “It’s time to pull up the duvet.”
Unfortunately, having our bellyful of Brexit doesn’t mean we can also hide under the bed-covers from it.
If, through the EU, we cannot force Britain in to a deal they say they don’t want then we have to persuade them to seek compromise.
Simon Coveney is best accomplished for that.
That’s why it’s best not to have him in a dead-end EU job, but at the head of our foreign affairs business where his diplomatic skills are now needed most.

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