Sunday

17th Feb 2019

New Irish commissioner locked in legal spat with MEP

  • Phil Hogan (in the middle) has threatened an Irish MEP with legal action (Photo: Fine Gael)

Phil Hogan, due to be in charge of agriculture in the next EU commission, is locked in a legal spat with Irish MEP Nessa Childers.

Hogan, who is also Irish, has threatened Childers with legal action over a letter she sent to her colleagues in the European Parliament laying out why she did not believe he should be a commissioner.

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Childers’ letter refers to allegations that when he was a member of the Irish parliament and environment minister he asked a local county council not to provide social housing to a “Traveller family” following a request by some of his constituents.

The allegations surfaced in Irish media in 2012.

The Socialist MEP suggests this makes him ineligible for the commissioner post.

Hogan responded by sending three legal letters – on the 8, 22 and 24 September - to Childers accusing her of disseminating “false, defamatory information”.

The last letter asks her to “formally withdraw your allegations within five days” or Hogan may have “no option but to initiate legal proceedings”.

In a further twist both sides are arguing over whether Childers has parliamentary privilege in this instance – something which applies when an MEP is carrying out their parliamentary duties.

She says yes while Hogan’s lawyers argue the opposite.

Following Hogan's third letter, Childers sent a letter of her own to MEPs in the legal affairs committee drawing their attention to the whole dispute.

She said that if MEPs were put off by Hogan's legal path "this would seriously prejudge the scrutiny which is incumbent upon the members of Parliament's Committee in charge".

She asks her legal-committee colleagues to reassure MEPs that they "can discharge their duties of scrutiny without hindrance or fear of legal retaliation".

Hogan is due to be grilled by MEPs in the agriculture committee next Thursday (2 October) to assess his suitability for the farm portfolio - a key dossier that is set to feature heavily in the ongoing EU-US free trade talks.

Childers, for her part, is not a member of the agriculture committee.

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