European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen picked Mairead McGuinness as Irish commissioner with responsibility for financial services on Tuesday — bringing the college of commissioners a step closer to gender parity.
McGuinness is a political choice for von der Leyen, a household name in Ireland and an experienced four-term MEP from the European People’s Party but one with little policy experience directly related to the wide and complex portfolio she is taking over.
The Irish politician is better known for her expertise on agriculture rather than financial services. But she has extensive experience in the EU, and has worked with many commissioners past and present. The financial services portfolio “cuts across all policy areas,” she wrote in a statement after her nomination and “is fundamental to European citizens, businesses, SMEs, and how the EU recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Many officials in the European Parliament believe she will easily sail through the upcoming confirmation hearing.
Here are five things you should know about her.
1. She almost ran in Ireland’s 2011 presidential election
In April 2011, McGuinness announced that she would seek her Fine Gael party’s nomination to run in that year’s presidential election after Belfast-born Mary McAleese ended her two terms in office. McGuinness said at the time she wanted to”bring about a new vision for this country.” She lost in the final count against Gay Mitchell, a party colleague.
2. She is a farming TV star
McGuinness’ father was a poultry and dairy producer, and she graduated in agricultural economics. But instead of using her academic qualifications to work on a farm, she turned to journalism and became a TV sensation in rural Ireland.