Following the successful negotiation of a new constitution for the European Union, the Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, could be set to quit the Dublin government for the lucrative position of President of the European Commission.
After a dismal mid-term election result, which saw his governing Fianna Fail party lose over a fifth of its support, Mr Ahern is being encouraged by party colleagues as well as European leaders to take up the highest paid and most powerful position in the European Union.
A spokesperson for the Taoiseach today acknowledged that Mr Ahern is coming under sustained pressure to allow his name go forward for consideration.
Efforts to choose a successor to Italian Romano Prodi during last week’s summit of EU leaders failed after various objections to the two main candidates were raised.
Mr Ahern’s leadership of the Irish Presidency of the EU in reaching a weekend consensus on a new constitution is reported to have won him new friends among some of the EU biggest member states.
Ahern has repeatedly said he was not interested in the job, although last week he said he would take it if no other candidate emerged because of the honour it would bring to Ireland.
Ahern was given a standing ovation by the assembled leaders of Europe after successfully concluding the deal.
However, the constitution appears doomed to be voted down in referenda across the European Union.
After a lurch to the right in elections last week, a promised British referendum on the constitution appears unlikely to support the new document, which has been criticised as paving the way for an EU ‘superstate’. British Prime Minister is facing a revolt by members of his own party on the deal, as well as the growing opposition of the British Conservative Party and a spurt in support for the ultra-right-wing UK Independence Party.
In Ireland, Sinn Féin and Ian Paisley’s DUP have also denounced the document as a derogation of sovereignty and a rising military superpower.
“There were many issues in the original document which were totally unacceptable and on that basis Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the proposed constitution in any referendum”, said Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Eoin O Broin.
He said that the party, which won two seats in this month’s European parliamentary elections, had a number of key concerns, including “the granting of an official personality to the EU for the first time”.
“We also oppose the appointment of a president and an EU foreign minister and the prospect of a single EU foreign policy,” he said.
“We oppose the increasing militarisation of Europe and the implications of that on Irish neutrality.
“We are also concerned about the widening democratic deficit between the ordinary people of Europe and the institutions of the EU, particularly the commission,” he said.
Jim Allister of the DUP, recently elected to the Strasbourg parliament for the first time, said the draft constitution was “bad for the UK and bad for Europe”.
“The prime minister has agreed to the emergence of a Euro superstate, with its own president, its own foreign minister, its own army and unaccountable centralised power drawn from national parliaments which have been denuded of key powers,” he said.
“It is a charter which surrenders British sovereignty to Europe.”