Geoghegan-Quinn: favourite

IRELAND'S next EU Commissioner is likely to be announced this week, with former Fianna Fáil minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn tipped to be appointed.

It is understood that the only other name now in contention is the former president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox. John Bruton, whose name has been linked with the separate job of president of the European Council, is not in the running for the commissionership.

Although Cox cannot be discounted, all the speculation in political circles is that Geoghegan-Quinn will be nominated by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

While it is not certain that there will be an announcement in the coming days, it is thought likely that Cowen will reveal his choice before Thursday, when there is likely to be a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to deal with the appointment for the newly created positions of President of the European Council and the High Representative.

The Taoiseach flies out to Germany in the morning to attend the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall but will back for Tuesday's cabinet meeting when the issue could be discussed.

Geoghegan-Quinn's appointment is likely to prove somewhat controversial. Although she was a respected senior minister in the 1980s and early 1990s, and has been a member of the European Court of Auditors since 1999, her absence from frontline politics since 1997 means her profile is considerably lower than that of Cox.

If nominated, she will be only the second Irish commissioner not to have been appointed from within the cabinet. The government's tenuous Dáil majority has ruled out a current minister getting the job. But the appointment of Geoghegan-Quinn, rather than Cox – who is well known in Brussels and played a key role in the Lisbon referendum campaign – will inevitably lead to accusations of tribalism being levelled by the opposition against the taoiseach.

However, government sources say commission president José Manuel Barroso's stated desire to see more women in the commission should give the taoiseach more leverage in securing an important portfolio if Geoghegan-Quinn is selected.