The news broke on Thursday evening that Fine Gael TD and Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe had been elected president of the Eurogroup and has become the strongest hand on Europe’s purse strings. A triumph for the new government, for Ireland and for a man with a quiet but competent approach to politics.
Born in Phibsborough in 1974, Pascal Donohoe attended the Christian Brothers school in Cabra. Donohoe then attended Trinity College on a scholarship. Asthma preventing him from partaking in sports, Donohoe had taken to debating and served as secretary of the Phil’s 309th session. He graduated with a 1st class honours degree in politics and economics and then moved to the UK where he entered the business world on Proctor & Gamble’s graduate programme. Within 6 years Donohoe had become UK director of sales and subsequently moved home in 2003 where he joined alcohol giants Diageo. Donohoe is an avid reader and regularly reviews books for the Irish Times. He is married with 2 children and lives in his native Phibsborough.
Donohoe’s climbing of the ranks in the business world was matched in the field of politics. Donohoe was first elected to the Dáil for the Dublin Central constituency in 2011, following stints in the Seanad and on Dublin City Council. Currently in his 5th ministerial role, Donohoe has overseen portfolios in European Affairs and Trade, Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Public Expenditure before his current charge, Finance.
Despite snickering at his decoration of his office with Star Wars figurines and his “choirboy” appearance with accompanying lisp, Donohoe has steadily gained vast respect from colleagues and adversaries at home and abroad.
His budgets have been lauded for their practicality and have attracted relatively little controversy. Donohoe is seen as a steady hand on the tiller -exactly why he was nominated to retain his position in the new coalition government, with Taoiseach Martin assuring his guidance would create a “strong and dynamic economy”.
However, the pinnacle of Donohoe’s personal career would no doubt be his recent appointment as president of the Eurogroup. The collective body of the 19 Eurozone finance ministers, the president chairs meetings and must attempt to unify economic policies of often divergent interests. Donohoe oversaw strong competition in the 3-horse race from Spain’s Nadia Calviño, who enjoyed Mediterranean allies and Chancellor Merkel’s backing. Donohoe presented himself as a compromise candidate between the prudence of Northern nations and the munificence of Southern Europe. While Ireland was nominally counted among the former, our experience with the bailout lends credence to his middle approach.
Beyond personal prestige, Donohoe’s appointment will see him wield considerable influence on the economic strategy of Europe emerging from the Coronavirus epidemic. Terms as president last two and a half years. Donohoe has stated that his experience in overcoming the challenges of the Irish economy in the last few years makes him the man to spearhead “inclusive recovery”. Donohoe will also now have to square his new position as Europe’s foremost finance minister with his previous vociferous defence of Ireland’s corporation tax and avoidance of digital services tax on Apple.
The challenges to surmount in the wake of Ireland’s and Europe’s emergence from the pandemic will be considerable. But if anyone knows about such hurdles, it is surely Donohoe, the man who oversaw Ireland’s first budget surplus since the crash. It seems “Prudent Paschal’s” hour has come.