The Irish government should haul European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and the commission “over the coals over the Article 16 blunder”, according to independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Thomas Pringle.

Last week the commission announced its intention to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, after a row erupted over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines by AstraZeneca.

The protocol allows the free movement of goods between the EU and Northern Ireland despite the UK no longer being in the customs union.

Irish politicians, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, described the knee-jerk action as a “mistake” by the commission and the decision was revoked last Friday night (January 29).


“This blunder is part of a pattern of European political mismanagement which must be challenged by Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Stephen Donnelly,” TDs Fitzmaurice and Pringle have said in a joint statement.

“Ireland’s own commissioner must also be far more assertive in protecting the interests of the people who elected her. Ms. [Mairead] McGuinness should also come clean over what she knew about the Article 16 debacle and explain, if she did not know anything, why this was the case?

Trust has been profoundly damaged in Europe’s bona fides by this event and by the stuttering progress of the vaccine rollout. We need answers and accountability, rather than promises of future better behaviour.

Questions to answer

The two independent TDs have said that the previous Irish commissioner, Phil Hogan, “as a Trade Commissioner he would not have been bypassed so easily on this matter”.

The TDs have said that Ursula Von Der Leyen must now “satisfactorily” answer 10 questions if she is to keep her position.

The following are the questions the TDs want answered:

1: Why is Europe’s vaccine rollout plan stuttering, whilst the likes of Israel and Britain are forging ahead?
2: When will we get a full explanation of why AstraZeneca said it would only be delivering 31 million doses of its vaccine by the end of March, instead of the 80 million that Europe had been expecting?
3: Why was the commission caught completely off guard by this?
4: Has Europe been too concerned about price at the expense of securing production deadlines?
5: Do the vaccine producers believe they only need to make ‘reasonable best efforts’ to deliver the agreed number of doses within the negotiated timeframe?
6: How will Europe meet its objectives to vaccinate 70% of adults by the summer?
7: What efforts is Ms. Von Der Leyen making to get assurances from AstraZeneca that it will deliver on the originally agreed upon vaccine delivery order?
8: How did the Article 16 diplomatic debacle in Anglo Irish / EU affairs occur and who decided to blindside the Irish government?
9: Who came up with the Article 16 plan; who authorised its implementation, and why did it take so long to countermand the plan?
10: What was the state of knowledge across the EU top table and when will Ms. Von Der Leyen come up with a full and coherent explanation?

Credibility crisis

“The commissioner and Europe [are] facing a crisis of credibility over how one of the most allegedly affluent regions in the world is unable to protect its citizens from a deadly disease,” the two TDs added.

Increasingly, Ms. Von Der Leyen is being surrounded by accusations of mismanagement and evidence of an incapacity to deliver.

“The government must stand up for the Irish people and seek answers on these issues from Ms. Von Der Leyen and from our commissioner, Ms. McGuinness, too.”