Ireland's 'Prudent Paschal' takes Eurogroup chair

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe brings a reputation for fiscal caution to his new role as president of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, having won plaudits for delivering Ireland’s first budget surplus in a decade in 2018.

FILE PHOTO: Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presents Budget 2020 at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan

A politics and economics graduate, Donohoe spent 10 years working for consumer products maker Procter & Gamble in both Britain and Ireland before his election to the Irish parliament in 2011.

The former European and tourism minister was handed one of Ireland’s two budgetary roles - public spending minister - in 2016 and added his current role as finance minister a year later. He was reappointed finance chief last month.

Dubbed “Prudent Paschal” by some local media, the Dubliner eschewed demands for bigger tax cuts and spending increases to deliver Ireland’s first budget surplus in a decade. Last year, he put some funds aside for a potential no deal Brexit that have filled a small part of the fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Donohoe will now have to steer the euro zone’s coronavirus-battered economies out of their worst recession and map a path towards subsequent economic recovery.

Donohoe has been fiercely opposed to the idea of an EU tax on digital firms. He has argued instead that new global corporate tax rules, which could hurt low tax Ireland’s attractiveness as a hub for foreign direct investment, should be written by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

He told Reuters in May that the prospect of a EU tax “would re-emerge and re-emerge quickly” if the OECD failed and has warned previously that members states going it alone would only exacerbate global trade tensions and damage investment.

The appointment comes less than a decade after Ireland had to seek an EU-IMF bailout.

A vociferous reader, the 45-year-old Tottenham Hotspur fan writes book reviews in his spare time for The Irish Times newspaper, mainly on economic literature.

A photograph posted on his Twitter account during an April conference call with his EU counterparts also showed a large collection of Star Wars bobblehead toys Donohoe displays in his department office.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop, William Maclean