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Saturday 3 December 2016

I'll walk away if MEPs don't want me -- Cardiff

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Published 09/11/2011 | 05:00

Department of Finance chief Kevin Cardiff has promised to withdraw his name for a plum EU job if MEPs give him the thumbs down.

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In his pitch for the European Court of Auditors post, Mr Cardiff also said "transparency and accountability of managers is key" and heralded his role during the economic crisis.

The Government last night denied there was "a whiff of scandal" off his nomination and Taoiseach Enda Kenny again voiced his support, saying Mr Cardiff is "technically very well-qualified" for the job.

But opposition is mounting to the candidacy, with a growing number of Irish MEPs critical of the Government's move, while there are also rumblings within the Labour Party.

The Government is refusing to say who exactly brought Mr Cardiff's name to Cabinet seeking approval of his nomination.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin became increasingly agitated last night when quizzed about the controversy.

"Ah, for God's sake," he declared, a response reminiscent of Fine Gael presidential election candidate Gay Mitchell when he was asked questions he didn't approve of.

Mr Howlin denied there was "a whiff of scandal" off Mr Cardiff's nomination in the wake of the €3.6bn accounting error that saw the double counting of money borrowed by a state agency resulting in the national debt being overstated.

"I wouldn't use that phrase at all. I think that is uncalled for.

"There was a serious mistake made in the department. . . in relation to accounting. We will get to the bottom of that. There is no whiff of scandal," he said.

Defending the nomination, Mr Howlin said he was a "decent man with a family" and a "hard-working, competent civil servant".

Mr Howlin said that Labour fully supported Mr Cardiff's nomination, as did Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

"The leader of the Labour Party speaks with the authority of the Labour Party," he said.

Mr Cardiff will appear before a hearing of a European Parliament committee in a fortnight's time. None of Ireland's 12 MEPs are on the committee, but they can inform their colleagues on questions to pose.

Embarrassing

The European Parliament cannot block Mr Cardiff's nomination completely, but it can reject it, which would be highly embarrassing.

The parliament has given the thumbs down to nominees before. In that case, the Government would have to consider ramming the nomination through via an EU finance ministers' meeting.

In a written reply to a questionnaire, Mr Cardiff told the European Parliament committee that he would withdraw his name if MEPs recommend he not be appointed.

Irish Independent

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