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Saturday 23 September 2017

Key man at bank unit on night of decision

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Emmet Oliver

MONTH after month the key players linked to Ireland's spectacular banking collapse are leaving the corridors of power and the public stage.

Kevin Cardiff is just the latest senior official who was around in September 2008 to depart government circles.

He was head of the Department of Finance's banking unit on the night of September 29 when the controversial banking guarantee was agreed.

This was ultimately a political decision, and he has never said publicly whether he favoured it or not. Under the rules of the Irish civil service, he is prevented from giving his views on such policy matters.

He was appointed head of the banking section in December 2006 by then Finance Minister Brian Cowen. The first seeds of the global banking crisis were beginning to sprout back then as property prices in the US started to soften, but few suspected at that stage that the crisis would erupt so violently in Ireland.

Mr Cardiff was in charge of banking policy during 2007, the key year when Ireland's financial system was slowly heading towards the rocks.

It is self-evident from subsequent events that the system was ill-prepared when the full impact of the crisis started to be seen in 2008.

Mr Cardiff, who is said to have a forthright style, is not a career banker and is more of a career civil servant.

While he is experienced in drafting banking legislation, he has no direct experience at the highest levels of the industry he was appointed to supervise. His critics would suggest this made it difficult for him to deal with one of Europe's most dramatic banking collapses ever.

Mr Cardiff was perceived to be very close to late finance minister Brian Lenihan.

It was presumed by some he wouldn't be prepared to serve under Michael Noonan, who had savaged many of the policies he helped to design and implement during 2008.

However, since March Cardiff and Noonan have worked closely and cordially with each other, it is reported.

But clearly he has chosen to try a new role away from the department. He will become one of the shortest-serving Department of Finance chiefs in recent decades.

Irish Independent

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