Saturday 22 July 2017

Organiser of royal visit is favourite for top public job

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE senior civil servant who guided Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland is the favourite for the top position in the public service.

Sometimes described as the "second most powerful job in the country", the post of secretary-general at the Department of the Taoiseach comes up for grabs next week.

The current holder of the job, Dermot McCarthy, had his retirement party in Government Buildings on Thursday night -- but his replacement has yet to be announced. The Cabinet is expected to decide on his successor next week.

The inside favourite to replace him is the Taoiseach's Northern Ireland office chief, Martin Fraser.

His colleague who has served as a key adviser on European Union negotiations -- EU office chief John Callinan -- is also believed to be firmly in the running. There is also speculation around the Department of Health secretary-general Michael Scanlan.

Likewise, Department of Foreign Affairs secretary-general David Cooney and Ireland's Ambassador to the European Union, Rory Montgomery, are being mentioned.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have the final say and could opt for the brave decision of bringing in a complete outsider. Mr McCarthy is handling the shortlist of candidates to replace him.

Hard-working

Both Mr Fraser and Mr Callinan currently serve as assistant secretaries-general in the department. In their early 40s, both are regarded as bright and hard-working.

Mr Fraser was pivotal in the teeing-up and organisation of the queen's visit, which passed off successfully. He was also a key figure in the negotiation of the St Andrews Agreement in Northern Ireland.

But Mr Kenny is understood to have developed a good relationship with Mr Fraser when he was Fine Gael leader, putting him ahead in the betting.

Irish Independent

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