Exclusive: Tensions between Shane Ross and Enda Kenny revealed in correspondence row over €270k job appointment
A series of emails and letters between Transport Minister Shane Ross, the Taoiseach and Finance Minister reveal the true tensions between the Independent Alliance and Fine Gael.
Mr Ross demanded that Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan not appoint an unnamed person to a €270,000 job without advertising the position publicly.
And the first time minister then engaged in correspondence on the minute detail of how Ireland’s vice-president on the European Investment Bank would be selected.
Last week the Department of Finance refused to release details of their exchanges as it might “serve to impair the proper functioning of government”.
However, the Independent.ie has now obtained a number of letters under the Freedom of Information Act which show Mr Ross was unlikely to back down in the row.
The dispute took place just weeks before members of the Independent Alliance defied the Taoiseach in order to vote for Wexford TD Mick Wallace’s abortion.
That row caused serious tensions within Cabinet – but now the full details of the behind-the-scenes dispute over a plum EU job can revealed.
On May 19, Mr Kenny “alerted” Mr Ross that he wanted to directly fill the plum position.
It is understood that the pair disagreed strongly over the appointment and on May 23, Mr Ross personally sent an email to the Taoiseach stating: “As I told you, I was uncomfortable with the suggestion and would revert after speaking to my Independent Alliance colleagues.
“After consultation with them, we are of the unanimous view that this position should only be filled after a transparent, open, independent process.
“It should include advertising the post, followed by interviews to ensure that the successful candidate is properly qualified for this €270,000 a year job.”
He added that Mr Kenny must understand that appointments being made “subject to rigorous non-political processes” is a “fundamental principle” of their group.
Mr Kenny replied by letter hours later saying that understood his minister’s view and was “happy to discuss”.
Ultimately the Taoiseach caved in. Four days later an official at Mr Noonan’s office devised an interview process but within hours Mr Ross’s special adviser was in contact seeking five distinct changes.
He wanted the position advised on publicjobs.ie as well as the department’s website, a shortlist system to be run through the Public Appointments system and a three-person interview panel including two independent nominees.
Revealed: Full details of salary and benefits of €270 post
Under Mr Ross’s plan the interview panel would ultimately propose a maximum of two people to the Government.
The Public Appointment system wasn’t possible in this case as it takes 12 week, while the Taoiseach and Finance Minister wanted their Secretaries General on the interview panel.
Eventually Mr Ross settled for a four-person panel made up of the two Secretaries General and two independent members.
“They will have to reach a consensus,” said a finance official in an email to Mr Ross’s office.
The back and forth ended on May 31 with a representative from the Department of Finance writing to confirm the advertisement would go public the following day, and that “if your Minister has any further questions, my Minister suggests that they discuss it on the margins of next week’s Cabinet meeting”.
Despite the row the job ultimately went to the Taoiseach’s long-serving economic advisor, Andrew McDowell.
Separate briefing documents obtained by the Irish Independent show that on top of the €270,000 salary, Mr McDowell is entitled to an “installation allowance” of €46,000 and a “resettlement allowance” of €23,000.
His cost of travel to Luxembourg and moving expenses will also be covered.
And the ECB will pay €3,472 towards his monthly living expenses and another monthly allowance of €911.
There were no objections from anyone in Cabinet to Mr McDowell’s appointment.