Sunday 24 September 2017

John Moran ponders next move after shock exit from Finance top job

Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran
Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran
GONE: John Moran
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

WHEN Finance Minister Michael Noonan released a statement on Wednesday afternoon to say he had just accepted his secretary general John Moran's resignation, the news came as a bombshell in Government Buildings and beyond.

And while Mr Moran made it clear when he appeared before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a day later that there was "nothing sinister" about his departure, his explanation that Ireland's exit from the bailout had allowed him to make the decision hasn't convinced everybody.

But while cynics fear Mr Moran's exit is being timed to avoid potential landmines, such as the upcoming bank stress tests, there are others who suspect he is simply following the pattern he has established in a 20-year career in which he has hop-scotched across the globe to work in Dublin, Sydney and New York, with a stint in between as a juice bar owner in France.

Contacted by the Sunday Independent yesterday and asked where he might be headed next, Mr Moran said: "Frankly, I've no idea yet if it will be public or private sector, in Dublin or elsewhere. Nothing is ruled out.

"As I said at the PAC, I did not think it appropriate to be applying for, or discussing, any other job while in such a sensitive role with lots of potential conflicts. All in all, a bit of a break would not be bad either after the schedules of the last four years."

While Mr Moran was reluctant to say more about his plans, it is understood he has been in contact with writer Colum McCann in relation to 'Narrative 4', a global organisation with which McCann is involved, along with a number of other internationally recognised authors, artists and community leaders.

The group is involved in a project at the Presentation School in Mr Moran's native county, Limerick.

Where Mr Moran admits he won't miss the "gruelling schedules" of the Department of Finance, he's even less likely to miss the unwelcome public scrutiny and criticism that the job of Finance secretary general frequently attracts.

Even during his own short tenure, he found himself at the centre of controversy.

Indeed, when Mr Moran told the PAC in March of last year that the Irish taxpayer could not be expected to subsidise people who are in mortgage arrears to remain in homes that are beyond their means and that Ireland had an "unnaturally low level of repossessions" he came under fire both within Leinster House and beyond.

He also came under fire when property tycoon Paddy McKillen called for an explanation of a series of emails in which the issue of his loans with the IBRC had been raised directly by a representative of the billionaire Barclay brothers with Mr Moran and his departmental officials.

Nevertheless, Mr Noonan declared that his secretary general always acted "absolutely correctly".

Sunday Independent

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