News Analysis

Sunday 31 August 2014

Moving on – but economic recovery still seems to be in 'mission impossible' mode

Dearbhail McDonald

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

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MANY people may be puzzled by John Moran's explanation to colleagues that now is an opportune time to hand over the baton to a successor. Explaining his decision to leave mid-term, the restructuring expert said he always viewed his decision to return to Ireland in 2010 to help restore the banking sector as "a mission with a fixed purpose, not a long-term venture".

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The upbeat email to staff – the former lawyer and banker praised yesterday's "tremendous results captured in our annual reports" – suggests that Mr Moran believes his mission to be accomplished. But his decision to step down on the eve of local and European elections, not to mention the mortgage arrears crisis as well as critical stress tests facing banks, may alarm those who consider the restoration of the Irish economy as a mission impossible.

Mr Moran enjoyed a stellar return to Ireland, the first outsider appointed to the position of Secretary General at the Department of Finance. He previously held senior roles with Swiss financial group Zurich Capital Markets and is a former head of wholesale bank supervision at the Central Bank.

He joined the Department of Finance in March 2011 and was second secretary in charge of banking. He was appointed secretary general in December 2012 and set about restructuring the department.

Much of Mr Moran's restructuring efforts did not attract public attention, although his comments that Ireland's repossession figures were "unnaturally low" sparked public fury.

Mr Moran found himself under intense pressure last year to explain a series of emails in which he discussed with a key representative of the billionaire Barclay brothers their efforts to buy the loans of Irish property tycoon Paddy McKillen from the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Moran faced allegations from Mr McKillen of engaging in an "inappropriate level of contact" and of exhibiting "inappropriate informality and familiarity" with the representative of the Barclays, the hugely wealthy owners of the 'Daily Telegraph'.

Mr McKillen has been locked in a titanic struggle for control of Coroin, the company behind the world-famous Claridge's, Connaught and Berkeley hotels.

The Government handed over the controversial email chain as part of High Court proceedings involving Mr McKillen and the Barclays.

Mr McKillen secured a rare victory last March when he won the financial backing of Colony Capital, a move that bolstered his financial position and pitched the US private-equity group against the twins.

The emails, now locked under court order, could yet emerge as they are the subject of a separate Freedom of Information battle waged by Mr McKillen.

The shock, unrelated resignation of Justice Minister Alan Shatter has dwarfed Mr Moran's departure.

But the decision to leave is a mysterious shockwave for the Government.

Irish Independent

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