Thursday 26 April 2018

Cardiff's plum EU job bid back on track after email leak

Fionnan Sheahan and reporters

THE GOVERNMENT’S attempt to ram through the appointment of Department of Finance chief Kevin Cardiff to a plum EU job is dramatically back on track.

Today the Taoiseach Enda Kenny re-iterated the Government’s support for Mr Cardiff as a member of the European Court of Auditors.

Labour's revelation that the current incumbent in the job had privately criticised Mr Cardiff's appointment gave the Coalition's bid an unexpected boost.

The development came the day after Mr Cardiff's nomination had been rejected by a committee of MEPs.

The Fianna Fail-appointed holder of the position, Eoin O'Shea, wrote to two senior MEPS, linking Mr Cardiff to the bank collapse and loan transactions involving Anglo Irish Bank.

He denied that he was trying to undermine Mr Cardiff's nomination or influence a European Parliament committee.

After being a substitute on the court for two years, the former Fianna Fail activist has been seeking to be reappointed to the €267,000-a-year job for the next six years.

Mr O'Shea apologised for the email, which he said he wrote in a "moment of madness" when he learned that he was not going to be reappointed.

Government sources said Mr O'Shea's actions were "viewed very seriously" by the Coalition. But Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined to call for Mr O'Shea to step down before his term ends in February.

Labour TDs brought up the previously undisclosed email with Mr O'Shea at a meeting of the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee.

Mr O'Shea admitted that he had written to two MEPs in the European People's Party and Socialist groups -- the two largest groups in the European Parliament.

The MEPs are the leaders of their groups on the Budgetary Control Committee, which voted down Mr Cardiff's nomination this week.

The committee decided that Mr O'Shea should write to the Government, the European Parliament committee and the president of the parliament, explaining his position.

Fianna Fail's only member of the committee defended Mr O'Shea. Timmy Dooley said the committee had "moved towards some sort of summary conviction".

Mr O'Shea is a former Fianna Fail activist and ran the party's media-monitoring unit throughout the 2002 General Election.

The European Parliament committee which rejected Mr Cardiff's nomination by a narrow margin this week may now vote again on his candidacy.

At the end of the hearing this week, MEPs were warned not to pay attention to the "thousands" of emails they received, asking them to reject his Court of Auditors appointment.

They were also told by the Budgetary Control Committee rapporteur to ignore lobbying from current members of the court.

The Government is believed to be moving Mr Cardiff out of the department to a top EU post due to his links to decisions made under the previous administration.

Independent TD Shane Ross yesterday directly asked Mr Gilmore if the Government "wished to create a vacancy in the Department of Finance".

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore confirmed that Mr Cardiff was still the Government's nominee for the Court of Auditors.

The Taoiseach said Mr Cardiff was the "government nominee" and that it was now a matter for the European Parliament to make a decision.

Referring to Mr O'Shea's email, he said: "I was disappointed to find an independent officer of the Court of Auditors making such comments in an email."

Mr Gilmore said: "It's not a party-political issue. I think they were perfectly legitimate questions to put to him (by the MEPs) and he (Mr Cardiff) has answered them."

Mr Cardiff said his appearance before the committee of MEPs was "the strangest and most interesting job interview I've ever done".

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News