A BANKING guru who was headhunted from the private sector is favourite to take over from Kevin Cardiff as head of the Department of Finance.
John Moran is tipped to succeed Mr Cardiff when he moves to the European Court of Auditors in February.
Mr Cardiff's nomination to the court was formally ratified by a full hearing of the European Parliament yesterday, after he was rejected by the parliament's Budgetary Control Committee last month.
He will earn a package worth over €350,000, which includes allowances and expenses, but will not be able to draw down a pension from his time in the Department of Finance while he is in the court, which is based in Luxembourg.
Mr Cardiff is set to take up his position in February, and Mr Moran, who was formerly a CEO and board member of Zurich Bank, is one of the leading candidates to take over as secretary general at the department, one of biggest jobs in the Irish civil service.
Another name being mentioned is current assistant secretary Michael McGrath.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan last week said 21 people had applied for Mr Cardiff's position, most from within the public sector, with three coming from the private sector. A further four were headhunted.
Mr Moran was poached by Mr Noonan from a position with the Central Bank, after Governor Patrick Honohan brought him in from the private sector in July 2010.
Mr Cardiff's nomination was dogged by the recent €3.6bn accounting error in the department and by questions over his role in the bank guarantee but MEPs yesterday overruled the Budgetary Control Committee decision, and voted in his favour.
The committee vote was also shrouded in controversy when it emerged the current Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O'Shea, had emailed a number of MEPs lobbying against Mr Cardiff's nomination.
But the full parliamentary vote went in Mr Cardiff's favour by 521 to 128 yesterday. The appointment will be officially signed off by EU ministers at a meeting in January, government sources said.
He was backed by the European People's Party (EPP), Fine Gael's umbrella organisation, as well as the Socialists, the group Labour belongs to and Fianna Fail's Liberal grouping.
Labour's Nessa Childers and Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, who both previously voiced concerns about the nomination, voted against Mr Cardiff.
Marta Andreasen, a eurosceptic MEP, said the emails sent by Mr O'Shea had gone down badly and turned the tide in Mr Cardiff's favour.
Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa said the result was "very positive" and denied pressure was put on MEPs to vote for Mr Cardiff.
"It's clear that the confusion created by the negative campaign by a small number of MEPs and the outgoing member of the court has been cleared up," he said. "I was certainly not put under any pressure by anybody."
Mr Cardiff was not the only controversial candidate yesterday. The EPP group failed to postpone a vote on the Spanish candidate, who was appointed by the outgoing Socialist government.
Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda angrily opposed the motion, saying that the parliament spoke for "Europe... not for governments".
"This is an independent position -- the individual is either right or wrong for the job, this is not about someone who is delegated by government."