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Wednesday 17 July 2019

I’m sorry for criticising Cardiff says Ireland’s last EU auditor

Eoin O'Shea
Kevin Cardiff

Lyndsey Telford, Ed Carty and Sarah Stack

AN IRISH civil servant in Europe has admitted sending an angry email to two MEPs and apologised for the move which may have shattered Kevin Cardiff’s chances of securing a plum job.

Accountant Eoin O'Shea criticised Kevin Cardiff over his work during Ireland's economic collapse as he tried to keep hold of the post on the European Court of Auditors.

The email, sent to German MEPs Jens Geier and Ingeborg Grassle on the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee in Brussels, was dramatically exposed just a day after members voted to reject Mr Cardiff's nomination.

Despite the embarrassing setback, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are adamant they want their Department of Finance chief for the auditing role.

Mr O'Shea, due to leave the €276,000 a year job in the New Year after just two years in Luxembourg, said the email attack was wrong and was sent in the heat of the moment.

"I did it in a moment of heat," Mr O'Shea said.

"I'm sorry for sending the email. It was on the date that I got my notification. But I was not seeking to influence anybody. I was letting off steam."

The Taoiseach warned he has no intention of reappointing Mr O'Shea to the auditing role.

"I was disappointed to find an independent officer of the court of auditors making such comments in an email," said Mr Kenny.

The Tanaiste denied Mr O'Shea had been stitched up over a private email while answering questions at the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs.

"It's not a hijack. It's not a party political issue. I think those were perfectly legitimate questions to put to him and he has answered them," Mr Gilmore said.

Mr O'Shea's email to the MEPs referred to Mr Cardiff as: "An Irish civil servant who was responsible for the financial supervision during the collapse of the Irish banks."

Ms Grassle, an MEP and affiliate of Mr Kenny's European People's Party, revealed she voted against Mr Cardiff when refused more time to ask questions about his role in the banking crisis.

"I found it amazing that the MEPs do not need to know this additional information," she said.

Ms Grassle, who is in regular contact with Mr O'Shea and works closely with him on audit issues, received at least 20 emails from concerned Irish citizens over the nomination. They included reports, presentations and news articles on the economic crisis featuring Mr Cardiff.

Ms Grassle described Mr O'Shea as "helpful, honest and a successful member" of the auditing court.

Mr Geier, a Social Democrat MEP, could not be contacted.

Mr O'Shea admitted the email under questioning when chairman Joe Costello pressed him on his motives and whether he had intended to influence yesterday's vote.

The Labour TD said the criticisms could have cost Mr Cardiff his nomination.

The Tanaiste has insisted the Government will not accept the Brussels committee's decision as final and will stand by Mr Cardiff, current secretary general of the Department of Finance.

The European Parliament will have the final say on who gets the auditing positions.

There has been intense debate in Dublin and Brussels over Mr Cardiff's nomination as he has held some of the top finance roles in Irish Government over the last few years.

He played a key role in the EU-IMF negotiations a year ago and was secretary general when a €3.6bn accounting error was this year discovered to have been double counted and incorrectly added to Government debt.

He was also present on the night of September 30 2008 when the Government agreed the €440bn euro bank deposit guarantee scheme.

Mr O'Shea claimed that the email should never have been brought into the public domain.

"It was a private email between two people. It does Mr Cardiff a disservice. That was not my intention. It was in a moment of haste," he said.

"I have subsequently reviewed my position having met the gentleman. I would apologise to him for sending that email."

Mr O'Shea plans to contact Mr Geier and ask him if he had passed on the email to anyone else.

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