Kenny's economic aide appointed to €270,000 EU post
A trusted adviser to Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been appointed to a plum European post, which carries a salary of €270,000.
Andrew McDowell, who has served as Mr Kenny's chief economic adviser since 2011, is being put forward as the Government's nominee for vice-president of the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Mr McDowell is widely respected within political circles and played an instrumental role in driving Fine Gael's policy on the economy.
He was also one of the key figures behind the Fine Gael/Labour Party coalition's so-called 'Action Plan for Jobs'.
While the Taoiseach reshuffled members of his kitchen Cabinet in recent months following the election of the new government, Mr McDowell remained on as one of his closest aides.
As economic adviser, he earned a salary of €156,380.
Prior to this position, Mr McDowell worked with Fine Gael and advised a number of government ministers.
Mr McDowell's nomination was formally agreed by the Cabinet yesterday. It is understood that no vote took place and he secured unanimous support.
Mr McDowell was one of 10 individuals who applied for the post through an open process.
The interview panel consisted of the secretarys-general of the Departments of An Taoiseach and Finance, as well as the chairpersons of the Policing Authority and the Low Pay Commission.
In the Dáil, Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty asked whether Mr McDowell would be replaced as Mr Kenny's economic adviser, given the potentially perilous conditions facing Ireland post-Brexit.
"Given that this will cause a vacancy at a crucial time in the Taoiseach's office, given the consequences of Brexit, he will not have a chief economic adviser from the autumn," Mr Doherty said.
"Does he intend to replace that position? Does he intend this time to keep within the pay cap agreed in the Programme for Government?"
In response, Mr Kenny described Mr McDowell as an "outstanding person" and "irreplaceable".
He told the Dáil: "After a process of public application and interview, the appointment has gone to Mr Andrew McDowell.
"In my experience, I have to say that as an economic adviser in the Department of the Taoiseach, he is a truly outstanding person and more than capable of doing an absolutely first-class job of representing Ireland at the European Investment Bank."
Finance Minister Michael Noonan also welcomed the appointment in a statement.
However, Labour Party TD Alan Kelly queried whether Transport Minister Shane Ross was in favour of the appointment, given that Ireland's nomination to the prestigious body was previously the subject of a stand-off between the minister and Mr Kenny.
The Independent Alliance claims that last month Mr Kenny sought to fill the position without an open process.
It is claimed that Mr Ross told Mr Kenny that an open process had to be held.
The Dublin Rathdown TD later sent Mr Kenny an email, setting out his position on this.
Mr Ross says he told Mr Kenny that the move was completely unacceptable in the eyes of the Independent Alliance and that a process to fill the position must be put in place.
"I was approached by the Taoiseach. He told me that he intended to make an appointment. I said I thought there should be a process for this appointment, that all appointments of this sort needed to go through a proper process," Mr Ross said, adding that this had been agreed.
But at a briefing with political journalists, Mr Kenny denied Mr Ross's claims.
"I didn't see fit to make any appointment to the European Investment Bank. What I wanted to do is have a process that can be fair and open," Mr Kenny said.
There was also speculation that the Government had been planning to appoint former Taoiseach John Bruton to the post, a claim that was also denied.