Thursday 22 March 2018

Labour tells Cardiff critic to shut up or face court

Party bosses warn Childers that Finance chief could 'sue for losses'

DANIEL McCONNELL , Chief Reporter

Labour MEP Nessa Childers has said party bosses told her to stop criticising embattled civil servant Kevin Cardiff and was warned that she could end up being sued over her comments.

Sources close to Mr Cardiff yesterday lashed out at the media and politicians for the "disgraceful witch-hunt" of the €200,000-a-year official.

Ten days on from Mr Cardiff's disastrous appearance before the Public Accounts Committee, the Cabinet's backing of him has caused deep disquiet among backbenchers in both coalition parties.

With Mr Cardiff due to appear before a European Parliament committee in nine days, an increasing number of government TDs have said that Mr Cardiff cannot remain at the helm in Finance, even if his nomination is rejected.

The Government last night refused to clarify what his position would be should he fail to pass the European committee, saying it remained satisfied that Mr Cardiff would be successful.

Ms Childers is adamantly opposed to Mr Cardiff's nomination and was one of a number of government politicians to openly question the wisdom of Mr Cardiff's appointment to the European Court of Auditors last Tuesday.

But it has now emerged that party bosses sought to prevent her from causing the Government any further embarrassment or discomfort on the Cardiff nomination.

"What happened was a senior Labour Party member told me that I could end up in court and being sued for a loss of income over what I said."

Asked did she feel the senior party member was attempting to shut her up, Ms Childers replied: "I think the party were very concerned about us saying anymore."

Ms Childers was the most vociferous in her opposition to the Cardiff nomination, saying his appointment was totally "inappropriate".

"I felt he was inappropriate even before the €3.6bn incident. In the circumstances -- of the preceding years and his economic background, where he was during the last few years -- he's not appropriate."

Ms Childers's colleague in Brussels, MEP Phil Prendergast, yesterday said she wasn't contacted by party bosses in the wake of her criticism, but said her position hadn't changed.

"He might be technically qualified for the job, but the issue of the €3.6bn will have to be revisited," she said.

A number of Fine Gael TDs have said regardless of whether he gets the European job or not, Mr Cardiff's time in Finance must come to an end.

Liam Twomey said it would not be "appropriate" for Mr Cardiff to remain in the Department of Finance, but he did not question his qualifications for either post.

"I wouldn't be happy with Kevin Cardiff staying where he was. It would be better to have a new broom -- not somebody who is looking over his shoulder at decisions made over the past," Mr Twomey said

For his part, Mr Cardiff is said to be devastated at the public furore over the €3.6bn blunder and also the repeated insinuation that the new Government wanted him cleared out of Finance, given his involvement with decisions of the previous failed administration. Sources close to him have described the political and media firestorm as a "disgraceful witch-hunt".

"He is a family man, and not a politician. This is very hurtful to him and his family. It has been a very tough week for him. Some of the things said about him have been disgraceful," a source said.

Sunday Independent

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