Thursday 14 December 2017

Michael, we need to talk turkey about Kevin. . . and Eoin

The words "bombshell" and "Oireachtas committee" usually go together like, well, "Anglo" and "marvellous".

These committees are conscientious and meticulous in their questioning of individuals who come before them, but they are generally very sedate affairs. So sedate, in truth, that any lengthy exposure to such a session can leave one pining for a freshly-painted wall to observe.

And yesterday's gentle grilling of our current Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O'Shea, over the unmerciful kerfuffle surrounding the Brussels thumbs-down for his nominated successor Kevin Cardiff, was tipping along sedately.

But just after 12.30pm a pair of Labour deputies, committee chairman Joe Costello and Colm Keaveney dramatically brandished a smoking email with the calm aplomb of a pair of highwaymen.

For it seems that the chap in the hot-seat, Eoin O'Shea had never received a vital memo. It's the one learned off by heart by anyone who has ever pressed 'Send' on an email penned amid a red mist, only to have a heart-sinking change of mind as it hares off down the electronic superhighway.

Suddenly it was less Court of Auditors and more Judge Judy. According to the email which was read out by Joe and Colm, the chap in front of them had fired off a missive to two MEPs who played a central role on Wednesday in the voting down of Kevin Cardiff at the first hurdle -- a potential debacle for the Government.

And it transpired Eoin hadn't been very complimentary about the man selected to take his seat on this particular Euro gravy-train next year. The Government, Eoin had informed MEP Jens Geier, were putting forward "an Irish civil servant" and was critical about Kevin Cardiff's role in dealing with the banking crisis.

Dear, oh, dear. How unsporting. So much for pulling on the green jersey for one's country. Eoin O'Shea tried to protest it was private correspondence and so he wasn't of a mind to answer questions on it. But sadly for Eoin that particular cat was out of the sack, to paraphrase Giovanni Trapattoni.

Assuming a contrite expression, he attributed the uncharitable missive to "a moment of madness". It turned out that he had written it after he had heard he was to be replaced.

"At that stage I may have been a little angry," he confessed.

"I shouldn't have sent that email -- I recognised that as soon as I sent it," he added, pulling on the sackcloth over his pinstripe suit.

And what's more, he now knew that Kevin Cardiff was a nice bloke, really.

"I revised my opinion, having met the gentleman," he told the room. "I apologise for sending the email -- I did it in a moment of heat," he explained.

Goodness -- who knew such paroxysms of passion lurked in the breasts of our Brussels bureaucrats? However, after a sustained grilling it transpired that his moment of heat had lasted long enough for him to fire off the email to a second MEP, Ingeborg Grassle, as well.

And suddenly everybody wanted to talk about Kevin and Eoin.

A short while later, Finance Minister Michael Noonan turned up at the Four Seasons Hotel where he was due to address the American Chamber of Commerce Thanksgiving Day lunch.

But the media awaiting his arrival didn't wish to discuss trade links between Boston and Bohola. They wanted to talk turkey about the Cardiff Tiff.

But Michael was careful to steer clear of jumping into this Brussels bun-fight.

"We've had a cabinet meeting this morning, so I'm not fully across the story," he swerved.

However, he was standing by his man.

"The Government continues to back Kevin Cardiff's nomination, he's a decent public servant with a long record and as a matter of fact I would suggest that he's more qualified for the position than any of his predecessors, most of whom were senior politicians," he added.

But when pressed, Michael did tiptoe towards an opinion on the matter.

"I've just heard a report of what happened in the committee and it seems to me that Mr O'Shea requires to [give] a fuller explanation, but I'm not quite sure what he said in the committee," he said.

"These are quite sensitive matters," he added.

A while later, the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste and Minister Richard Bruton were launching their shiny new plan for jobs.

But again, everyone wanted to talk about Kevin and Eoin.

And Enda 'n' Eamon were singing almost word for word from the same hymn sheet. "I have to say that I was disappointed to find an independent officer of the court of auditors making such comments," said a disapproving Taoiseach.

"I agree with what the Taoiseach has said," echoed Eamon.

It's all a bit of a mess. There's no accounting for it. There's no double-counting for it, even.

Irish Independent

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