Sunday 8 December 2019

'Nothing sinister' about my decision to quit job – Moran

Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran
Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

THE country's top civil servant has insisted that there is "nothing sinister" about his decision to leave Michael Noonan's department.

John Moran has said that he has no specific plans for after he steps down from the "intense" role of secretary general at the Department of Finance.

He shocked Mr Noonan and other officials by announcing his resignation on Wednesday.

Speaking in his last appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday, Mr Moran rejected criticism from members that he was leaving just two years into a seven-year term.

Independent TD Shane Ross said he disagreed with Mr Moran's assertion that his work was done, saying the European Central Bank has this week expressed fresh concern about the stability of the Irish banking sector.

"There is nothing sinister about this decision. I came back to the system four years ago, it has been intense. It was a crisis management situation," Mr Moran said. "People can remember just what the system was like at the time. You can't always assume that people will stay on forever," he said.

"It has always been a principle of management to find a way to make yourself redundant. The job I came back to was marked by the troika programme. One main objective was to say when would the country be back in the international markets and exited the bailout. I can now make this decision."

PAC vice-chairman Kieran O'Donnell likened the decision to step down to leaving a really good film halfway through without seeing it out to the end.

"I have no specific plans as to what I will do next. This was an opportune time for me to leave as it allows a successor time to get their feet under the table ahead of the Budget," Mr Moran told PAC members.

He also revealed that he was reluctant to take on the job back in 2012 given its woeful reputation. The department became a "place to avoid" and he said its reputation had taken a "considerable beating".

In a frank address similar to the parting salvo from former Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield last year during which he voiced concerns about the lack of white-collar prosecutions, Mr Moran said there was deep dysfunction within the much criticised department.

"Like the reputation of Ireland, the reputation of the Department of Finance has taken a considerable beating. I believe things are now different. People now recognise the changes that have been taking place," he told the committee.

"Back in 2012, like statements about being Irish when abroad, saying one worked at the Department of Finance was something people avoided volunteering to others."

He added that when he replaced Kevin Cardiff as secretary general, it was not a comfortable place in which to drive policy innovation and implementation. "Frankly, it was not a comfortable place either from which to restabilise an economy and banking sector. I would not be truthful if I did not confess to a very considerable degree of reluctance myself at taking on the task."

Irish Independent

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