Sunday 17 November 2019

Prominent figures in civil service to exit posts

Senior officials to step down after critical report into banking crisis


A highly critical report of the role of the Department of Finance in Ireland's banking crisis is set to trigger an exodus of some of the country's most senior civil servants from their key positions, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Yesterday, as it emerged Dermot McCarthy, the country's most senior official, is to leave his post early, it has also come to light that Kevin Cardiff, secretary general of Finance (salary €228,000 a year) is also now to be among a number of prominent figures likely to step down.

In what has been compared to "the night of the long knives", up to eight further top level civil servants are poised to leave or to be transferred as part of the radical reshuffle of top officials.

While a number of those under threat are likely to retire earlier than planned, others are to be reassigned to other duties.

The Nyberg commission of investigation, which has submitted its scathing report to Finance Minister Michael Noonan, heavily criticised the Government, the banks, the financial regulator and the media for their part in Ireland's spectacular demise. Mr Noonan has since referred the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions James Hamilton, the gardai and the Director of the Office of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby.

He was due to present the hard-hitting report to Cabinet on Tuesday, but will now bring it a week later, and it is expected to be published shortly afterwards.

The new Government has made no secret of its desire to remove those at the top of the civil service who were in place during the economic, fiscal and financial meltdown, as well as those who were involved in the disastrous blanket bank guarantee on September 29, 2008.

Former FF junior minister Dara Calleary said senior managers were to blame more than the unions for blocking public sector reform.

"In fairness to the unions, they have brought a lot into the agenda. The difficulty was with higher management. They're the ones that don't take the changes too seriously," he said.

Led by former Finnish civil servant Peter Nyberg, the commission has found there was a consensus that house prices would continue rising and that when the property market turned, there would be a "soft landing".

Mr McCarthy, who is secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, informed colleagues on Friday that he intended to step down a few months ahead of schedule as part of a major reorganisation of the civil service. He also announced that the Government had decided to create a new post of second secretary in the Department of the Taoiseach to support the Economic Management Council established by the Coalition.

Mr McCarthy has been the most powerful civil servant in the country for a decade and was centrally involved in social partnership.

In an email to senior colleagues, he said he wanted to let them know about some changes that were about to happen that would affect the Taoiseach's department in its work.

"As you know, my term is due to finish in a few months and it is appropriate for the Government to begin the process of selecting my successor . . . With these changes, and with the changes already affecting the Public Service Modernisation Division, we are entering a new phase of the life and work of the department," said Mr McCarthy.

Sunday Independent

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