THE country's former top civil servant, who just retired with a staggering €600,000 package, was linked last night to a plum post as an ambassador.
Former Department of the Taoiseach secretary general Dermot McCarthy was again being spoken of as the possible next Irish Ambassador to the Vatican.
Mr McCarthy's €600,000 payoff, on top of his annual pension of €142,000, is at the centre of a storm of controversy.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny failed to rule out Mr McCarthy taking up the position.
The post of Ambassador to the Holy See is currently vacant -- at a time when relations between the Government and the Vatican have been historically bad as a result of the fallout from the Cloyne Report.
The former civil service mandarin's name has frequently been mentioned on the civil service rumour mill alongside the prestigious position.
Mr McCarthy is a devout Catholic and has vast experience as the former holder of the top job in the public sector.
The plum post comes with a salary of at least €146,000 and living quarters in the sumptuous embassy, located in the 17th-century Villa Spada on a hill overlooking the Eternal City.
The Government has to decide if the position will be filled at all or if the embassy will be closed and the duties carried out by the Ambassador to Italy, who is also based in Rome.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is examining the embassy's status in the review of all Government spending.
When asked about the possibility of Mr McCarthy taking up the role, Mr Kenny said he would not engage in speculation about the ambassador's position.
"I wouldn't like to speculate on what the Tanaiste might decide in relation to the vacancy at the Holy See," the Taoiseach said.
Mr Kenny said the Foreign Affairs Minister would bring his ultimate recommendation on the future of the ambassador's position to the Cabinet for a decision. The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Tanaiste would have to make his recommendations based on the review of Government spending.
"It is a matter for Government," a spokesperson said.
The department also said it was "not aware" of any contacts with Mr McCarthy about the position.
Former Ambassador to the Holy See Noel Fahey retired in June and his duties have been performed by a diplomat of lower rank ever since.
A diplomatic source significantly played down the prospect of Mr McCarthy being appointed, even more so after the controversy over his retirement package.
"It is the same story. It's been knocking around for years because of his overt Catholicism," the source said.
Mr Kenny already failed to criticise the retirement package to Mr McCarthy, which was described by a minister as "unfair" and by the opposition as "scandalously high and completely inappropriate".
Mr McCarthy walked away with a lump sum payment of €428,011 and a special severance payment of €142,670 on top of his annual pension of €142,670.
The pension is being calculated from his salary before pay cuts were applied over recent years, rather than his final salary when he retired during the summer.
Mr McCarthy was closely associated with the social partnership process and the benchmarking wage hikes in the public service.
He served as secretary general to the Taoiseach for 11 years and worked with three Taoisigh, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and briefly with Enda Kenny.