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Saturday 20 July 2019

Will Kevin Cardiff get top €276k EU job by backdoor?

Kevin Cardiff. Photo: Reuters

Fiach Kelly and reporters

THE GOVERNMENT was today considering the rejection by the European Parliament committee of the appointment of Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors.

Mr Cardiff's current job as Secretary-General of the Department of Finance has already been advertised and the closing date for applications is today.

Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa said that the Budget Control Committee’s rapporteur would be recommending Mr Cardiff’s appointment despite the 12-11 vote against him.

He claimed that the rapporteur did not regard the vote as being an accurate reflection of the meeting.

“The parliament as a whole often reverses committee decisions that don’t reflect the broad consensus of the parliament and is obliged in this case in justice to every nominee, to ensure fairness for all of them,” Mr de Rossa said, adding that he would continue to support Mr Cardiff.

Mr Cardiff’s name will still go before a full vote of the European Parliament next month.

If he is rejected there, the Government can try to ram his nomination through via a meeting of EU finance ministers.

Fellow Labour MEP Nessa Childrers, who had opposed Mr Cardiff’s appointment, said he should back out now.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was dealt an embarrassing blow when Department of Finance chief’s nomination to a top EU job was rejected by MEPs.

The dramatic vote against Mr Cardiff's candidacy for the European Court of Auditors casts a doubt over the Coalition's plans to install a new head of the department.

Only two other nominations to the European Court of Auditors have ever been rejected. It was the first occasion an Irish nominee had not secured parliament support.

Mr Cardiff's nomination to the European Court of Auditors was the only one of eight rejected by the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee yesterday.

He was defeated by just one vote, with 12 MEPs voting against him and 11 for him, with one abstention.

Embarrassingly for Mr Kenny members of Fine Gael's political group in the EU, the European People's Party (EPP), voted en masse against Mr Cardiff.

Mr Kenny had lobbied EPP leaders to try and get Mr Cardiff over the line.

The committee's decision sparked instant recriminations among Irish MEPs as his nomination was opposed by some Fine Gael and Labour Party MEPs.

Mr de Rossa appeared to blame some of his colleagues. "Those who helped create this decision have a lot to answer for. You can guess who they are," he said.

Fine Gael's Jim Higgins was more pointed, saying: "A major contributing factor in this decision is the negative vibes spread around by Irish MEPs."

Fianna Fail's Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher and Independent MEP Marian Harkin -- who were substitutes on the committee yesterday -- voted for Mr Cardiff; they were the only Irish MEPs eligible to vote, although others attended and spoke at yesterday's hearing. A spokesman last night said the Government had been "notified by the outcome and taking it into consideration".

The Department of Finance vacancy has been advertised, and applications were to close today.

In a written reply to an application to the Court of Auditors, Mr Cardiff told the European Parliament committee he would withdraw his name if MEPs recommend he not be appointed.

He was unavailable for comment last night, but leaving the committee room after the hearing -- but before the vote -- he said: "If the nomination is rejected I'll be disappointed, if it's passed I'll be happy."

Mr Cardiff was questioned on his role in the banking crisis, the bank guarantee and the recent €3.6bn accounting error in his department. During the hearing he insisted it was "an honour" to be nominated by the Government, although he admitted he made "enormous mistakes" during the crisis.

Mr Cardiff's nomination was regarded as an effort to move him from the Department of Finance but he told the committee it was part of the Government's plans to "strengthen and deepen" relationships within the EU.

Mr Cardiff also defended recent comments he made to the Dail Public Accounts Committee that the Court of Auditors would be a "doddle" compared to his time in the department.

Labour's Nessa Childers led the charge against Mr Cardiff's nomination, and was supported by her party colleague Phil Prendergast.

Ms Childers asked Mr Cardiff why he felt the Coalition had nominated him to the post.

He replied it was "an honour for me personally and an honour for the organisation I am involved in".

Irish Independent

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