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What does Mr Moran know that we don't?

Is this as good as it gets? Does John Moran's resignation as head of the Department of Finance signal that the best of the economic good news is behind us? The sudden departure of the country's top civil servant after just 17 months in the job could well point to turbulence ahead.

Limerick-born Mr Moran, who is not a career civil servant, originally qualified as a solicitor and has spent most of his working life abroad, having been variously a lawyer, an investment banker and the owner of a juice bar. He returned to Ireland in 2010 and became head of wholesale banking supervision, where he was responsible for monitoring IFSC banks, at the Central Bank.

APPOINTMENT

It was here that he caught the eye of Michael Noonan – whose late wife Florence had taught Mr Moran as a child. In 2011, shortly after Mr Noonan became Finance Minister, he was appointed second secretary at the Department of Finance.

His stint as head of the department's banking unit subsequently generated some political controversy when a series of 2011 e-mails from Mr Moran, which seemed to indicate that he was being supportive of the Barclay twins in their epic legal battle with developer Paddy McKillen for control of London's Berkeley, Connaught and Claridge's Hotels, were leaked in April 2013.

Despite this, no-one was surprised when he was appointed secretary general of the Department of Finance in 2012 when his predecessor Kevin Cardiff was dispatched in controversial circumstances to be Ireland's representative on the European Court of Auditors.

And now, just 17 months after he was appointed to his last job, Mr Moran is off again. While he will stay at his position until a successor is selected, no-one expects him to be still at the Department of Finance by the end of the summer.

What does Mr Moran know that we don't? He insists that there is nothing suspicious about his decision to suddenly quit claiming that, with Ireland having exited the EU/IMF bailout and the Troika having gone home, his job is done.

That may well be the case but it is hardly surprising that many people remain suspicious. Mr Moran's shock departure comes just two months after the consortium of American investors in Bank of Ireland led by Wilbur Ross shocked the financial markets by selling a third of their shares, effectively taking their money off the table. The sight of the carpetbaggers heading for the hills is never a comforting one.

Other straws in the wind include the much ballyhooed property market "recovery" with the latest CSO figures showing that Dublin house prices actually fell slightly in the first three months of 2014.

LENDING

This should hardly have come as any surprise as, contrary to their public statements, the banks are still cutting back on lending, including mortgages. The most recent Central Bank figures show a further 3.1pc fall in mortgage lending for the year to the end of March.

As head of the Department of Finance and, given his previous background in banking, Mr Moran would have been well aware of these developments. Did he conclude that, with the Irish banks still loaded up to the gills with bad loans and the ECB due to publish the results of its stress tests – something that force some Irish banks to go cap in hand to the taxpayer for even more capital – in the autumn, that this was a good as it was going to get?

We can only hope that Mr Moran, who has switched jobs frequently throughout his career, merely wanted a fresh challenge.

If there was more to his departure then we will all know about it soon.


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