Financial mission accomplished, according to Moran
Deal-maker helped restore confidence to Department after bailout
John Moran has resigned as secretary general at the Department of Finance after only two years. Photograph: Alan Betson
John Moran’s unexpected resignation as secretary general of the Department of Finance comes only two years after he took command of the Department. The post is one of the most prestigious in the Civil Service so his departure raises inevitable questions as to why he has chosen to leave now.
Those questions are amplified by the restoration of relative financial stability in the wake of the international bailout. Although Moran took charge of the Department at a time of great turmoil, Ireland’s return to international capital markets and the prospect of easier budgets after a sustained retrenchment points to calmer times ahead on Merrion Street. While some top officials might be inclined to stick around for the victory lap, Moran has chosen otherwise.
A career banker, Moran’s undoubted strong point was in financial affairs and in the Government’s interaction with private markets.
Insiders said he played an influential role when US investor Wilbur Ross took an important strategic stake in Bank of Ireland. He had an equally crucial role when the incoming Government restructured the banking system in March 2011, creating the pillar bank structure which has Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks as it backbone.
With the Department of Finance in the grip of a crisis of confidence after the crash, these initiatives contributed to the stabilisation effort. They also played to Moran’s particular strengths. “He’s a very good deal-marker,” said one insider.
For all that, Moran is said to be less taken with “the plod of policy” and the process of preparing budgets. “That would be a widely held view,” said a source who is familiar his work.
This is the everyday work of the Department of Finance. Yet the slow pace of policy development – and the politicking it invariably involves – is at odds with the speedy world of the markets. “Financial markets move at a faster pace and I think that he sees that as his métier,” the source said.
In an email yesterday to staff in the Department, Moran essentially said his work was done. “I returned to Ireland in 2010 wanting to assist in the task of restoring Ireland’s destroyed banking sector and economy to health. I had always viewed this as a mission with a fixed purpose not a long-term venture,” he said.
So ends the tenure of the first outsider to run the Department, the most important of them all in Government.
Moran’s first spell in the public service was in the Central Bank at the very height of the crisis. Under Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, he was taken into the Department to take charge of banking policy. Moran then took the helm of the Department when the Government appointed his predecessor Kevin Cardiff to Ireland’s seat in the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg .
Mr Moran has told staff in the Department that Mr Noonan is happy for him to continue as secretary general until his successor was appointed.
The question now is whether his successor will come from the ranks of the Department of Finance or its sister ministry, the Department of Public Expenditure, or whether the Government turns again to an outsider.