Gabriel who? Central Bank choice prompts Google searches

Makhlouf, who has spent the past eight years heading New Zealand’s treasury department, never came up in speculation for the top job

News that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe had looked to the other side of the world for a next Central Bank governor, Gabriel Makhlouf, prompted a spike in Google searches by staff in the regulator on Wednesday to find out what they could about their new boss.

They were not alone. While there had been talk in recent weeks of a strong mystery non-Irish national in the race, the former UK civil servant (who has spent the past eight years heading New Zealand’s powerful treasury department), never came up in speculation.

Cantillon has learned that the interview panel presiding over the process selected five candidates – three male and two female, three Irish and two international – to interview last week.

Sharon Donnery, deputy Central Bank governor for the past three years, was the odds-on favourite. Colm O'Reardon, deputy secretary general at the Department of Health, and Andrew McDowell, vice-president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Luxembourg, were also widely tipped.


Of 87 potential candidates contacted by Merc Partners, the executive search firm hired by the Minister, 19 applied. However, sources say the number of names from the UK was lower than expected, with some in the UK public service said to have felt it was inappropriate to apply as they were working on Brexit.

Makhlouf will have to hit the ground running when he takes over in September. The Central Bank has also been preoccupied in recent times with preparations for Brexit, and has reallocated resources to deal with a deluge of applications from firms looking to move activities to Dublin from the UK.

It is also carrying out enforcement actions against the country’s six main home-loan lenders in relation to the tracker mortgage scandal. The first fines are expected this year.

Makhlouf’s role also gives him a seat at the ECB’s governing council. There is currently a great deal of uncertainty over future monetary policy as signs of a European economic slowdown mount. Will the situation be any clearer by the time he arrives for his first meeting in Frankfurt?