Irish MEPs concerned over Cardiff

 

A number of Irish MEPs have expressed concerns over the Government’s nomination of a senior finance civil servant to a top job in Europe following a €3.6 billion accounting blunder.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has given his full support to outgoing Department of Finance secretary general Kevin Cardiff as a candidate for the European Court of Auditors.

He said today there was no change in the Government’s decision to select Mr Cardiff.

“The Government has actually done the nomination of Kevin Cardiff, so the next part of the process is the relevant committee of the European Parliament will assess that and assess his suitability,” he told reporters in Brussels on the fringes of an EU meeting.

“Now, the MEPs obviously have their own channels for giving their views to their colleagues who are on that particular committee. I understand there’s no Irish MEP on that particular committee.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also restated his backing for Mr Cardiff, describing him as “technically very-well qualified” for the job.

But Labour MEP Phil Prendergast said the debt error was embarrassing and warned she would not like to be in Mr Cardiff’s shoes when he is scrutinised for the €180,000-a-year job. “He might be technically qualified for the job, but the issue of the €3.6 billion will have to be revisited,” she said in Brussels today.

Mr Cardiff was questioned by politicians last week after it emerged the Department of Finance had overstated the country’s debt when a sum of €3.6 billion was double-counted.

Ms Prendergast criticised Mr Cardiff and accused him of not showing any remorse during the Public Accounts Committee meeting.

“His body language last week didn’t seem to show any apology whatsoever for the fact he has brought a huge amount of embarrassment on Ireland,” she said. “Any aspect of fiscal policy from the Department of Finance should show us in a good light and this doesn’t show us in a good light.”

Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly said news concerning the accounting blunder - brought to light by the National Treasury Management Agency as far back as 2010 but not acted on - was “certainly not to Mr Cardiff’s credit”.

He added: “If he thinks [the job] is going to be a doddle then he has another think coming.”

Labour Party MEP Nessa Childers said she was adamantly opposed to Mr Cardiff’s nomination.

“My opinion has always been quite clear about this from the very beginning when I first heard of his appointment,” she said. “I felt he was inappropriate even before the €3.6 billion incident. In the circumstances - of the preceding years and his economic background, where he was during the last few years - he’s not appropriate.”

Fianna Fáil MEP Pat "the Cope" Gallagher said he was looking forward to hearing the outcome of the Budget Control Committee meeting in Brussels on Thursday when MEPs will consider Mr Cardiff’s nomination. "If the Socialists and the European People’s Party members say they’re not going to support him then he doesn’t stand a chance," he said.

Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the Government had made the decision regarding Mr Cardiff, understood from its soundings there was "no resistance" to his appointment and expected this to go through "in the normal way".

He told RTÉ Mr Cardiff was a "most competent, able and diligent public servant".

He added: “Our understanding from the soundings we have heard back is that there is no resistance to his appointment and we expect it to go through in the normal way.”

Earlier, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said Mr Cardiff has the Government’s backing.

Former chief accountant of the European Commission Marta Andreasen spoke out against the Irish Government and Mr Noonan yesterday for their support for Mr Cardiff. The

UK Independence Party MEP said the Government was behaving irresponsibly by backing someone whom she believes is unfit for the European job.