Minister defends Gabriel Makhlouf appointment as new Central Bank boss

Minister defends Gabriel Makhlouf appointment as new Central Bank boss
Gabriel Makhlouf

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has defended his appointment of under-fire Gabriel Makhlouf as governor of the Central Bank and said the Government will not be changing its mind on the decision.

Mr Makhlouf has been rebuked for failing to take responsibility for a breach of security around sensitive budget information in New Zealand, where he is currently treasury secretary. He is due to take up the role of head of the Central Bank of Ireland in September.

New Zealand State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes released the findings of an investigation into Mr Makhlouf’s handling of the budget breach in his role. Mr Hughes said while Mr Makhlouf’s actions fell well short of what he expected, they did not warrant dismissal and Mr Makhlouf did not offer his resignation.

Mr Makhlouf apologised, in a statement, over the fact that the budget information was not kept secure, but noted the report said he had acted reasonably, in good faith, and with political neutrality.

"I am pleased that my honesty and integrity are not in question," he said.

Mr Donohoe said he wished the controversy surrounding Mr Makhlouf hadn't happened, but defended the appointment, saying Mr Makhlouf as been "an exemplary public servant".

“Mr Makhlouf has had a 30-year record in public service all over the world and during that 30 years he has had an unblemished record and has performed and led very large organisations and dealt with very difficult policy matters, from New Zealand, to the OECD, to the UK," Mr Donohoe said.

“I, of course, wish that the incident that has now been the subject of this report had not happened. I have considered the report in its entirety and I have noted that in the report it makes note of his integrity, his political neutrality and his desire to act in good faith at all times.

"The appointment has already been made by the Government and he will be taking up office now in September," he said.

Mr Donohoe said overall responsibility for Mr Makhlouf's appointment is his, but said the recruitment process was "very very clear" and independently-run "so we would get to having a good candidate".

Minister defends Gabriel Makhlouf appointment as new Central Bank boss

"Of course the responsibility does sit with me as Minister for Finance and I am confident that when Mr Makhlouf moves into the role that the qualities that have lead to him having such a successful career in public service all over the world up to this particular incident happening will become apparent to stakeholders in our economy and to the country."

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on finance Michael McGrath said Mr Makhlouf should accept the report's findings.

"He is set to take up his role as Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland in September, which is among the most sensitive and important roles in the Irish State. Fianna Fáil believes Mr Makhlouf should accept the report in its entirety and acknowledge where he has got it wrong as well as accepting where he has been vindicated," he said.

- Additional reporting by Elaine Loughlin

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