The Government has faced accusations of giving its chief economic advisor Andrew McDowell a “plum job” in Europe in a manner that lacks transparency and in the aftermath of Brexit.
Enda Kenny’s aides at government buildings now have to find a replacement for Mr McDowell, who spearheaded budget plans and key Fine Gael policies in recent years.
Two names being discussed in political circles last night included Ciaran Conlon, who until recently was a special adviser to Richard Bruton, as well as senior civil servant Colm O’Reardon, a former government adviser.
However, Mr McDowell will remain on in his role over the summer which will give Mr Kenny space and time to replace him.
Mr McDowell has been appointed as Ireland’s nominee for the position of vice-president of the European Investment Bank, a post with a €275,000-a-year salary.
His move is seen as a big loss for Mr Kenny, especially as the Government struggles to deal with the impact of Brexit and prepares for its next budget in October.
Sources in government buildings on Merrion Street say Mr McDowell will be “hard to replace”, especially after being at the heart of government since 2011.
But some opposition TDs have taken issue with his appointment and said that it lacks transparency and was given to one of Mr Kenny’s closest allies.
Labour’s Alan Kelly said: “Out of three people nominated out of a process that we don’t understand or know about that hasn’t been transparently put forward, all of a sudden the chief economic adviser, at a time of Brexit may I point out, is being appointed to this plum job.”
The Tipperary TD claimed Transport Minister Shane Ross, if he was still in opposition, would have objected to the appointment and claimed it was “jobs for the boys”, but given that Mr Ross was now at cabinet and sought special permission for a free vote this week for an abortion bill in the Dáil, had decided to support Mr McDowell’s appointment.
“The closest aide to the Taoiseach has been appointed to the most plum job that you can be appointed to in such a role... If Ross was in opposition, he would have been jumping up and down, shouting about jobs for the boys.”
Mr Kelly told RTÉ he was not doubting Mr McDowell’s abilities, but that “this is not new politics, this is old politics of the worst kind”.
“We have a minister [Ross] now sitting at the table who effectively made his career about transparency about public appointments and jobs for the boys… but now given the fact he is sitting at cabinet, he is willing to give this up, he is willing to suck this up.”
Government officials maintain a clear interview process was used in deciding Mr McDowell’s appointment, including whittling down 10 applications to a shortlist of three with a panel of senior civil servants selecting the winning applicant.
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