Tánaiste denies ‘hijacking’ O’Shea

TÁNAISTE Eamon Gilmore has denied that Labour “hijacked” the outgoing Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O’Shea.

Mr O’Shea apologised yesterday after admitting he wrote an email to MEPs criticising his proposed successor, Kevin Cardiff.

The email came to light after being produced by two Labour TDs in a meeting of the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee.

The meeting was supposed to be a routine one to discuss the work of the court with Mr O’Shea, whose term ends in March.

But it took a dramatic turn after Labour TD Colm Keaveney referred to the email and began reading it into the record.

Mr O’Shea requested for the email not to be read, saying it was a personal communication.

But the Labour chair of the committee, Joe Costello, then proceeded to read out the contents of the email himself, saying Mr O’Shea needed to answer questions about it.

Mr O’Shea, a Fianna Fáil appointee, wished to stay on at the court, only to learn the Government wished to replace him with Mr Cardiff as it wanted to install new leadership at the Department of Finance.

After learning of the decision, Mr O’Shea wrote the email on October 6 to Jens Geier, a key member of the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee which scrutinises court appointments. He admitted writing a similar email to another committee member, Ingeborg Grässle.

The emails did not refer to Mr Cardiff by name, but made clear he was “responsible for financial supervision during the period of the collapse of the Irish banks”.

The committee voted on Wednesday to reject Mr Cardiff’s nomination by a single vote.

Quizzed about the emails yesterday, Mr O’Shea admitted he had sent them while “angry” and should never have done so. He apologised and said he had a different view of Mr Cardiff now.

At a press conference, Mr Gilmore said Mr O’Shea’s emails were “disappointing” but denied the auditor had been subjected to political assassination by Labour.

“It’s not a hijack, it’s not a party political issue,” Mr Gilmore said. “I think these were perfectly legitimate questions to put to him, and he has answered them.

“The position is, of course, that Mr O’Shea is not the Government’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors — the Government intends to replace him as the Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, and in line with that, we have nominated Mr Cardiff.”

Both Mr Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that Mr Cardiff’s nomination would proceed to a full vote of the European Parliament next month.

The parliament usually takes its lead from the decisions made by the Budget Control Committee. But the Government is hoping on this occasion MEPs will overlook the committee’s rejection of Mr Cardiff.

* EOIN O’SHEA is from Athlone, a chartered accountant and a barrister who worked in both the government and corporate sectors.

Prior to his appointment to the European Court of Auditors on March 31, 2010, he was a member of the audit committee of An Garda Síochána.

In 2007, he served as an adviser to review the efficiency of the North/ South bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement.

He also served as council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and was chief executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland.

O’Shea email

The October 6 email to MEP Jens Geier from Eoin O’Shea:

Dear Mr Geier

I just wanted to let you know the Irish Govt have decided to replace me at the Court.

Their suggestion is an Irish civil servant who was responsible for financial supervision during the period of the collapse of the Irish banks. I believe there will be further details in respect of this appointment which will be of interest to the Parliament because of the Irish prosecutorial interest in whether or not the State condoned in the window-dressing of the financial accounts of Irish financial institutions in respect of 7 Billion Euro.

In the meantime, I will work hard for the period of my appointment and thank you for your cooperation and working relationship.

My very best wishes, Eoin

O'Shea speaks

DETAILS of the emails emerged at yesterday’s meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs, which was hearing from Mr O’Shea, the outgoing Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, about the work the court does. Labour TDs were alerted to one email, which Mr O’Shea had written to MEP Jens Geier, and would subsequently learn of a second email he had written. The following are some of Mr O’Shea’s responses to questions raised at the committee hearing:

* “The matter was a private matter.”

* “My intention in communicating that was (a) to let the member know in question, (b) to… was to let the member know. I shouldn’t have sent that email. I recognised that as soon as I had sent it. It has not become public before now. I had not pursued the matter since. And I will propose to leave it at that, Mr Chairman, unless you have any further questions.”

* “I believe the committee is well aware of who I was referring to… the person who will be my successor at the court… I will say before I say the name, Mr Chairman, that I would like to say that I have met Mr Cardiff. I had not met him at that stage; at that stage I may have been a little angry in relation to the matter. I have subsequently revised my opinion, having met the gentlemen, met him twice and understood his interest in the position. I would apologise to him for sending that email. I did it in a moment of heat. If you read that, I do believe that… you can hear my sorrow in relation to it.”

* “I am obviously sorry for sending that email at the time that I did.”

* “I was not seeking to influence anybody. I was letting off steam.”

* “I reiterate the apology. This, I don’t believe, should have been in the public domain. It was a private email between two people… one was communicating with the other. This should not be brought into the public domain. It does Mr Cardiff a disservice. That is not my intention. I have revised my opinion of Mr Cardiff after I have met him. And I do believe, as I said in the media already, that he is a very credible appointment by the Irish Government to the European Court of Auditors.”

* “It is, yes (a serious allegation that the state condoned the “window-dressing” of the accounts of Irish banks). And I would say again that I am not happy with what I did when I sent that email. It was an expression of a private matter which I should not have communicated to another person. I am sorry for it.”

* “On that particular day, I sent one other email to a lady by the name of Ingeborg Grässle, and it was I believe an exactly similar email.”

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