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Government likely to get second chance on Cardiff nomination

European Parliament rules mean the full plenary vote now cannot give Kevin Cardiff the EU job – opening the door for a second nominee.

Unprecedented circumstances in the European Parliament may give the Irish government a chance to withdraw Kevin Cardiff's nomination to the European Court of Auditors.
Unprecedented circumstances in the European Parliament may give the Irish government a chance to withdraw Kevin Cardiff's nomination to the European Court of Auditors.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT is likely to be given a chance to reconsider the nomination of Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors, it has emerged.

Unprecedented circumstances following last week’s vote of the European Parliament committee, which voted against recommending Cardiff’s nomination to the €229,000 position on the EU’s independent auditing body, are virtually certain to mean that Ireland will be given the opportunity to submit a replacement nominee.

The developments will put the government to the test on its continued support of Cardiff’s nomination, which comes in the face of renewed scrutiny of his status in the Department of Finance at the time of the 2008 banking collapse.

Wednesday’s vote by the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee did not immediately end Cardiff’s nomination campaign, but instead means that the parliament’s full plenary session – the monthly meeting of all 736 MEPs in Strasbourg – will be asked whether it agrees with the committee.

The committee’s vote against Cardiff, by 12 votes to 11, means that the plenary session’s vote will be on whether to endorse its “negative finding” on Cardiff’s proposed appointment.

If the plenary session votes Yes and upholds the committee’s finding, Cardiff is set to withdraw from the process – having committed to doing so in a questionnaire compiled before his meeting with MEPs last Wednesday.

If the full parliament votes No and overturns the committee’s motion, however, it would find itself in previously uncharted waters – creating a contradiction which will likely result in the current nomination being effectively nullified.

Two ‘No’s and a Yes

Though there is no precedent to follow in those circumstances, it is now believed that instead of superseding the committee’s vote, the plenary can only cancel it out – and, crucially, cannot vote on a separate motion which would send Cardiff on for nomination.

A pro-Cardiff vote at the plenary session would therefore mean his nomination is sent back to square one – putting him back in front of the Budgetary Control Committee which has already voted against him.

The reopening of nominations, however, would mean that the Irish government would retain the prerogative to name a replacement nominee – a prospect it has so far refused to contemplate.

The only previous instance where the European committee has rejected a nominee was in 2004, when two nominees were given similar ‘negative opinions’ – both of which were upheld by the parliament at large.

One of those two nominees, Constantinos Karmios from Cyprus, then withdrew his nomination – though Slovakia’s Julius Molnár was appointed by the council of leaders in spite of the parliament’s opposition, bowing to political pressure from Slovakia which had only just joined the Union.

The current situation is further complicated by the political fallout following the news that Ireland’s current member of the court, Eoin O’Shea, had contacted two influential MEPs on the Budgetary Control Committee to raise concerns over Cardiff’s role in the events preceding the banking collapse.

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