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Irish rep on Court of Auditors: I emailed MEPs to lobby against Cardiff

Eoin O’Shea admits to emailing two influential MEPs on the Budgetary Control Committee advising against Kevin Cardiff’s appointment.

Eoin O'Shea has admitted to emailing two influential MEPs criticising Kevin Cardiff's nomination to replace him.
Eoin O'Shea has admitted to emailing two influential MEPs criticising Kevin Cardiff's nomination to replace him.

Updated, 16.55

IRELAND’S CURRENT MEMBER of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O’Shea, has admitted to emailing two influential members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, advising against the nomination of Kevin Cardiff.

O’Shea this lunchtime revealed he had emailed Jens Geier and Ingeborg Grässle – two German MEPs who serve as the whips of the two largest groupings on the committee – to argue against Cardiff’s appointment as his successor, saying he had done so because he was annoyed at not being nominated for another term himself.

O’Shea – who was nominated the Luxembourg-based court after Ireland’s previous member Maire Geoghegan-Quinn moved to the European Commission – made the disclosure at a meeting of the Oireachtas committee on European Union Affairs, after Labour TD Colm Keaveney was given a copy of one of the email sent to Geier.

The disclosure was met with shock by TDs and Senators, who said the actions could have had a critical impact on yesterday’s vote by the parliament to recommend against Cardiff’s nomination.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny later said he was “disappointed” to hear of O’Shea’s actions, and insisted that the government did not intend to reappoint him.

The news may significantly alter Cardiff’s chances of nomination, depending on the impact of the actions now being planned by the Oireachtas committee on EU Affairs and the Irish government in response to O’Shea’s unexpected and unprecedented intervention.

Leaked email

The email came to light when the committee broke to allow members attend a Dáil vote – when Keaveney was given a copy of the email which was then shared with the committee chairman, fellow Labour TD Joe Costello.

Extracts of the email – written to Geier – were then read to the committee:

Dr Mr Geier,

I just wanted to let you know the Irish government decided to replace me at the court.

Their suggestion is an Irish civil servant who was responsible for financial supervision at the time 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 instructions, in respect of €7bn. [sic] [...]

In the meantime, I will continue to work hard [...]

O’Shea admitted to writing the mail, and when asked if he had written to any other members, conceded that he had written a similar mail to Grässle. The two recipients are high-ranking and influential members of the committee.

O’Shea said he had decided to make contact because he was frustrated at the government’s decision not to return him to the court, and had described Cardiff in terms which he said he now regretted.

He had chosen those two MEPs to contact because they were the ones with which he had the most dealings, describing them as “significant” members of the committee.

He said his email had been sent in a private and personal capacity, “in a moment of heat”, and apologised to Cardiff for sending them. The 35-year-old said he had revised his opinion in the meantime, having met Cardiff twice.

He later insisted, however, that while his emails were sent “in haste”, they had not influenced the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, which voted by 12-11 against Cardiff’s nomination.

Geier and Grässle

At yesterday’s meeting Cardiff – currently the secretary-general at the Department of Finance – was subjected to stinging questioning in which Geier and Grässle played a major role.

Government sources this afternoon indicated that O’Shea’s intervention in Cardiff’s appointment was unprecedented and not to be expected from the current Irish member of the court.

Having initially discussed his email to Geier, Costello asked O’Shea whether he had contacted other members, to which O’Shea admitted to making contact with Grässle.

Costello proposed that the committee seek to contact Geier and ascertain whether O’Shea’s email had adversely affected his opinion and his vote on Cardiff’s appointment.

He also said the committee would write to the European committee’s chair Jan Mulder and to the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, to notify them of O’Shea’s actions, in advance of the plenary session which will vote on Cardiff’s final nomination.

He further proposed that the Oireachtas committee seek to meet with the European committee to discuss the impact of O’Shea’s actions.

This was opposed by Timmy Dooley, the sole Fianna Fáil member on the committee, who said O’Shea was being subjected to a “summary conviction”.

Influential

Grässle is the European People’s Party convenor, or whip, on the committee – the de facto leader of 10 of the members, almost all of whom are thought to have voted against Cardiff’s appointment, despite Fine Gael being a member of the EPP grouping.

Geier holds a similar role in the grouping of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PSD), of which the Irish Labour party is a member, and which has another 8 members.

During yesterday’s meeting, Grässle specifically said she had received a significant number of emails from people in Ireland, complaining about Cardiff’s nomination given his senior position in the Department of Finance during the banking collapse of 2008.

Geier was also particularly critical of Cardiff in the public hearings, referring to reports which laid the blame for the crisis at Cardiff’s feet.

Earlier today, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had told the Dáil that Cardiff remained the Irish government’s nominee to the Court.

Though Labour MEP Prionsias de Rossa said the committee rapporteur Inés Sender intended to recommend Cardiff’s appointment, in spite of its vote against it, Mulder this afternoon told RTÉ that Sender could not make recommendations which conflicted with its vote.

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Gavan Reilly

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