Finance Minister Michael Noonan is in the final lap of his career.

At 73 years of age he can now look back on successful stewardship of the economy as it has emerged from a financial crisis of huge proportions to becoming Europe's fastest growing country.

There has been speculation he may step down whenever Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaves his role.

However, recently Mr Noonan has become embroiled in an ill-tempered row with Sean Fleming, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The wrangle stems from a report by the PAC which criticised Minister Noonan's meeting with US vulture fund Cerberus. 

The fund bought a portfolio of loans from the State's National Asset Management Agency in highly controversial circumstances.

A day before Cerberus purchased the loans, its chairman John Snow met Michael Noonan and his officials.

Mr Snow is a former US Treasury Secretary. International players, such as Cerberus, frequently use political heavy hitters to lead their charm offensives around the world so they can gain access to the corridors of power.

If Cerberus had sent an unknown accountant as an envoy securing face time with a Government minister would be a bigger challenge.

According to Michael Noonan refusing to meet Mr Snow would have been "very unusual and indeed inappropriate" given he was a "notable individual" and the company was a big player. 

The Department of Finance argued the main purpose of the meeting was to explore the potential sale of Permanent TSB to Cerberus.

It also said there was a legal separation between the role of the Minister for Finance and NAMA's process of selling assets.

But the Public Accounts Committee, with the exception of Fine Gael members, criticised Michael Noonan.

It said it was "not procedurally appropriate" for the Minister for Finance to meet with senior Cerberus representatives the day before the bid closing date.

"This could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential  treatment," it added.

That was something Mr Noonan denied and he said he was not given an opportunity to respond.

A note from the Department of Finance following the meeting with Cerebrus showed that the fund's chairman John Snow raised NAMA during the meeting with Michael Noonan.

The note said when Mr Snow raised the agency's sales process "it was suggested that it would be most appropriate to discuss the issue at the NAMA meeting."

The interesting aspect to this is that the Department of Finance deemed it to be inappropriate to discuss NAMA's asset sale and correctly directed the vulture fund to talk to agency instead.

So it was alert to the problems of discussing a huge sale by NAMA with a potential purchaser while a deal was underway. 

But there is a broader context to all of this. 

Ireland had adopted a policy of courting international investors to purchase distressed assets as part of an effort to cleanse the banking system of non-performing loans.

Cerberus had already bought waste management company Greenstar and had also indicated an interest in buying more Irish assets.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Government policy of attracting vulture funds, it did make sense for the Minister fronting that strategy to meet potential investors.

The critical issue is timing of the meeting. Coming so close to Cerberus' purchase of a huge portfolio of Northern Ireland property loans for £1.3 billion (€1.5 billion) it was at best ill-advised. 

Perhaps the Department should have written to Cerberus in advance saying the Minister would have been unable to discuss NAMA at the meeting. 

Since the Public Accounts Committee's report was published, its chairman Sean Fleming has told the Dáil that Mr Noonan had concluded a conversation in the Leinster House restaurant by saying "you know I can injunct you."

The Department of Finance said that the Minister made it clear that although it was possible to seek an injunction that the Minister would not be doing so.

For a Finance Minister who is in the final lap of his tenure the row marks an unseemly bookend to his career.

Perhaps that explains why he is bristling at the condemnation.

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