Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have said they were "disappointed" that the Irish member of the European Court of Auditors, Eoin O'Shea, sent disparaging e-mails about his nominated successor Kevin Cardiff.

Speaking this afternoon, however, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore refused to be drawn on whether Mr O'Shea should see out his term on the court.

Mr O'Shea earlier admitted sending an e-mail to MEPs criticising Mr Cardiff. Mr O'Shea was giving evidence before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs this morning.

The e-mail, which he described as personal and sent in a private capacity, was sent to a member of the European Parliament's budget committee, which yesterday rejected Mr Cardiff's nomination by a margin of one.

Mr O'Shea apologised for sending the e-mail, which criticised Mr Cardiff's role in the banking crisis. He said he had since changed his view of Mr Cardiff, and admitted the e-mail was written when he may have been feeling angry about not being re-appointed to the Court by the Government.

A Fianna Fáil TD has accused the committee of "hijacking" Mr O'Shea, and failing to treat him in a fair manner. Timmy Dooley was objecting to the committee's inquiring into the e-mail.

Deputy Dooley said it was clear the e-mail was prompted by resentment at Mr Cardiff's nomination, and that this would not have had as much impact as the public criticism of Mr Cardiff by MEPs.

The chairman of the committee, Joe Costello, said it had been agreed to write to the chairman of the European Parliament's budget committee to find out if the e-mails influenced its decision.

Mr O'Shea agreed to the suggestion that he should also write to the budget committee, to the President of the European Parliament, and to the Government to explain his actions.

He said the communication was sent "in haste and at an inopportune moment" for him, and he again apologised to Mr Cardiff. He said he did not believe the e-mails influenced the outcome, given what was in the public domain, but that did not mitigate the inappropriate conduct.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste earlier indicated that the process to nominate Mr Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors would continue. Mr Kenny said the decision on his appointment would be made by the European Parliament as a whole, and not a single committee.

The rapporteur of the European Parliament's budget committee which rejected Mr Cardiff's nomination has told RTÉ that her report on the hearing to be presented to the full parliament will be restricted to registering the committee's rejection of Mr Cardiff's nomination.

Ines Ayala Sender, a Spanish Socialist MEP, said the report would not contain any references to the e-mails send by the outgoing Irish member of the Court of Auditors to MEPs on the committee, nor would it carry any of her own opinions that the rejection be overturned by the plenary on December 13.

MEP wants issue to come back to committee

German MEP Ingeborg Grassle, has told RTÉ she will ask the full European Parliament to refer the nomination of Kevin Cardiff back to its budgetary affairs committee.

Ms Grassle, who is co-ordinator of the powerful centre-right grouping in parliament, she said wanted to calm the situation down. She said that Mr Cardiff had not made a bad impression at yesterday's hearing and she personally was neither for or against him.

But she added that she would like Mr Cardiff to answer a second questionnaire so that committee members could have a more objective view of his candidacy.

Ms Grassle said she needed to establish that there was no conflict of interest between Mr Cardiff's involvement in Ireland's bail-out negotiations and his future auditor role when the EU sets up a permanent bail-out fund in 2013.

Ms Grassle said she voted against Mr Cardiff's nomination because both the Socialist members on the committee and two Irish members refused to allow a postponement of the nomination so the issue could be clarified.

Vote "cannot be overturned", claims MEP

The chair of the European Parliament committee which narrowly rejected Mr Cardiff's nomination to the Court of Auditors has said that the committee's rapporteur has no right to overturn the vote in her recommendation to the parliament as a whole.

Jan Mulder, a Dutch Liberal MEP, told RTÉ News that the rapporteur "cannot overturn the vote".

He was speaking following claims by Labour MEP Proinsias de Rossa that the rapporteur on the Budgetary Control Committee, Ines Ayala Sender, a Spanish Socialist MEP, would be recommending to the plenary session in Strasbourg on December 13 that Mr Cardiff be accepted as Ireland's member on the Court of Auditors because of the narrowness of the vote against Mr Cardiff. In a secret ballot he was rejected by 12 votes to 11.

It is understood the European Parliament as a whole can overturn votes taken by parliament committees, although its unclear yet if this has ever occurred in the case of a Court of Auditors nomination hearing.