A career civil service mandarin, Cardiff joined the Department of Finance in 1984 before landing the top job last year.
While Cardiff has considerable experience in a number of roles, including the 'dark arts' of public service pay negotiations, it is all within the confines of the Department of Finance ? which has been accused recently of turning its back on external advice, particularly from the business sector.
It has been suggested that the department is run in an autocratic style by just a handful of top civil servants operating in 'silos' shuffling to and fro within the back corridors of Merrion Street.
While there are no questions about Cardiff's ability, he worked closely with finance minister Brian Lenihan over the last 18 months on the financial crisis. But the crisis was not averted and now Cardiff finds himself across the table from the very people who have come in to untangle the government's mess.
In his late 40s and married, Cardiff is a graduate of UCD and the University of Washington, which may help him as he tangles with the International Monetary Fund.
A British citizen with a master's degree cum laude in international relations from Cambridge and a BA in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington DC, Elderfield's appointment last January was the first time the government has gone outside the public service - and indeed the country - to fill such a critical post.
Apparently the government believed that Elderfield's qualifications were a better fit than those of his predecessor, Patrick Neary, who held degrees in Latin and Greek.
Elderfield (44) spent eight years with the UK Financial Services Authority regulating and supervising UK banks before departing in 2007 to head up the Bermuda Financial Authority which regulates Bermuda's financial markets.
The no-nonsense regulator, who has already established a tough reputation, has experience of how international banks and funds operate.
Before joining the UK regulator, he established the European operations of the International Swaps and Derivatives association.
He also worked briefly for the Washington-based consultancy firm, the Institute for Strategy Development, which means he should know the foibles of many of the IMF negotiators across the table.
Also, as a rabid fan of Leeds United football club, he would appreciate the efforts needed to pull a team back from the brink.
Like Kevin Cardiff in finance, John Corrigan (62) is a product of the public service, having been promoted to the top job in the NTMA this time last year following the departure of the €1m-a- year man, Michael Somers.
Corrigan has been with the NTMA almost since it was established in 1990 working predominantly in the National Pensions Reserve Fund – the rainy day fund set up by Charlie McCreevy at the height of the boom.
Prior to joining the NTMA in 1991, Corrigan was chief executive of AIB investment managers and so would have some idea of how bankers think. With this experience in mind, Corrigan was a key adviser to finance minister Brian Lenihan in relation to the bank guarantee scheme, a move which some see as pushing the country headlong into the mess it now finds itself.
Others, including finance minister Lenihan and presumably Corrigan himself, would argue that without the guarantee the mess would have been bigger.
On a considerably reduced salary to his predecessor Michael Somers, Corrigan has also adopted a lower profile since he took over what is the most powerful state finance job in the country. He is also seen as an 'old hand' at the job and should bring a steady influence at the negotiating table even if he was at the tiller while the problems mounted with the banks.
Like Corrigan, Patrick Honohan is in his early sixties and lends a bit of gravitas to the talks. Honohan has emerged from the crisis with some credit and is bringing some much-needed transparency to the unfolding developments.
This was never more evident than last week when, after a succession of senior ministers refused to confirm that the country was looking for a bailout, Honohan went on radio on Thursday morning to tell the Irish people that the country was in negotiations with the IMF on a bailout.
Unlike the other three, Honohan has an academic background and was appointed to the top job in the Central Bank from his 'day job' as Professor of International Financial Economics and Development in Trinity College.
Prior to that Honohan had two stints as senior adviser to the World Bank in Washington, while in the 1980s he was economic advisor to Garret FitzGerald during the on/off Fine Gael-led government of 1981 to 1982 and again from 1984 to 1986.
Honohan is in effect completing a career cycle as he worked for the Central Bank from 1976 to 1984.
Honohan, who must be amused to find himself liberally quoted by opposing sides in the debate on the bank guarantee, also worked for the IMF between from 1971 to 1973.
So he should be able to spot the weak points – if there are any.
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