Coughlan new Tánaiste in Cowen Cabinet

Wed, May 7, 2008, 01:00

Brian Cowen at Aras an Uachtarain this evening when he received his seal of office from President Mary McAleese. Photograph Bryan O'Brien
Brian Cowen at Aras an Uachtarain this evening when he received his seal of office from President Mary McAleese.

Brian Cowen has appointed Mary Coughlan as Tánaiste and Brian Lenihan as Minister for Finance in his new Cabinet announced in the Dáil this evening.

Ms Coughlan will also be Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, while Micheál Martin will move from that ministry to head up the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Dermot Ahern is the new Minister for Justice, replacing Mr Lenihan. New faces in the Cabinet are Batt O’Keeffe who is the new Minister for Education and Brendan Smith who has been appointed as Minister for Agriculture.

Pat Carey has replaced Tom Kitt as Chief Whip, while Mary Hanafin has moved to Social and Family Affairs, the position vacated by Martin Cullen. Mr Cullen has been moved to Arts, Sport and Tourism, filling the position left by Seamus Brennan who didn’t put himself forward for inclusion in the new Cabinet.

Noel Dempsey stays in the Department of Transport, while Mary Harney has retained the health portfolio. Eamon O’Cuiv has retained the Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs brief. Green Party ministers John Gormley and Eamon Ryan have retained their ministries in Environment and Communications respectively. Willie O'Dea has again retained the Defence portfolio.

Mr Cowen also nominated a number of junior ministries. Pat Carey, as well as being Chief Whip, is Minister for State at the Department of Defence, while Barry Andrews is Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Dick Roche stays as Minister for European Affairs, while Trevor Sargent stays as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Mr Cowen and his new ministers arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin this evening to present the new ministers to President Mary McAleese, where they received their seals of office before holding the Cabinet's first meeting.

Announcing his Cabinet, Mr Cowen said his team were taking up their posts at a time of considerable global uncertainty.

“This applies to international economic conditions, reflecting the impact of turbulence in financial markets, inflationary pressures associated with the market for commodities especially oil and food, and the economic consequences of significant realignment in the geo-political order.”

"We also face the more strategic challenges of climate change and the appropriate response to be made across all sectors of our economy both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny congratulated the new Cabinet and wished them well.

But he warned: “You come into this House with your new seals of office, at a time when the Fianna Fáil slogan ‘A lot done – a lot more to do’ has become a sick reminder of riches squandered and hopes dashed.

“By assigning blame for our economic woes on foreign factors alone, Mr Cowen and his new Government encourage a dangerously complacent attitude ‘stay the course, wait for the storm to pass, and we'll be alright’," he said.

But Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the appointments represented a “recycled single-party Fianna Fáil Government.”

“The captain’s armband has been changed, there are a few substitutions, and some position switches, but this is essentially the same Government that has been in office for the last eleven years,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said: “This Government coasted along in good times, they had untold resources to throw at problems, they heartily congratulated themselves on their
supposed accomplishments.”

“It is not a Government capable of seeing our country through the difficult days that lie ahead, or to imbue our society with a new purpose and a new sense of national direction.

Mr Cowen earlier received his seal of office from President McAleese after his election as the State’s 12th Taoiseach.

He told the Dáil he was “deeply honoured” and would take up the role with “a genuine sense of humility” after he was elected to the post by 88 votes to 76.

He told the House that Ireland of 2008 was a much better place to live for its citizens than ever before and "far fewer of our people are struggling on the margins of our society".

But he acknowledged the Government faced the challenge of mobilising Irish citizens away from self-interest and towards community responsibility and social harmony.