Kenny appoints second secretary general

Wed, Jul 13, 2011, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT has appointed a senior Irish diplomat as second secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, in a major move that will involve the transfer of responsibility for EU co-ordination to the department and the establishment of an Office of the Tánaiste.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday announced that Geraldine Byrne Nason, currently deputy permanent representative of Ireland to the EU, will take up the position in his department. He said the new role would “support the operation of two new mechanisms at the centre of Government to enhance co-ordination and effectiveness in the critical areas of EU affairs and economic management”.

Ms Byrne Nason will have responsibility for supporting the Government Economic Management Council, on which she will report to the Tánaiste, and will co-ordinate support for the Tánaiste in his engagement with whole-of-government issues, including Cabinet committee structures, through an Office of the Tánaiste within the Department of the Taoiseach.

A new unified EU division with personnel from the existing EU and international division in the Department of the Taoiseach and from the EU affairs division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be established in the department. It is understood that some 30 people will transfer from Foreign Affairs.

The external relations section of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ EU division will remain in place and will retain responsibility for bilateral relations with EU member states and for liaising with Ireland’s diplomatic missions in those countries.

In a memo sent to staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday, secretary general David Cooney said he wanted to stress that the new arrangements “do not reflect any lack of confidence on the part of the Government in the performance of this department”. On the contrary, he said, they “indicate a view that, at this time of change and adversity for the nation, the skills and experience developed and available in this department need to be deployed on a wider front”.

Mr Cooney noted that the new arrangements responded to “the evolution of EU institutional arrangements and practices” in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty. He said that the measures also responded to the need to ensure “stronger co-ordination and strategic direction of Ireland’s engagement with the EU” across the whole of Government. “It has long been recognised in this department that the necessary level of co-ordination can only be driven from within the Department of the Taoiseach,” he added.