Exit straight left - Quinn bows out before he is dropped
Analysis: Minister admits exit from Cabinet is coming ‘sooner than he might have liked’
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn announcing he will resign from Cabinet in next week’s reshuffle. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
Not many politicians get close to another decade in politics after their autobiographies are published, but the outgoing Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has already managed that feat.
The long-serving Dublin South-East TD was elected to Dublin City Council in 1974 and went on to serve as a Senator, deputy, junior and senior minister and leader of the Labour Party between 1997 and 2002.
He published his autobiography, “Straight Left: A Journey in Politics” back in 2005.
Today Mr Quinn said it was time to “make space” and give a new generation a chance to lead.
“I will not seek to continue as a member of Government after the election of a new leader of the Labour Party. My resignation as Minister will take effect on the day that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste announce their reshuffle,” he said.
“I want to ensure that the new leader of my party, whoever that may be, has the opportunity to create their own team on their own terms. An opportunity to give a new generation a chance to lead, a chance to rebuild our party.”
He also confirmed - and did his voice shake ever so slightly? - that he would not contest the next General Election, whenever that might occur.
(His nephew former Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn, who the Quinn family had hoped would eventually succeed the now outgoing Minister, recently lost his Dublin City Council seat.)
However, the blunt political reality is that what Mr Quinn did today was announce his intention to jump from the Cabinet ship before he was forced to walk the plank.
His admission that his decision to step down as a Minister had “come a little sooner than I might have liked” confirms this.
All commentary around the reshuffle indicated that the chances of Joan Burton, the clear front-runner in the Labour Party leadership contest, re-appointing Mr Quinn to Cabinet were extremely slim.
So with just days before what is expected to be a painful reshuffle for Labour politicians of his generation, Mr Quinn has made a last ditch attempt to seize something of the initiative.
Some around Leinster House say his announcement today was motivated by ego, although when this was put to him he said: “I don’t think I’m noted for my petulance.”
His dreams of reforming the education system have evaporated in the short space of time since Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore announced he was stepping down as Labour Party leader.
Faced with the indignity of being sacked, is it not simply human nature to want to depart with a little bit of pride?