Quinn had ‘unshakeable’ commitment to make State better - Burton
Minister hailed as ‘great statesman’ while opponents highlight ‘mistakes’
Politicians from Labour and other parties have paid tribute to the outgoing Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who has announced his decision to step down . Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times
Politicians from Labour and other parties have paid tribute to the outgoing Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who has announced his decision to step down will coincide with the reshuffle which is expected next week.
Minister for Social Protection and candidate for the Labour leadership, Joan Burton, thanked him for his service to the party and to public life.
His “commitment to making Ireland a better country for its citizens was unshakeable,” Ms Burton said.
As finance minister in the 1990s he “charted the course to economic prosperity with remarkable skill and steadiness,” she said. As education minister his contribution was “immense she said.
In his career he reflected the “very best values of Labour” and his legacy will be “lasting”, she said.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White, also a candidate for the party leadership, said history would look favourably on Mr Quinn’s career.
“Ruairí has had a long and illustrious ministerial career. History will look favourably on him during his time not only as Minister for Education and Skills, but also during his periods as Minister in the Departments of Finance, Enterprise and Employment, Public Service and Labour.”
Mr Quinn’s junior minister at the Department of Education, Minister of State for research and innovation Seán Sherlock, described the Minister as a “great statesman”.
“I am very sorry to learn that Ruairí is leaving. He has been an excellent Minister, and I know whoever steps into the breach will have to continue his reforms he has championed since 2011,” Mr Sherlock said.
“He has proved himself as a politician and as a great statesman, and I believe that history will be kind to him. As a serving Minister in that Department, I believe whoever is chosen to succeed Ruairí will continue on with the reforms he instigated.”
Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg has told RTÉ Mr Quinn would leave behind a “lifetime of service” and “a really excellent record”. Mr Stagg said the outgoing Minister had done an “excellent job” in the Department of Education.
However, Mr Stagg said there was a “great flow of ageism” in commentary about the reshuffle.
Labour Dublin Bay North deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he was sad to witness Mr Quinn’s announcement, and described the outgoing Minister as “one of my political heroes”.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said Mr Quinn’s “reforming zeal” as Education Minister was unparalleled.
“His political achievements are too numerous to mention as his tenure in Dáil Éireann began the year after I was born, but he will be regarded in history as a visionary and reforming politician and the ultimate statesman,” he said.
Fine Gael Minister of State for Training and Skills Ciarán Cannon said he had enjoyed a “very close and fruitful working relationship” with Mr Quinn.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to work alongside a fine politician with a lifetime of experience, but who, in living that life, never lost his zeal and passion for reform,” Mr Cannon said.
“Ruairi never allowed that flame for change to dim in his forty years in politics and for me that is the mark of someone who chose that life for the right reasons. I wish him and his family every happiness for the future.”
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on education Charlie McConalogue wished Mr Quinn well for the future.
“Ruairí Quinn has had a long and distinguished political career, spanning over 30 years. He served in numerous Ministries and can be proud of his political contribution to this country. I wish him well in his future endeavours,” Mr McConalogue said.
“However, in this Dáil, I believe his tenure as education minister has been disappointing, leaving several unfulfilled and broken promises in his wake. The education system has deteriorated across primary, secondary and third level under his leadership and significant repair work is required in order to restore and improve services.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien said he wished Mr Quinn well. Mr O’Brien described Mr Quinn as a reforming Minister who had made some “radical” changes to the education system.
However, Mr O’Brien was said Mr Quinn had also made mistakes and criticised him for having “stood over awful measures of austerity inflicted on people in Ireland”.
Mr O’Brien called for a new direction in education policy. “We hope new the Minister will continue progressive reforms but it’s not just about a new face but about a new direction in education policy, and ensuring that we invest appropriately in education in the future.”
Dublin Labour TD and running mate Kevin Humphreys said Mr Quinn had served “with distinction” across a range of departments and was always reforming. As party leader he “focused on social democratic policies that in hindsight would have done much to solve the problems thrown up by the Celtic Tiger and economic crash”
He described him as one of the State’s best finance ministers and said it would “It will remain one of the great counterfactuals of our history as to what could have been if he had steered the country’s finances into the 21st century”.