Cowen moves Coughlan to Education in reshuffle
The Taoiseach has made seven changes to the Cabinet including the appointment of two new ministers and the switching of Tánaiste Mary Coughlan to the Education portfolio.
During his speech in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach announced his Cabinet reshuffle, with promotions going as expected, to Minister of State for Fisheries Tony Killeen and Government Chief Whip Pat Carey as he moved to fill vacancies created by the resignations of Willie O’Dea and Martin Cullen.
Ms Coughlan will remain as Tánaiste and Mary Harney will stay on as Minister for Health. Batt O'Keeffe has been moved from Education to the Enterprise, Trade, and Employment portfolio.
Mr Killeen is to become Minister of Defence, while Mr Carey moves to the renamed Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht affairs. Both men will cease to be ministers of state on their appointment to their new posts.
Mary Hanafin will move to the Department of Arts, Sport, and Tourism - Mr Cullen's previous portfolio. Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív moves to the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
Mr Cowen also announced Green deputies Ciarán Cuffe and Mary White and Fianna Fáil TD Seán Connick will become Ministers of State. Minister of State John Curran is to take up the position of Government Chief Whip, succeeding Mr Carey. The exact nature of the junior ministerial roles have not yet been confirmed.
Responsibility for the employment services of Fás is being transferred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which will become the Department of Social Protection.
The Department of Education and Science will be renamed the Department of Education and Skills, while the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will be called the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to reflect a greater focus on innovation, the Taoiseach said.
The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will become the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. This department will incorporate social inclusion, family, equality and integration policies previously the remit of the Departments of Social and Family Affairs and Department of Justice.
Mr Cowen also revealed he was moving responsibility for the horse and and greyhound racing industries from the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport to Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Junior enterprise minister Dara Calleary will become a Minister of State with responsibility for the modernisation of the public service, the Taoiseach said.
Announcing his reshuffle, Mr Cowen told the Dáil: "In bringing in new members of Government, I am reinvigorating my Ministerial team with experienced and capable colleagues. By reconfiguring Departmental responsibilities, I am taking the opportunity to bring fresh focus and renewed commitment to achieving our objectives across much of the machinery of Government.
"Public office in this country has never been more demanding but it is a privilege to serve the people. All of us as elected representatives in this House . . . have a primary duty to serve the people of this country to the best of our ability."
Commenting on departmental changes, the Taoiseach said: "Restructuring of departments and agencies inevitably entails disruption and costs, but I am satisfied that with the changes I am making, the benefits will outweigh the costs.
"A major focus of the changes I am making is the jobs agenda: creating the conditions for sustainable job creation, ensuring our people have the skills and competences to fill jobs, especially those with a high value-added content, and supporting those who have lost their jobs as they prepare for future employment," Mr Cowen said.
"Within the framework of the Government’s commitment to fiscal stability and the restoration of a functioning banking system, economic recovery will require a renewed focus on supporting enterprise and driving innovation."
Opposition leaders sharply criticised the reshuffle, however, and what they saw as a failure to remove Ministers who were involved in "crashing the Irish economy". All party leaders were particularly scathing of the retention of Minister for Health Mary Harney.
However, Mr Cowen told the Dáil there was no time to be wasted on extensive restructuring at the expense of action to implement Government policies,
The Taoiseach said restructuring of departments and agencies inevitably entailed disruption and costs, but he was satisfied the benefits would outweigh the costs in the changes he was making.
"A major focus of the changes I am making is the jobs agenda: creating the conditions for sustainable job creation, ensuring our people have the skills and competences to fill jobs, especially those with a high value-added content, and supporting those who have lost their jobs as they prepare for future employment," he added.
As President Mary McAleese is out of the country on a state visit to Turkey, the new Ministers will receive their seals of office at Áras an Uachtaráin from the Presidential Commission, which carries out the President’s functions in her absence.
The commission is composed of the Chief Justice, John Murray, the Ceann Comhairle, Séamus Kirk, and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Pat Moylan.