O'Rourke supports new jobs department


FIANNA FÁIL TD and former minister Mary O’Rourke yesterday supported the establishment of a new department focused on jobs and training.

Commenting on the possible outcome of a Cabinet reshuffle, she said: “The really big issue facing this country is the 400,000 people who are unemployed.

“I would like to see the huge sum of money spent on training through Fás, the Department of Education and the programmes funded by the Department of Social Welfare put into a new department with responsibility for jobs and training.”

Another Fianna Fáil TD, Mattie McGrath, called for major changes in personnel as well as the reorganisation of departments.

However, Cabinet sources do not believe the Taoiseach will conduct a major purge. He has one vacancy to fill following the resignation of Willie O’Dea at Defence. Martin Cullen’s serious back ailment is likely to lead to his departure also.

The McCarthy report recommended the breaking up of Mr Cullen’s Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. The report also recommended the breaking up of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, but its Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, is expected to remain in Cabinet.

The future of Minister for Health Mary Harney has also been the subject of speculation, but her future appears to be in her own hands. “If Mary Harney wants to stay she will stay,” said one Cabinet colleague, who said her political experience and judgment were highly valued by the Taoiseach.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny dismissed talk of a ministerial reshuffle as a distraction from the real needs of the country. “The Government should shuffle off the stage as they have lost the moral authority to lead and their integrity is in shreds,” he said.

Labour Party spokeswoman on social welfare Róisín Shortall welcomed the indications that the Taoiseach was considering a significant reshuffle and a reorganisation of government departments.