Quinn resignation set to usher in sweeping changes in Cabinet

Rabbitte and Gilmore expected in firing line if Joan Burton elected leader of Labour

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn TD announcing he will resign from Cabinet. Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn TD announcing he will resign from Cabinet. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


Sweeping changes in the personnel and structure of the Government have been set in motion with the resignation of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

Mr Quinn announced yesterday he would be stepping down from the Government when the Cabinet is reshuffled next week, following the election of a new Labour Party leader tomorrow.

Joan Burton, the favourite to succeed Eamon Gilmore, is expected to drop Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and Mr Gilmore from her Cabinet team.

Labour Party sources said yesterday that Ms Burton would press Mr Gilmore’s claims to be Ireland’s next EU commissioner, although they did not expect Taoiseach Enda Kenny to concede the role which is expected to go to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

However, Ms Burton may be more successful in her objective of getting an important economic ministry for Labour, with growing speculation the Jobs and Enterprise portfolio will go to the party.

‘Structural changes’

Mr Kenny told the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night his priority would be to meet the new Labour leader to work out “a programme, strategy and systems” for the Government for the remainder of its term of office. He told his TDs and Senators there would be “structural changes”.

This was widely interpreted by his TDs as meaning there would be significant shifts in the allocation of departmental responsibilities, with new combinations of departments being agreed along with changes of personnel from both parties.

If Ms Burton becomes Labour leader, it is expected she will give Cabinet positions to her deputy leader, who will also be elected tomorrow, and that she will promote junior minister Kathleen Lynch to the Cabinet.

Ms Burton’s rival, Alex White, is also a strong contender for the Cabinet on the basis of his abilities and his geographical position as a TD for Dublin’s southside.

On the Fine Gael side, junior minister Paschal Donohoe is strongly tipped for promotion, while it is widely expected that James Reilly will move from Health and Richard Bruton will move from Jobs.

Sources said Mr Quinn effectively decided his time in Cabinet was up after Eamon Gilmore announced his intention to resign as Labour Party leader.