Ruairi Quinn to resign as Minister for Education
Joan Burton was not expected to re-appoint Quinn if she became the new Labour leader
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has announced he will resign from Cabinet in next week’s reshuffle.
Mr Quinn has also announced his intention to retire from politics at the next general election.
Speaking on the Leinster House plinth today, Mr Quinn said: “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.”
Speculation had been mounting in political circles in recent weeks over Mr Quinn’s future in Cabinet.
He was not expected to retain the Education portfolio in the upcoming reshuffle. It is believed the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton would have been unwilling to re-appoint him if she becomes the new Labour Party Leader.
Mr Quinn said his decision “has perhaps come a little sooner than I might have liked.”
He added that he was stepping down to give the new Labour Party leader more options, saying he was clearing the park for the person who leads Labour to make decisions about Cabinet personnel without the incumbents.
“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 out party,” he said.
When asked if his resignation was an act of petulance before being pushed, Mr Quinn said he’s not known for petulance and that his relations with Joan Burton are “very, very good”.
On the question of the Labour Party leadership contest, Mr Quinn declined to tell reporters which candidate he had voted for.
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills Sean Sherlock said he was shocked by Mr Quinn’s decision to step down.
“I’m in shock because I think Ruairi has been one of the most reforming ministers that I have ever encountered,” he said.
He added: “As my boss in the Department of Education, I have to say that I am extremely sad to see him go because he has brought that reforming zeal with him to the Department of Education and Skills.”
Mr Quinn, a Dublin South East TD, has been Minister for Education and Skills since March 2011, when the current Government came to power.
Two major planks of his tenure in Education were a plan to increase diversity of school patronage and to reform the Junior Certificate examinations.
He came in for criticism from third level students after he backtracked on a pre-election pledge to reverse a proposed increase in college registration fees.
Mr Quinn was first elected to the Dáil in Dublin South East in 1977. He held various ministerial positions during the 1980s and 1990s, including minister for finance from 1994 to 1997. He lead the Labour Party in opposition from 1997 to 2002 when he was succeeded by Pat Rabbitte.