Tánaiste hints he might leave Department of Foreign Affairs
Labour leader says Government has been deflected from its core task in recent months
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, flanked by Joan Burton, candidate Lorraine Higgins, Emer Costello and Phil Prendergast at the launch of the Labour European and local election manifestos yesterday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has given a strong hint he will leave the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet reshuffle due to take place this summer.
Mr Gilmore said he was proud of his achievements in the department, particularly the restoration of the country’s reputation. In an interview with The Irish Times, he said, “When we went into Government there wasn’t a story in the international media that didn’t have a dying horse and a half-finished estate.
“We were one of the PIGS [economies]. I led the work to restore this country’s international reputation and we have done that successfully.
Nonetheless, he added: “I am not wedded to any particular department. What matters in Government is that we do a collective job of work.”
He said both he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny had made it clear that it was unlikely the Coalition would serve the full term with the same 15 Ministers in the same positions.
Mr Gilmore expressed his frustration that the Government has been deflected from its core task in recent months.
“I would have to say that the last few months have been very frustrating. They have been frustrating because the agenda to some extent was being set for us,” he said.
“I think the whole prolonged difficulties in relation to the Garda and the Department of Justice and the minister for justice and so on deflected Government from what was its core task.”
The Tánaiste said those issues were now being resolved with a number of initiatives, including the establishment of an independent Garda authority.
“We need to refocus and recommit to completing the job of recovery because it is not completed yet,” he said.
Mr Gilmore said the Government had been working hard for the past three years to bring about economic recovery and create jobs.
“We also have to look at the whole issue of for whom is the recovery intended. Working people in this country made huge sacrifices, some of them their jobs, many of them with their levels of pay and with their living standards, in order to bring about this recovery.
“I think that as recovery increases we have to look at how that recovery is distributed. The benefits of it should go in the first instance to those who made the sacrifices to make it happen,” he said.
Mr Gilmore said in three years the Government had achieved an exit from the bailout, despite the belief of some that it could not be done, and that exit had created a platform for recovery.
“Now it is about what kind of recovery and who is it for. We are not going back to the boom and bust. I am very clear that what the people have done in the past three years is to save their country from ruin. What we have to do is improve peoples’ circumstances again.”
Mr Gilmore insisted the Labour Party would perform well in the local and European elections, despite negative forecasts.
“It hasn’t been an easy campaign for us,” said the Labour leader, “but I think there is an increased understanding of what we had to do.” He said the party had deliberately planned a long campaign to get its message across.