Tánaiste Joan Burton has moved to allay concern among some Labour TDs that she got a raw deal in the attempted Government relaunch, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny prepared to sack a number of junior ministers.
With announcement of the junior minister positions in the Coalition set to complete the Government changes tomorrow, Ms Burton denied Labour had failed to land the departments it wanted, and that Mr Kenny had deliberately stolen her thunder by announcing free over-70s GP care by himself.
The Taoiseach is set for a clear-out of ministers from the junior ranks, with Fergus O’Dowd said to be fighting a rear-guard action to stay on. Those in danger of being axed include John Perry, Dinny McGinley, and Ciarán Cannon.
Damien English, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Simon Harris, and Michael Creed are
being tipped for promotion. On the Labour front, Joe Costello looks in trouble, with Michael McCarthy and John Lyons both set to be elevated. Kathleen Lynch is to have her Health role expanded, while Seán Sherlock is believed to be safe as junior minister for research and innovation.
Mr Kenny is said to have decided against a controversial increase in the number of posts that the creation of a special commemorations minister for upcoming national anniversaries would have meant.
As Labour tried to shift attention, Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, signalled tax cuts were on the way: “It is my strong view that we are now in a position to begin easing the burden on people so that people will feel the recovery that we are talking about impacts on their own lives and in their own family homes. There is a recognition that there is a very heavy burden on low and middle-income earners in our State. The transfer to the higher rate of tax is at a very low base, so we will look at all of that in the context of the budget.”
Ms Burton echoed the message of better economic times around the corner and the ability to avoid the planned €2bn tax and cuts package previously planned for October.
“We are now able to borrow at just above the German rates which was off the table when we arrived in government, so that actually changes the figures.”
Ms Burton also played down claims Mr Howlin and Michael Noonan, the finance minister, had to intervene to break deadlock in her talks with Mr Kenny on tax plans. With a number of Labour TDs privately expressing concern Labour did not land the Jobs portfolio in the shake-up, Ms Burton said she was glad to have gained Environment.
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