Former arts, heritage, and Gaeltacht minister Jimmy Deenihan yesterday said he was naturally disappointed about being demoted in the recent Cabinet reshuffle by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
“I had some really good programmes going and achieved quite a lot both locally and nationally, even though I had been given reduced funding each year,” he said.
Speaking for the first time since Friday’s reshuffle, he denied the illegal turf-cutting on EU-protected bogs and the Limerick City of Culture arts debacle were key factors in the loss of his senior post.
“The Taoiseach was very happy with the way I pursued the whole peatlands issue in Europe,” he told Radio Kerry.
“Over 2,000 people have stayed off the bogs and we have paid out €8m in compensation. This year, less plots have been cut than last year.”
Mr Deenihan, who has a long history of involvement in issues affecting exiles, said he was looking forward to his new role as minister of state at the Taoiseach’s department with special responsibility for the diaspora.
The issue of allowing Irish citizens living abroad to vote in elections was an issue that would have to be considered in the future, he said.
He saw his new portfolio was a “real challenge” and he was already in contact with emigrant organisations all over the world, and they with him.
“I’ve had a huge connection with the diaspora over the years and know that Irish people in Britain, Australia, and America now feel they have someone who understands their problems and will help solve them.”
The former All-Ireland winning Kerry football captain said he had been called in by Mr Kenny and given an explanation for the reshuffle, with the Taoiseach saying he had to look for a geographic and gender balance in the line-up.
“He thought I would fit the role with the diaspora, going on my record over the years.”
Mr Deenihan insisted he was still friends with Mr Kenny — with whom he recently completed the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle — and said he was looking forward to standing in the next general election in the Kerry constituency.
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