BRIAN COWEN promoted five newcomers to junior ministerial posts last night as opposition parties accused him of indulging in “jobs for the boys” at taxpayers’ expense.
In a cautious reshuffle of the second-tier team, a mere three ministers of state — Michael Ahern, Pat “the Cope” Gallagher and John Brown — were dropped.
Winners in the shake-up included Tipperary South TD Martin Mansergh, with the former adviser to Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern given responsibility for the arts and the Office of Public Works.
Labours’ Joan Burton ridiculed the need for two arts ministers as Martin Cullen represents the portfolio at cabinet level, along with sport and tourism. She said Mr Cullen would now be “the minister for premieres and openings”.
The other newcomers included Limerick East’s Peter Power being put in charge of overseas aid, Laois-Offaly’s John Moloney given responsible for equality and disability, Leitrim’s Michael Finneran, TD for Roscommon/South elevated to housing, and Dublin Mid-West’s John Curran the new minister for drugs.
Two of the spaces were freed up by Mr Cowen promoting juniors to full cabinet rank last week, but Labour and Fine Gael insisted the Taoiseach should have cut back on the number of second-tier ministers, which has risen from 17 to 20 in the past year. When the delayed Government pay rises kick in, the juniors will earn €165,000 each.
Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar said Mr Cowen had “bottled” an opportunity to cut back on the number of junior posts.
“With the new ministerial pay hikes, the combined salary of junior and senior ministers will now reach €7.24 million a year. This cannot be justified and once again Mr Cowen has demonstrated he is all bluster and no bottle,” he said.
Ms Burton also questioned the need for so many junior ministers and told the Dáil they would lack relevant roles or budgets
The rest of the junior ranks include Noel Ahern at transport, with special responsibility for road safety, Conor Lenihan remains in charge of integration policy, Billy Kelleher has responsibility for labour affairs, John McGuinness, trade and commerce, Jimmy Devins, science, technology and innovation, Seán Power, the information society, Tony Killeen, fisheries and forestry, Mary Wallace, food safety, Seán Haughey, lifelong learning and school transport, Michael Kitt, local services, and Máire Hoctor, older people.
Four ministers of state were appointed last week when Barry Andrews was elevated to a “super-junior” position with responsibility for children.
The three others were minister with responsibility for food Trevor Sargent, Europe Minister Dick Roche, and Government chief whip Pat Carey, who will also have responsibility for active citizenship.
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