Having served as a minister in six departments and spent more time as one than any other Labour politician, Ruairi Quinn announced his retirement and brought a close to his 40-year political career.
Days ahead of the expected Cabinet reshuffle, the Education Minister surprised all with his decision yesterday but insisted that it was to clear the path for the next generation in the Labour party.
Surrounded by his staff on the plinth at Leinster House, the Dublin South East TD did admit that his decision was a “little sooner” than he had liked.
As speculation turned to who might succeed Mr Quinn in education, political and education figures alike paid tribute to the 68-year-old’s long career. But students said he left a mixed legacy, reneging on the issue of college fees after the 2011 elections.
Sources close to Cabinet colleague Joan Burton, the favourite to win this week’s vote for a new Labour leader, said Mr Quinn’s early resignation decision was magnanimous and “a selfless act” which made the reshuffle process easier.
She said Mr Quinn, as finance minister in the 1990s, had charted a course to economic prosperity. As education minister, he tried make education fully inclusive, she said. “Throughout his career, Ruairi has reflected the very best values of the Labour party, and his legacy will be lasting.”
The ASTI, while praising his effort to reform the junior certificate cycle, said it was unfortunate he was minister “at a time of unprecedented financial crisis”.
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