Coughlan and Hanafin downplay ‘demotions’

TÁNAISTE Mary Coughlan and Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin have attempted to downplay their demotions in the Cabinet reshuffle.

The Tánaiste, who was moved from the Department of Enterprise to the Department of Education, said she knew two weeks ago her portfolios were going to be changed.

She claimed to have helped Taoiseach Brian Cowen arrive at his reshuffle decisions.

“I had fairly strong conversations over the last two weeks in supporting him and making his decisions,” she said.

Ms Coughlan told her local radio station in Donegal, Ocean FM, that she had enjoyed her time in Enterprise.

She rejected suggestions she had been glad to escape the department because of the criticism she had faced in the role.

“There was none of that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Hanafin, who was moved from the Department of Social Affairs (now renamed Social Protection) to the Department of Tourism, stressed the importance of her new portfolio. She said tourism was one of the country’s most valuable indigenous industries.

But Ms Hanafin admitted telling the Taoiseach that the move could be seen as a demotion.

The minister revealed that the Taoiseach had first informed her of the move in a meeting at 8.30am on Tuesday.

“He said he wanted to put an increased economic emphasis on tourism, the importance of it,” she told RTÉ radio yesterday.

“And he thought that I would be able to do that job.

“I did say that whereas I’d be very happy to take the job, that it would be perceived as a demotion, because unfortunately, media all over the years has perceived Arts, Sports and Culture to be something less important than some of the other departments.”

By way of response, the Taoiseach said the portfolio was “very important,” according to Ms Hanafin.

“But knowing it and perception are two very different things,” she added.

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