Cowen seeks to fill four Cabinet posts after resignations

The Taoiseach Brian Cowen is set to undertake a major Cabinet reshuffle after four ministers who are retiring at the next election resigned from Cabinet.

The Taoiseach Brian Cowen is set to undertake a major Cabinet reshuffle after four ministers who are retiring at the next election resigned from Cabinet.

The Health Minister Mary Harney offered her resignation to Mr Cowen after announcing she would not contest the general election.

The Taoiseach later confirmed that he had also recieved the resignation letters of Ministers Tony Killeen, Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey.

What started as a trickle with Michael Martin's resignation from Cabinet last night turned into a flood for Mr Cowen who now has five vacant Cabinet posts to fill in a major reshuffle before the election.

Mary Harney announced last night that she would not contest the next election, but surprised colleagues by tendering her resignation from Cabinet at the same time.

She said she did not believe it was appropriate for someone not running in the election to remain in Cabinet.

But last night Mr Cowen confirmed that he also had resignation letters from Ministers Dempsey, Ahern and Killeen who are stepping down when the election is called, and he said he will submit them to the president with a recommendation that they be accepted.

The vacancies give Mr Cowen scope to appoint a new, front bench team before the election with junior ministers Dara Colleary, Peter Power, Martin Mansergh and Dick Roche all being mentioned for possible promotion.

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