Taoiseach defends record amid ruins
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen declared yesterday that history would show his Government had worked in the national interest -- even as the Coalition disintegrated in front of him.
He was speaking after the resignation of six ministers had left his cabinet frontbench almost half-empty and his botched plans for a reshuffle had ensured no Green Party TDs were present in the Dail.
But Mr Cowen insisted that history would look positively on what he described as the Government's hard work to implement difficult but necessary decisions in the national interest.
"The Government, under my leadership, has followed a consistent path to help stabilise the economy in the aftermath of the biggest downturn in modern Irish economic history," the Taoiseach told the Dail.
Mr Cowen faced criticism from Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore that his failed cabinet reshuffle was a stroke that had backfired.
"I challenge the politically correct view that suggests that it was a stunt; far from it," the Taoiseach said.
Mr Cowen said he was now re-assigning his existing ministers to the vacant cabinet posts and there would be "no extra financial burden" placed on the State as a result of such appointments.
He defended his right to carry out a cabinet reshuffle -- even as it became clear that he did not have the support of his Green Party coalition partners.
"Members will also be aware that, under the Constitution, the Taoiseach has the prerogative to appoint members to his Government," Mr Cowen said.
Announcing that the General Election would be held on March 11, the Taoiseach said he would call on the electorate to back Fianna Fail in order to "secure the future of our country and to stay with the policies which will bring us success".
Mr Cowen said the Government would ensure that the Finance Bill was passed to implement Budget measures before it left office.
He paid tribute to the six cabinet ministers who had submitted their resignations -- citing the anti-gangland legislation of former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern's and road safety reforms of former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey as key achievements.
But Mr Cowen was interrupted by opposition heckles about Mr Dempsey's sponsorship of the scrapped e-voting machines project, which cost €51m.