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Sunday 23 July 2017

Hanafin puts brave face on shock move

Fionnan Sheahan, Political Editor

Mary Hanafin put an extremely brave face on her second shock demotion under Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

After being moved downwards from Education to Social and Family Affairs two years ago, she was again downgraded to Tourism, Culture and Sport.

The so-called Minister for Fun position has been regarded as the last post in the Cabinet for ministers on the way out the door.

But the minister's latest shafting by Mr Cowen was an eyebrow-raising element of the reshuffle as she was perceived to be in line for a heftier position, given her competency.

Mr Cowen stressed the importance of the tourism sector in outlining his reshuffle.

"The tourism and hospitality industry employs over 200,000 people and brings in over €6bn in revenue to this country every year. We want to significantly grow this business," he said.

The Taoiseach transferred responsibility for the horse and greyhound racing industries to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Ms Hanafin said the Taoiseach asked her to concentrate on the economic aspects of tourism, as he wanted to develop it as part of the economy.

The minister denied her move was a demotion.

"Absolutely not. I'm genuinely delighted to be in Arts, Sports and Tourism. I think that tourism is one of the few indigenous industries we have, with so many people employed -- there are 200,000 people employed in the tourism industry," she said.

Scope

"I think there is great scope to develop it, that would certainly be my aim in this. I want to make sure that we market the country properly at home and abroad and that we increase not only the tourism but the spend from tourists.

"The day you lose sight of creativity and arts and culture -- what this country is famous for -- will be a very sad day, and I intend to get out there and promote it," she said.

Ms Hanafin said she wasn't "overly surprised" because she had indicated she had achieved really what she had wanted to do from a policy area.

"And once I saw that the policy of the Department of Social Welfare has actually been taken from it, and has actually gone to another department, I can't say that I'm sorry as I wouldn't like a department with no policy direction," she said.

Irish Independent

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