Loyal troops delighted to take up cabinet positions
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night opted to promote two loyal members of his party to the Cabinet to fill the vacancies left by two shock ministerial resignations.
Junior Minister Tony Killeen was announced as the replacement for former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, and Government Chief Whip Pat Carey was promoted to fill the gap left by retiring Arts Minister Martin Cullen -- albeit to a different department.
There was also good news for Deputy Government Chief Whip John Curran, who was promoted to replace Mr Carey as the person responsible for winning Dail votes for the Government.
In his first public appearance as Defence Minister yesterday, Mr Killeen insisted that it was never a "bitter ambition" of his to be appointed to cabinet, but proclaimed himself delighted regardless.
"A lot of people would say it's better to be a minister in the good times -- the challenges at the moment are enormous. But I think the Government has already proven that it has made considerable progress in relation to the public finances and the banking crisis," he said.
However, Mr Killeen faces an immediate crisis as Defence Minister, with no new peacekeeping missions lined up for the highly trained troops of the Irish Army. Early next month most of the 230 soldiers currently serving in Kosovo and Bosnia are being withdrawn as the Irish involvement there is significantly wound down. And it is unlikely that the 410 Irish troops in Chad will be there till next year.
Mr Killeen pledged yesterday to work to find a new peacekeeping mission for the Defence Forces.
"The Irish Army is hugely respected internationally, particularly for its work with the United Nations, and if there are opportunities to do that in the future, I'm sure we'll be more than happy to avail of them," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Carey said he was looking forward to his new role as Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.
"To be back in an area I have spent a long time working in -- community, drugs policy, activation measures -- I'm delighted to be back here," he said.
A fluent Irish speaker, he promised "as Gaeilge" to continue the "excellent work" of his predecessor Eamon O Cuiv and asked for the co-operation of the Gaeltacht and wider Irish language community. And he denied that the only reason he had been given the "Equality" function was that the Green Party wanted it taken away from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
As the new Government Chief Whip, Mr Curran is facing an even more difficult challenge than his predecessor with the Government's numbers whittled down further by the resignation of Martin Cullen.
"Yes, it is going to be difficult and challenging. Certainly I will be meeting with all our members to show them the importance of their attendance," he said.
Mr Curran said he was confident that he would be able to get sufficient numbers to implement the Programme for Government.