'Outstanding' Burton not upset over role -- Gilmore
Published 12/03/2011 | 05:00
LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday attempted to put an end to the row over his treatment of his "outstanding" deputy leader Joan Burton.
The Tanaiste said he wanted to have the strongest possible minister in the Department of Social Protection -- and maintained she would be able to use her expertise in a broader way at the cabinet table.
"Joan Burton has a fabulous grasp of economic issues and her experience in that whole area will be brought to bear on the discussion," he said.
But Labour TD Tommy Broughan, who voted against his party's decision to go into government with Fine Gael, said he was disappointed with the position given to Ms Burton in light of her economic expertise.
"It's like playing (striker) Lionel Messi at centre-half for Barcelona," he said.
Mr Gilmore denied Ms Burton was upset and told RTE she was an "outstanding" member of his party.
But a party source said yesterday there was no doubt she was disappointed about Mr Gilmore's decision to give her responsibility for the Department of Social Protection rather than the more high-profile Department of Public Expenditure and Public Reform.
Ms Burton is set to break her silence on the appointment in a live RTE radio interview with Charlie Bird this morning -- but it is expected she will use the interview to draw a line under the controversy.
There is still a belief among some Labour party members that she was "shafted" despite having helped convince the party to oppose the state banking guarantee in September 2008 -- when some other Labour TDs wanted to support it.
National Women's Council of Ireland director Susan McKay said Labour had rejected someone who was "eminently qualified" like Ms Burton and had instead opted for more men -- a "safe pair of balls" -- instead.
"It puts the day when there could be a woman Taoiseach further on," she told Newstalk.
Mr Gilmore told RTE that he had picked his ministers with the aim of getting the strongest possible team to do the best job for the country.
"The portfolio that has been allocated to Joan Burton is the highest-spending department in the State. It is an area of huge importance," he said.
Ms Burton is not the only disappointed person in Labour -- the party's Cork South-Central TD Ciaran Lynch failed to secure a junior ministry despite having authored much of the housing policy that made it into the Programme for Government.
A party source said he must be feeling like the man who wrote the hit single 'Angels' -- which ended up propelling singer Robbie Williams to fame instead.