Sunday 28 December 2014

New Tanaiste Burton wants Jobs Ministry from Fine Gael

Fionnan Sheahan, Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

Joan Burton celebrates becoming Labour Party leader with her daughter Aoife Carroll after the count at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Joan Burton celebrates becoming Labour Party leader with her daughter Aoife Carroll after the count at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
New leader of the Labour party Joan Burton is congratulated by former leader Eamon Gilmore at the Mansion House in Dublin. PA
Newly elected Labour Leader, Joan Burton with outgoing leader, Eamon Gilmore at the Mansion House, Dublin this evening after she was announced as new leader. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
04/07/14 Newly elected Labour Leader, Joan Burton at the Mansion House, Dublin this evening after she was announced as new leader for the Labour Party Leadership elections this afternoon ....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
A Ballot paper giving Joan burton, TD a number one at the Labour Leadership Elections at the round room in the Mansion House. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 4/7/2014

NEW Tanaiste Joan Burton will demand concessions for low-paid working families when she goes into fresh coalition talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Ms Burton will also trade off the European Commissioner's post in negotiations on the carve-up of cabinet posts.

The new Labour leader wants her party to secure the jobs portfolio, currently held by Fine Gael's Richard Bruton, and will fight hard for it.

Fine Gael wants the EU position, with Environment Minister Phil Hogan strongly indicating last night that he will be leaving his department in the reshuffle.

Ms Burton won the Labour leadership by a huge margin, gaining 77.5pc of the vote compared with the 22.5pc secured by her only rival Alex White.

With a cabinet reshuffle now just days away, speculation about new faces is intensifying. Labour senator Ivana Bacik is being linked with a dramatic elevation to the Cabinet.

Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe is being tipped to take over the high-profile junior finance ministry.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is said to be keen to have him in his department.

And defeated Labour leadership candidate Alex White is uncertain of a full Cabinet post, but is viewed as a possible super junior minister, who sits at the Cabinet table.

Labour's new deputy leader Alan Kelly is a certainty for Cabinet, possibly in the Jobs, Education or Communications portfolio.

Labour's Kathleen Lynch is also a favourite for promotion to Cabinet level.

After securing a huge mandate in the Labour leadership race, taking more than three-quarters of the votes, Ms Burton will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Monday to discuss the new shape of the Coalition.

Alongside the reshuffle, the Government is expected to relaunch the Programme for Government.

Ms Burton immediately insisted on the setting up of an independent body, which would make recommendations to the Government on pay for lower earners.

The Low Pay Commission would examine whether the minimum wage should be increased and other related issues.

She indicated that wage changes will form part of a "renewed set of policy priorities" which she will present to the Taoiseach.

Ms Burton also renewed her calls for the introduction of a 'living wage' – a system that operates in London and aims to ensure that workers can afford to cover basic needs such as food and housing.

Fine Gael ministers have voiced their opposition to prioritising wage increases as they will create a barrier to job creation and damage competitiveness.

Ms Burton also said the issue of housing will form the basis of a major focus now that she is Tanaiste.

Over the weekend, advisers to Mr Kenny and Ms Burton are expected to be in contact on the new Coalition deal.

Mr Kenny's staff and Ms Burton's aides were already using back-channels over recent weeks to tease out each other's positions.

The parties have identified housing, mortgage arrears, political reform, including the justice sector, and tax, including low pay, as the priorities as well as jobs.

After her comprehensive victory, Ms Burton said the Coalition had in the past governed "too much with the head and not enough with the heart".

Meanwhile, Mr Kelly said Labour wanted to pick Ireland's next European Commissioner.

He said everything was up for grabs in terms of the looming reshuffle of senior Cabinet and ministerial posts, but also the position of commissioner.

Outgoing Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has increasingly been linked with the post in recent weeks.

But Mr Hogan is the long- believed frontrunner for the post and party colleagues say he appears to be increasingly confident.

Last night his officials said "the general feeling is that he will not return to this department either way" after the reshuffle.

Mr Kelly said he expected to be in Cabinet, where he would be an outspoken defender of "Labour values".

Ms Burton said her predecessor, Eamon Gilmore, was "eminently well qualified" for Ireland's EU Commissioner post. She refused to accept Fine Gael's claims that the job will go to Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Irish Independent

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