Taoiseach fails to outline priorities for year ahead on Saudi trip
ENDA Kenny says his priority for the year ahead is spreading the message that Ireland is "open for business" but remains vague on the political challenges ahead.
The Taoiseach was speaking on the second day of his four-country trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, where he was asked to describe his priorities for 2014.
But his failure to outline any other priorities at a time when services such as health remain under strain -- and when winning a deal from the EU to claw back some of Ireland's bank bailout costs remains elusive -- will leave some observers scratching their heads.
"Our message is this: look we're open for business, we want now to move on post- bailout to doing what we know we can do best -- that is be competitive, be cost-effective, be the best at what we do.
"That's exporting from Ireland and in partnership with other countries," Mr Kenny said.
The heavy stress on pushing Ireland as a good news story among potential business partners and investors abroad probably reflects the circumstances of where the question was asked, at the end of the first leg of a whistle-stop tour of the Middle East's booming Gulf region.
But 2014 is already shaping up to be a big year on the political front with the first cabinet reshuffle planned since the Government took office in 2011 as well as local and European elections.
The Government is also due to announce exactly how much households will have to pay in water charges by March, with billing beginning in October.
It will also be finally setting up the long-awaited banking inquiry, which will examine the decision of the previous Fianna Fail government to go ahead with the state banking guarantee in 2008.
Mr Kenny has promised that there will be a cabinet reshuffle after the local and European elections in May, with much focus on whether Health Minister Dr James Reilly will be left in his portfolio.
Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said his priority for this year was delivering on the Action Plan for Jobs, including leading more international trade missions to countries where Irish companies could be able to win new business.
Since the jobs plan was launched in 2012 the number of overseas trade missions has gone up from an average of just under nine a year to 17.
Speaking in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Mr Bruton said he was eyeing Singapore as the next target for an Irish trade drive.