Tributes from across the political divide to a 'giant of Irish politics'
GLOWING tributes have been paid to outgoing Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, whose plans to resign were described as a "secret" by one of his cabinet colleagues.
Mr Quinn stunned even his own TDs after he announced he was stepping down just days before the cabinet reshuffle.
Labour TDs and senators last night heaped praise on Mr Quinn, whom they said had led radical reform in both primary and second-level education.
But privately, a number of party figures welcomed Mr Quinn's decision and said he would have lost his place at the cabinet table following the reshuffle.
Nonetheless, Mr Quinn was commended by politicians from different sides of the house.
Deputies pointed to his performance as finance minister in the 1990s and his role in the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly described his party colleague as the "best parliamentarian Ireland has ever had". Mr Quinn's constituency colleague Kevin Humphreys described him as a "giant of Irish politics".
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who is clear favourite to become the next Labour leader, described Mr Quinn's commitment to the country as "unshakeable".
"I know Ruairi will continue to fight for progressive change for the remainder of his time in the Dail and I look forward to the contribution he will continue to make, both to the party and to public life," she said.
Her opponent for the leadership, Alex White, said history would look favourably on Mr Quinn. "Ruairi has always served for the common good rather than for short-term political gain," he said.
Sinn Fein's education spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien said Mr Quinn was a "reforming minister" but added that he had made mistakes in reform to the new Junior Cert cycle.