Sunday 15 December 2019

Gilmore gains more say over policy as he expands his role

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has expanded his role in Taoiseach Enda Kenny's department in a move that will give him a greater influence over government policy.

Mr Gilmore is creating the Office of the Tanaiste -- a move similar to former Labour Party leader Dick Spring's term as Tanaiste in the 90s.

Currently there is no structure in place to support the title of Tanaiste and the change will give the role a greater structure and system. The new structure in Government Buildings will implement Mr Gilmore's own agenda and ensure the Labour Party is not sidelined on major issues.

The Tanaiste has appointed the highest ranking woman in the history of the Department of the Taoiseach to be in charge of his office.

Diplomat Geraldine Byrne Nason will become the second secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Gilmore said his office will co-ordinate his government responsibilities.

"What we are doing here is pulling together a number of strands and locating them under the same roof, which makes a lot of sense," he said.

Mr Gilmore's office will be in charge of the management of all activities at European Union level, with some staff relocating from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of the Taoiseach.


His office will also manage the Government Economic Management Council, the mini-Cabinet on economic policy, made up of Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

Mr Gilmore said the co-ordination of European Union activities would give a more joined-up approach to the Irish presence.

"In the light of a number of months' experience, we felt that this was something that made sense to do," he said.

"We are doing it slightly differently from the way that had originally planned to do it on day one of the Government and we have done that in the light of four to five months' experience," he added.


Under the previous Fianna Fail governments, the divide between the senior and junior coalition partners was always pronounced.

The best example of the role that junior parties had played in past coalitions came when Green Party leader John Gormley was woken up at home in the middle of the night to merely sign off on the state bank guarantee, which was negotiated by Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan.

Mr Gilmore insisted the coalition parties operated as equals in Government.

"There are two parties in Government. We're working together and as the time is progressing we are joining up the way in which government functions," he said.

"We have a system whereby we look at them and we examine them and so, and if there are issues that need to be sorted out, we sort them out between us," he added.

Ms Byrne Nason, as second secretary general, would also be responsible for "co-ordinating support for the Tanaiste in his whole-of-government responsibilities through the Office of the Tanaiste within the Department of the Taoiseach".

The current secretary general of the department, Dermot McCarthy, is due to be replaced this summer.

Government officials previously insisted the Tanaiste was not replicating Mr Spring's set-up during the Labour coalitions from 1992 to 1997 and denied the Office of the Tanaiste would be recreated. Mr Spring's operation was disbanded by then Tanaiste Mary Harney when the PDs came to power in 1997.

Irish Independent

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