Kenny reneges on pledge to reduce ministers
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny yesterday broke his first promise to "radically change" the political system -- by appointing 15 junior ministers.
He had publicly pledged exactly two years ago to reduce the number of junior ministers to 12, but went ahead with a full team of ministers on an annual salary of €130,000 each.
Among those promoted were three TDs who played a prominent role in the failed leadership heave against Mr Kenny last summer -- including Lucinda Creighton.
Exactly two years ago today, Mr Kenny had publicly stated that Fine Gael would reduce the number of junior ministers (then 20) by eight as part of its plan to "radically change" the political system.
"Fine Gael is prepared to make the correct changes and show leadership on an issue that we all have direct responsibility for," he said.
Last night, Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said Fine Gael had broken its promise to reduce the number of junior ministers.
"The universal social charge, burning the bondholders -- it's another populist promise which they are conveniently reneging on, now that they are past the election period," he said.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore managed to quell dissent in the Labour Party last night by compensating some of the female TDs who lost out on cabinet posts. He told his six new junior ministers, half of whom are female, to "work hard and make sure you represent the people well".
None of the junior ministers will be travelling abroad for St Patrick's Day as the Government slashed the number of visits by two-thirds. And their salaries have been cut by 6.6pc -- from €139,000 to €130,000.
Just three-quarters of an hour before the announcement of the junior-ministerial appointments yesterday, the new Government's press team declared that it did not know how many would be chosen.
This was despite the fact that Labour's "super junior" minister Willie Penrose had publicly stated on RTE's 'News at One' that he expected 15 people to be appointed.
The cabinet briefing was hosted by government press secretary Eoghan O Neachtain, who served under former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. He confirmed yesterday that he was being retained on an interim basis by the new coalition Government.
At his first proper cabinet briefing, Fine Gael spokesman Feargal Purcell, who is due to become the next Government Press Secretary, described questions from the media about the retention of Mr O Neachtain as "ridiculous".