Wednesday 21 March 2018

Burton will be forced to sack Rabbitte in reshuffle

Spotlight falls on minister after cabinet colleague Quinn quits office

Niall O'Connor and Fionnan Sheahan

JOAN Burton will be forced to sack Pat Rabbitte in the Cabinet reshuffle next week as the veteran Labour Party minister is refusing to stand aside to let fresh blood be promoted.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is also going to be dropped, regardless of whether he becomes European Commissioner.

Following the announcement by Ruairi Quinn that he will not seek to be included in the new Cabinet, the spotlight has fallen on Mr Rabbitte.

The relationship between Ms Burton, the Labour leadership favourite, and Mr Rabbitte is known to be poor and was described by one party source as "frosty".

Supporters of Ms Burton described Mr Quinn's actions as "dignified and graceful" and ruled out any suggestion of Mr Rabbitte being kept on.

"No, there isn't any new friendship there," a party source said.

Mr Quinn was viewed as jumping before he was pushed. But it was still seen within the party as making it easier for Ms Burton than having to be dropped.

Labour figures believe there is no chance of Mr Rabbitte being retained by Ms Burton as a minister or going down the same route as Mr Quinn beforehand.

"I don't expect him to make any such announcement. In fact, probably the exact opposite. He is less clear about whether he wants to run in the general election. There would be an element of stubbornness from him in not wanting to make it easier on her," a party source said.

"If he goes to the backbenches, he'll probably have his own radio show by December," the source added, in reference to Mr Rabbitte's frequent appearances on radio shows.

Mr Rabbitte accepted Mr Quinn's assertion that younger politicians need to be allowed come through the ranks.

But the Communications Minister said he has no plans to follow suit and wants to remain in his current portfolio.

"I'd very much like to see through the work we have under way here. This is very much a developmental department that is central and pivotal to economic performance in the future whether you're talking about energy or telecoms or natural resources, it's a centrally important economic agenda and it's one I would like to be able to continue," he said.

The Dublin South-West TD also lauded his own involvement in Ireland's economic recovery in a clear signal that he wants to remain in Cabinet.

"It's very important young people come through the system. It's also very important that experienced people are in place.

"And I think that was the great merit of Ruairi's involvement and a number of others of us after the crisis in 2008 and taking over Government in 2011, that there were people in Cabinet who had been there before and who understood the challenge that was facing the country, which was an existential crisis at the time," he said.

"So, you know, it's like anywhere else, of course there ought to be a good mix of experienced people and new people given the opportunity to demonstrate their talent," he added.

The majority of the Labour parliamentary party last night paid tribute to Mr Quinn, who was branded by several as a "reforming minister".

At the meeting, former Dublin MEP Emer Costello raised the prospect of Mr Gilmore becoming Ireland's next EU Commissioner.

A number of other Labour TDs and senators signalled their agreement that Mr Gilmore would make an "ideal commissioner".

Mr Gilmore did not address the issue of the commissionership at the meeting and instead paid tribute to Ms Costello and Mr Quinn.

Speaking to the media after announcing his resignation, Mr Quinn admitted it had come "perhaps a little sooner than I might have liked".

He said he informed Mr Gilmore, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the expected new leader of the party, Ms Burton, about his decision to resign.

"I want to ensure that the new leader of my party, whoever that may be, has the opportunity to create their own team on their own terms.

"An opportunity to give a new generation a chance to lead, a chance to rebuild out party," Mr Quinn said.

The veteran TD insisted that he has a "very, very good" relationship with Ms Burton but refused to say whether he voted for the Social Protection Minister in the leadership contest.

"It's a private ballot," he said.

Irish Independent

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