Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Coping classes better served by Labour young guns than veterans like Rabbitte'

Former Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath
Former Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte. Photo: Frank McGrath
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Labour Party's new cohort of ministers are better placed to represent the so-called 'coping classes' than former cabinet heavyweights Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn, a rising star in the party has claimed.

Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash said he believes those promoted in the recent ministerial reshuffle "properly reflect the demographic make-up of society".

And he strongly rejected Mr Rabbitte's assertion that first time TDs promoted by Labour leader Joan Burton ought to have "first served an apprenticeship".

The Louth TD, tipped as a future party leader, said Labour is now being led by ministers who truly understand the plight of the coping classes.

Mr Nash told the Sunday Independent: "We are now the people who are stepping up and taking that responsibility of turning this country around."

The outspoken new Labour frontbencher was handed the super junior ministerial post by Ms Burton, who also promoted Alan Kelly and Alex White to the Cabinet table.

"Pat is entitled to his opinion and I don't agree with it. I think he made his own views known and made some assumptions that people were demanding positions in the new Government. Certainly from my own point of view, it's not the way I operate. I never sought anything, I didn't seek preference," Mr Nash said during an interview with this newspaper.

Mr Rabbitte's criticisms of Ms Burton's appointments to the ministerial ranks have left the veteran politician alienated within some elements of the parliamentary party.

Within hours after being dropped as Communications Minister, Mr Rabbitte (65) suggested on RTE radio that age played a factor in the decision.

He later said in an interview with the Irish Independent that he has "great difficulty" with the appointments of Alan Kelly, Alex White and Mr Nash to cabinet.

However, Mr Nash (39), who last week called for a shift to a "wage-led recovery", said he believes the new ministers promoted by Ms Burton have a greater understanding of the needs of people who have lost their jobs and homeowners who are struggling to meet their monthly mortgage repayments.

Ms Burton herself suggested Labour best represents this generation during an interview with the Sunday Independent last month.

Mr Nash added: "To be honest, we have a well-balanced ministerial team now in terms of age, experience, gender. I think we properly reflect the demographic make-up of society. It's people like me and colleagues like Aodhan O Riordain and Ann Phelan and so on, reflect the reality of the challenges that are out there of people of our age.

"My peer group are the people who have done much of the heavy lifting of the last few years - the squeezed middle, the people who are in mortgage arrears, the people who have taken pay cuts in the public sector, the people who ultimately lost their jobs in the private sector who are now back at work - I can relate to that journey.

"I'm not saying that others can't. But it's through that lived experience that people like me have, that (means) we can better represent the needs of our generation."

Sunday Independent

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