Rabbitte criticised over claim Burton promoted for 'image'
THE National Women's Council has criticised Labour Party backbencher Pat Rabbitte after he claimed he handed promotions to Tánaiste Joan Burton in order to boost the party's image.
Mr Rabbitte has stoked up tensions with Ms Burton by insisting he was responsible for promoting her to the position of Labour finance spokesperson.
The Dublin South West TD, who previously served as Labour leader, said his decision to promote Ms Burton over Brendan Howlin was criticised at the time.
But he said he did so in order to boost her image and that of the party.
In an interview on RTE's 'The Saturday Night Show', Mr Rabbitte said he also previously stepped down from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) so that Ms Burton could fill his place.
"I made the decision to promote Joan Burton to our spokesperson on finance, it was criticised because (Public Expenditure Minister) Brendan Howlin would have been regarded to have had seniority and as very competent in that area. I thought it would be good for the party's image to have a woman," he said.
"I resigned from the Public Accounts Committee at the time and promoted Joan in my place to help her profile," he added.
The National Women's Council of Ireland (NCWI) described Mr Rabbitte's comments as "concerning" and said Ms Burton has clearly succeeded in politics based on her ability, not image.
"Referring to the promotion of women in terms of image is certainly something that does not help the cause of promoting women in politics," NCWI director Orla O'Connor told the Irish Independent.
"Promotions in politics are not about image. They are about ability.
"What we would say is that in some cases generally, women who have the relevant skills, abilities and competence are overlooked for promotion and that is sexist," Ms O'Connor added.
Mr Rabbitte has had a fraught relationship with Ms Burton since she sacked him from Cabinet last year.
He claimed at the time that he was replaced as Communications Minister due to the issues of "age and chemistry".
Ms Burton has denied she sacked him over his age.
Mr Rabbitte is the only Labour TD who has yet to inform party headquarters whether he will defend his seat in Dublin South West at the general election.
He said he intends to make a decision in the coming months.
Asked about Mr Rabbitte's comments at an event in Dublin yesterday, Ms Burton joked that she has not received an Easter egg from him this year.
"I also heard that (his comments on 'The Saturday Night Show') and I didn't see the programme but I want to wish Pat a very happy Easter and I'm waiting on the Easter egg," she told reporters.
Mr Rabbitte did not respond to a request for comment by the Irish Independent last night.