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Saturday 14 December 2019

Taoiseach keeps his friends close with plum jobs

Cowen's allies are rewarded for loyalty

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has drawn his allies closer to him in the Cabinet through his latest reshuffle.

He had already promoted his close ally Batt O'Keeffe to the Department of Education when he became Taoiseach, and has now moved him to the key economic portfolio of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

Mr Cowen has also promoted another ally, Dublin Mid-West TD John Curran, to Government chief whip.

He also retained two close colleagues in the junior ministerial ranks -- Junior Minister for Housing Michael Finneran and Junior Minister for Mental Health John Moloney, who has been praised for his efforts to re-house patients from crumbling mental health institutions.

Although Mr Cowen transferred Tanaiste Mary Coughlan from the Department of Enterprise to the Department of Education and Skills, he can still count on her as a close friend and ally.

Mr Curran yesterday denied ministers were getting promotions because they were friends of Mr Cowen. He said there were other TDs in the party who were friends of Mr Cowen but were not promoted.

Government assistant chief whip John Cregan, who was known to be a personal friend of Mr Cowen's, was overlooked for a junior minister post in favour of Wexford's Sean Connick.

A Fianna Fail backbencher said he believed that Mr Cowen was appointing ministers on merit.

He pointed out that two of the newly promoted ministers -- Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey and Junior Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Food Sean Connick -- were well-regarded for their abilities in the party but not thought to be particularly close to Mr Cowen.

Mr Cowen has also not brought back former Marine Minister Frank Fahey as a junior or senior minister, despite his friendship with him.

Mr Fahey has been at the centre of controversy due to his involvement in the setting up of the controversial 'Lost at Sea' scheme to compensate certain fishing families.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has criticised the scheme, saying its design and the way it was advertised were "contrary to fair and sound administration".

But last month, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan appointed former Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan (another close friend of Mr Cowen) to a €131,000-a-year key European post, less than a year after he lost his seat in the European elections.

Mr Ryan was named as the new Irish representative in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Irish Independent

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