To describe An Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s cabinet reshuffle as cautious would be to give it a gravitas it does not deserve. It was simply the work of an uninspired and dreadfully uninspiring leader.
The nature of Cowen’s reshuffle was best symbolised by the calamitous Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who publicly stated that Albert Einstein proposed the Theory of Evolution, being appointed Minister for Education and Science.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday Labour president and Galway West TD Michael D Higgins called the reshuffle “uninspiring” and lacking any “clear objectives”.
“The public are currently asking whether anything has changed to a significant degree and if such change has occurred, whether it will lead to their trusting the political system,” he said. “They are going to hone in on the problem of unemployment and ask whether the new arrangements relating to the Cabinet will make it possible to protect or create jobs.”
In local terms, Galway was fortunate to survive unscathed. The McCarthy Report had called for the abolition of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and it was widely speculated that its minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, would be demoted to the backbenches.
However the department received just a small tweak. It is now called the Department of Community, Equality, and Gaeltacht Affairs, and is now headed by Dublin North West TD Pat Carey.
That the ministry remains will be welcomed by many in Galway, given that the county has Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht and, while the term ‘Rural’ might have been dropped, the department is likely to still look after rural community needs. This would also be welcomed in the west, given that Galway is the second largest county with a large rural based population.
Contrary to much speculation, Éamon Ó Cuív was not demoted to the cabinet but was appointed Minister of the newly created Department of Social Protection, formerly known as the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
Minister Ó Cuív will now have responsibility for one of the Government’s largest budgets and his new department will take over some responsibilities from the Department of Enterprise Trade, and Employment, particularly the nationwide FÁS network of offices. It will also look after the community employment schemes operated by FÁS and it gets the rural social scheme, which was previously handled by Minister Ó Cuív’s old department.
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish congratulated his constituency colleague on his appointment to his new ministerial post.
“I am delighted Galway West has retained a senior minister at the cabinet table and that Minister Éamon Ó Cuív has been promoted,” he said. “He has got an important economic ministry during these times of high unemployment and I wish him every success in his new role