Irish Republican News · June 18, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ahern names Cabinet; vows not to govern indefinitely

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has given the clearest signal yet that Tanaiste Brian Cowen will replace him as leader of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach during the course of the current parliament in Dublin.

With token coalition partners from both the left and the right, Ahern is in a strong position to hold power throughout the five-year term, and would be poised to repeat the performance in a 2012 election, regardless of a predicted downturn in the 26-County economy.

But with a tribunal of inquiry continuing to throw up new questions over Mr Ahern’s personal finances and his dealings with certain businessmen, there has been speculation that Mr Ahern could stand down sooner rather than later.

Asked if Mr Cowen is as obvious a successor to him as Sean Lemass was to Eamon de Valera, Mr Ahern said: “I think that’s fair enough. I mean I could give you a lot of political answers about this one, but I’m not going to go down that road.

“Brian Cowen and I have been friends since the mid-80s. We’ve worked together, he’s a brilliant mind and he’s a great colleague . . . He has a vast amount of experience and is still not much beyond his mid-40s.

“He is a hugely experienced politician . . . obviously the party will ultimately decide, but [ from] my point of view he is the obvious successor to me in five years’ time or whenever,” he told Irish radio.

Questioned about his decision not to promote any from within Fianna Fail to his new cabinet of Ministers, the Taoiseach said he could have picked another “12 Fianna Fail ministers” who would “competently and capably” fill the roles.

Mr Ahern named Brian Cowen as Tanaiste and Minister for Finance in a new Cabinet line-up which included only three new faces.

The decision which prompted the most controversy involved no move at all. Mary Harney, the acting leader of the Progressive Democrats party which was all but wiped out in the election last month, will retain the post of Minister for Health.

Green Party TDs Eamon Ryan and John Gormley and Fianna Fail TD Brian Lenihan were announced as the fresh blood in Mr Ahern’s frontbench team, while former ministers Dick Roche and John O’Donoghue found themselves excluded. Mr O’Donoghue became Ceann Comhairle, the speaker of the Dail.

Seamus Brennan switches from Social and Family Affairs to Arts, Sport and Tourism, a brief that had belonged to Mr O’Donoghue. Meanwhile, Martin Cullen, former transport minister, takes over at Social Affairs.

Noel Dempsey has moved to Transport and Marine, while Eamon Ryan takes over at Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The second Green Party Minister, Mr Gormley, has been appointed to Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche’s old department. Brian Lenihan is the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, replacing Michael McDowell.


Sinn Féin Dail Leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Sinn Féin TDs would not be supporting a Cabinet and a Programme for Government which was set to continue the failed policies of the previous Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats Government.

“The Programme for Government will continue the scandalous and disgraceful hospital co-location scheme. The Green Party election manifesto spoke of the need to address our two-tier health system; it spoke of access to healthcare as a basic human right,” he said.

“That should have been a bottom-line issue and it is a real set back for our health services that the Green Party has signed up for the privatisation agenda of Fianna Fail and the PDs.”

Mr O Caolain said the Green Party “has achieved little on issues which it claims as its own - environment, energy, transport.

“Much that is in the Programme is a repetition of measures already in the National Development Plan.

“There is no Zero Waste Strategy. There is no commitment to end the robbery of our oil and gas resources by multinationals and the forcing of the Shell pipeline through Rossport. The M3 will be forced through historic Tara. There is no commitment to advance public transport. The failed policies of Ministers Martin Cullen ad Dick Roche will be continued.”

“On Housing, the Programme falls far short of the Green commitment to 10,000 social and affordable housing units per annum until waiting list are cleared. There is no reform of Part V of the Planning and Development Act. The programme contains no target for eradicating homelessness. There is no commitment to a Cost of Disability Living Allowance.

“The programme also fails to fulfil the Green Party commitment to end the use of Shannon Airport by US military forces involved in the war in Iraq. There is a tremendous setback for the broad movement who support Irish neutrality, independent foreign policy and opposition to imperialism.

“The negotiation of the Programme has exposed the myth that there is any difference between Fianna Fail and the PDs. Fianna Fail seems to have negotiated on behalf of the PDs. The symbiotic relationship between the two parties will continue. The Green Party has been co-opted as an insurance policy but they may well find themselves sharing the same fate.

“For all these reasons we cannot support the cabinet presented nor the Programme for Government.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News