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
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
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
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.
NO SF SUPPORT
Sinn Fein Dail Leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Sinn Fein 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
it claims as its own - environment, energy, transport.
"Much that is in the Programme is a repetition of measures already
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
"On Housing, the Programme falls far short of the Green commitment
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
"The programme also fails to fulfil the Green Party commitment to
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
"The negotiation of the Programme has exposed the myth that there
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
Programme for Government."