Cabinet Reshuffle

The details of the Taoiseach’s reshuffle will hardly be news to anyone by now (speech here).   

Some noteworthy changes from an economics point of view: Batt O’Keeffe replaces Mary Coughlan at Trade, Enterprise and Innovation (previously Trade, Enterprise and Employment); Ms. Coughlan replaces Mr. O’Keeffe at Education and Skills (previously Education and Science); labour market activation measures  moved to Social Protection (previously Social and Family Affairs); a Minister for State and a “Public Service Board” to oversee public sector reform; no new department of economic planning. 

Does it matter?

58 replies on “Cabinet Reshuffle”

deckchair cover debates – titanic
constantin g has done a scorechart on this over at his blog

For what its worth, I met a FF diehard on the train home this evening, a man who has given time and effort beyond the norm to his party, ran for election and taken the bullet. This is a younger man, extremely well educated, not blindly FF but a genuine believer that they can do the job. He was apoplectic with rage at the lack of thought and effort made. He characterised it as “a death spiral, totally lacking in any competence” .

To John’s q – does it matter. Yes. While govts can do very little good, I think, they can do a great deal of harm. There is at least one appointment there which when I heard it I, and I suspect many other, went “cmon, your having a laugh”…..

There is more substance to ths reshuffle than meets the eye. If you go back to the famous day when the unions were shown the door 7 cabinet minister rebelled against the Taoiseach and sided with Lenihan. these were believed to be Hanifin, Ahern, Cullen, O’Dea, Harney and the two Greens.
Of these 7, Cullen and O’Dea are gone to be replaced by unknown quantities. Hanifin has been shafted. the balance of power in the Cabinet has shifted to the pro Cowen axis. Moroever, ilness will diminish Lenihan’s powers in the months ahead.

Against this background, the Unions have been ushered back into the tent and are sitting quietly in the corner waiting their turn. I would expect a significant shift in budgetary policy for 2011.

Not only are there no scientists in the list of 40 greatest Irish people, there are now neither science nor employment ministers.

They tuk ur jabs… and our test tubes too… still, at least we won’t have to worry about Darwin’s theory of relativity…

@John McHale
Willy O’Dea’s resignation and Martin Cullen’s enforced retirement saved this reshuffle from being a complete debacle. The fact that this country is in a deep crisis also prompted Brian Cowen to make changes he otherwise never would have eg., moving Mary Couglan. As it is, all the existing ministers, many in office continuously since 1997 (almost 13 years), just swopped seats. The hype about how reorganising departmental responsibilities will inevitably result in massive positive transformation is
unrealistic and worse still potentially very damaging. It may help to drive change forward but it can only assist. Sadly it is typical of the government’s habit of hysterical and deafeningly loud self-congratulation over even the smallest changes.

@John McHale

In answer to your question – Does it matter? – YES, it matters bigtime. NO CHANGE is the message. The upper_echelon Kleptocracy who got us into this mess are strengthening their grip on the legislative arm.

On Primetime – listening to Pat Carey praising the board of Anglo-Irish (see all me previous on this) as Anglo-Irish provide pay rises to certain members of its remaining 1200 staff was simply surreal. The Ides of March is passed – and we are essentially DONE. 1789 anyone?

5 of the cabinet have been in situ since 1997 (13 years ago) and 2 more since 2002 (8 years ago). If the country had been governed with great skill for the last 13 years then retaining these veterans would be logical.
Keeping them on is a sign that Cowen won’t accept how disastrous his own record in office has been. Senior ministers wear out like tires and 13 years of continuous use have left Cowen, Dempsey, Ahern and Harney completely eroded (Martin in Foreign Affairs has an easy number). A third of the cabinet will have been in senior office for 15 years at the next election – two and a half times the length of the Second World War. Half of them for 10 years – WW2 plus WW1. It is simply frightening to think that Mary Coughlan will have held four important cabinet positions over 10 years. I am reminded of Joe Lee’s observation that when FF went into opposition in 1973 it became clear many of their ministers were entirely unable to function without the support of their departments. The current cabinet is not selected on the basis of talent or energy but on:
A. Already being a Minister. Inheriting a ministry is as strong a reason for keeping it as being part of a political dynasty is for inheriting a Dail seat.
B. Being a member in good standing of Cowen’s drinking mates.

@David O’Donnell – good to see the new man in craggie can defend the indefensible and knows little or nothing about labour markets

The general effect of the reshuffle has been to move weak ministers to important positions and to sideline one of the very few impressive ministers in the government.

But perhaps the more significant contribution was from Fine Gael, where young Mr Varadker’s amusing contribution suggests a welcome break with the economic policies of former FG leaders. Could it be that FG might begin providing opposition based on policy differences?


@Oliver Vandt:
“The hype about how reorganising departmental responsibilities will inevitably result in massive positive transformation is unrealistic and worse still potentially very damaging.”

How can you be so cynical [allusion alert] when you see that responsibility for greyhounds is to be transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?

Is Albert Reynolds still in the government?


@ tull mcadoo,

If your analysis is correct it is singularly bad for the country.

Two vacancies, two new ministers?

Saw Pat Carey on Prime Time. I think things just got worse if that is possible. A load of absolute waffle.

Didn’t see Brian Lenihan in the Dáil. Doesn’t look good.

“How can you be so cynical [allusion alert] when you see that responsibility for greyhounds is to be transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?”
make lovely pets, im told….

@ Brian Lucey,

“make lovely pets, im told….”

All we need now is “My Lovey Horse” in the Senate.

Obviously we are looking at export markets like Korea,
Maybe they fit on a skewer better than any other dog?
Good night

And after Angola’s huge losses the government’s plan is for NAMA to gigantically overpay for its loans and for 6 BILLION more of public money to be incinerated – solely to protect megadevelopers and bank investors.
A scarva style sham battle over bonuses would make perfect sense.

“On page 31 of yesterday’s Mail on Sunday is a piece about Frank Fahey. Brian Carroll reports that the Fianna Fáil TD and property developer failed to declare his 50% stake in construction firm Sage on the Register of Members’ Interests published earlier this month. Not alone that, but he had failed to mention it in last year’s Register too.

When Carroll asked Fahey why he didn’t declare the interest Fahey claimed it was a “clerical oversight”, i.e. he forgot about it. He forgot about holding a 50% share in company in which he has invested over €1m during the last five years? A company which still owes his wife more than €900,000?… Seriously? Upon receipt of Carroll’s enquiries Fahey rushed to the the clerk of the Dáil and asked for the record to be amended show he had an interest in Sage.”
Frankly it’s a bit fishy.

@Oliver Vandt:
“Frankly it’s a bit fishy.”

Frank? Frank Fahey? Fish? Surely not. Any such notions should be lost at sea.


“All we need now is “My Lovey Horse” in the Senate.”

You’re inciting at us ….


@ All

“Anglo staff to receive pay rises” Please, tell me this is a joke. Otherwise, I am booking myself in to John of Gods. I was going to say, ‘until the crisis is over’ but then I realised that could mean spending the rest of my life there.

One serious change is that PRTLI, which funds university research, has followed Batt from Education to Enterprise & Employment. Previously it came under the HEA. This fits in with the whole innovation bandwagon, of course.
But it cannot be good for much university research, in the humanities, social sciences and other areas, which cannot pretend to have an employment angle. This is a really bad signal to many academics.

Re-shuffle or people not overall agandas. Various FF programs will now be re-written and rebranded as brave new moves but the fact that little has changed with the status-quo, we will be back to business as usual in no time Grrrrr

New greens in higher positions but perhaps a little too late. The division of Agriculture and Fisheries between a Junior Green and FF screams conspiracy!! So much for integrating the Seafood Sector with wider food sector under DAFF – a move towards a seperate dept of Marine again and even several steps in the wrong direction.

The most economically significnat change related to employment services.

The OECD has been scathing in Ireland’s existing services for the unemployed. Too many agencies providing the wrong sort of services. The missing ingredient identified by the OECD is ‘activation’ measures. This means having a system whereby the unemployed regularly meet with advisors who move them onto training programmes or jobs.

Take the UK. People claiming unemployment benefits in Britain have to attend interviews with welfare officials 30 times more that their Irish counterparts. They have to prove they are seeking work, attend job interviews and participate in training courses.

The first step to creating such a ‘one stop shop’ here for the unemployed is a re-configuring of Government Departments. Yesterday took care of that. However this is only the first step. However, the next step of transforming the various social welfare offices, local employment schemes and FAS offices into a cohesive network of offices is a huge task.

@ kevin denny,

Indeed. Was thinking the same myself.

I look forward to the dumbing down of doctrates.

Philosophy? History? Any kind of pure research?

@ Ronnie O’Toole,

“Take the UK. People claiming unemployment benefits in Britain have to attend interviews with welfare officials 30 times more that their Irish counterparts. They have to prove they are seeking work, attend job interviews and participate in training courses.”

That didn’t require cabinet change.

PRTLI funds big new research programs & new institutes etc. It has a hugely benefical effect on university research. The research councils remain to fund smaller projects, PhD studentships and fellowships. But when the next PRTLI round is announced (its long awaited) it will presumably have a heavy emphasis on being applied or fitting in with the innovation agenda. So I think its unlikely that a university would put something like a philosophy institute in as part of of its application: theres not many jobs in Philosophy.
For an innovative policy to deal with employment prospects for philosophy graduates I recommend the Onion:,17034/

@Kevin Denny

“… theres not many jobs in Philosophy.”

Quite! Never do to teach the serfs to think now – would it? Or to highlight the inability of the political class to think, or the inability of the ‘trained’ economists to figure out ontology, or the inability of humanities to discourse with engineering/technology to discourse with the arts to discourse with psychology to discourse with political science to discourse with business to discourse with the democratic process to discourse in languages other than English with the rest of the world ……… a complex world demands inter-disciplinarity and philosophy provides, if in part, a suitable foundation ……. in layman’s terms ‘joining the dots’ ……….

Without a base in philosophy, and a fundamental understanding of epistemology, ontology, and method – it doesn’t matter how many doctorates one has – imho – one is not educated. Read Ferdinand’s [DCU] letter in yesterday’s IT and in previous thread here – and Google Humboldt’s idea of the University. For far too long Philosophy has been subject to far too many ‘mental reservations’ around here due to the influnce of yet another set of hierarchical upper_echelons – and it shows in the narrowness of thinking in all walks of life, with a few exceptions …

@ kevin denny,

“Let’s say there’s some sort of environmental crisis,” Schumer said. “Well, we could selectively thaw students who majored in ecology or climatology and provide them with jobs. The same logic would apply if, say, 300 years from now a real-world application for people with philosophy degrees somehow arose.”

Don’t suppose we could cryogenically freeze politicians until the people decide they need them?


It’s bad news kevin. The Universities are being turned into glorified technical colleges.

Society will suffer as will the economy and the politic.

@Robert Browne
“Nick Nack” Soden, the small but incredibly destructive henchman of Brian Lenihan, is on the radio complaining about the Angola pay rises – he’s angry they were leaked. These people really are an arrogant greedy aristocracy.

@ Mickey Hickey

And a fine English accent on her.

Irish roll-over risk could be a problem then if markets get jittery again.

@Oliver Vandt

A few non-exec vacancies coming up in Anglo_Irish – to sit with 2_of-7, Maurice (BOI, DCC, NPRF etc), Donal briefly (will go before dat report: DDDA, etc) ……… yes Monsieur Soden would appear to have the independent, unconnected, outsider credentials required for such a sinecure … but .. er … does he have the ‘banking expertise’? Silly me.


“Without a base in philosophy, and a fundamental understanding of epistemology, ontology, and method – it doesn’t matter how many doctorates one has – imho – one is not educated.”

Can I have fries with that!

@Oliver Vandt

Yes – Mosieur S. does get a trifle excited about certain forms of ‘bank leakage’ – not the usual, but bit of the other variety one presumes. Now that NAMA has the red light from Brussels, and the Austrian Mafia connection safely disposed of, methinks that Monsieur S. might fit in well with the rejuvenated Las Vegas culture at De_Bank.


French existensialist, American pragmatic to go, Kantian germanic, Classical Ciceronian, Bog Skhins an all, Antrim Aristotelian, Offaly Roman, …….. just look up Al – they are all on the menu (-;


We fried all the managers Al. Cost cuts – you know – the smart economy and all that – we don’t need managers anymore. Like to try a little bulguggi while waiting …. lightly done … fresh, we only fried him this afternoon (-;

I am taking my custom to another innovative food company
with equally qualified employees.

This is a fantastic blog:
After Noel Dempsey phoned in his performance from Malta we thought it would never happen again. Then Mary Harney did the same from New Zealand when 57,000 (!) X Rays were improperly read. How she can remain as health minister is beyond me.

Homer Cowen may have pushed them too far this time. From highly reputable poster on another forum:

“To say that FF TDs are seriously p-d off is an understatement. They are friggin’ furious with him.

They believed that he had to do a major reshuffle for two reasons:

– The party desparately needed the cabinet to perform better to stave off a disastrous defeat. There is talent on the backbenches. But the cabinet is jaded and under-performing, with their only first class performer seriously ill.

– If they lose power and have a very large number of losses, they may be too far back to come back in one go, especially if Labour and FG get on and stick together, SF remains in single digits and the Greens are wiped out. In effect there would be no other party to make up the numbers to bring them even close to forming a government. So in a worst case scenario a two-term spell in opposition is possible. If so, most of those in their fifties and older will have retired, or be too old for cabinet after two periods in opposition. So it was vital, they believed, that some younger ministers be appointed, so that if they were out of power for a prolonged period there still would be people around with cabinet experience in the thirty-third Dáil.

Cowen did neither of these things. FF TDs despair of Harney, but she is still in place. They see Coughlan as a disaster, yet she is still in a key position. They see Éamon Ó Cuiv as mediocre, yet he got a promotion. They see Hanafin, though not personally liked, as someone who is competent. Instead she gets shafted and demoted.

They saw the reshuffle as the last chance Cowen had to rescue the government, and are right royally p-sed off that he made a balls of the reshuffle, somehow managing to increase the average age of an already jaded and old cabinet.

They are so fed up with the situation most could not even bother to turn up for the PP meeting.

Will there be a heave? The odds suggest something is happening. Journalists spotted a number of TDs tonight congregating ‘off campus’ in a city centre hotel for what looked suspiciously like a meeting. TDs who could be relied upon, when approached by the media, to deliver ‘I support Brian’ messages were suspiciously silent. TDs’ staff were grumbling about the reshuffle – if the TD loses a seat, so does his secretary and PA. So they too were desparately hoping the reshuffle would kickstart a revival. They don’t believe it will.

FFers seem to have been hoping that, out of character, Cowen would seize the moment and radically rebuild the cabinet and boost the party again. They seem to be a mix now of the furious, the resigned-to-defeat and the despairing. This was, they believed, his last big chance to save them, and he blew it. And they are not happy campers.

So I will not be the least surprised if moves are made against him.

The only thing that might save Cowen is the paucity of the alternatives in the party. The obvious person, their ‘dream leader’, is seriously ill with cancer. Martin has the reputation as a ditherer who commissions endless reports and does nothing. Coughlan would be even worse than Cowen. D Ahern is detested as arrogant and obnoxious. Hanafin is able but also arrogant and school marm-ish. Never before as FF found itself so lacking in terms of alternative leaders at a time when a lot of the party feel they desparately need an alternative. Previously there would be at least 3 or 4 potential leaders.”

The recent promotion of O’Keefe to Minister of Enterprise will be taken as bad news to Irish educators like myself based abroad such as here in South Korea. Most of us there were impressed when he came and met us on St. Patrick’s Day last week by his speech outlining the need to internationalize Irish universities and rev up the amount of Asian students enrolling in courses in Ireland. The fact is that in the last decade Irish third-level institutes have failed to maintain their prime position in the international field, and more and more international students are opting to study elsewhere. This is a critical problem, since most universities worldwide survive on international student fees, which are often double or triple what domestic students would pay. Among Asians, South Korean students are generally most sought after by Western universities, as these students generally take on a range of additional university courses, prefer to stay in exclusive student accommodation and travel extensively around the country they are in, combining to an average of $50,000 in spending for every year overseas. Batt O’Keefe did not refrain from pointing out to us that the number of South Koreans studying in Ireland has dropped by half to an embarrassing 200 students, while in other countries such as in the UK (currently 17,000 Korean students) and Australia (36,000 Korean students in 2009), numbers have nearly tripled in the last decade. The Minister then brainstormed with us some practical measures that could be taken to reverse this decline, and one thing that we came up with was the need to create an Irish educational council that could better market our third-level institutions around the world, much like what IDP Australia and the British Council have so successful done for their respective countries. We believe such a semi-state enterprise is needed to streamline and simplify foreign student applications, better coordinate Irish university fairs in Asia, as well as aggressively instituting exchange programs with prestigious third-level institutes around the world. We’ll have to see if Mary Coughlan continues with this initiative, but in terms of creating jobs and getting the Irish education industry back on its feet, it makes a lot of sense.

@Oliver Vandt

The real revolt would be for a handfull to cross the floor and vote this administration down in the public interest. Don’t see them going that far ……

@David O’Donnell
Fully agreed. We need a general election and a new administration that gives us the complete blunt truth, bank resolution legislation and a referendum before another cent is put into the zombies, Anglo/Nationwide.
We have already lost THIRTEEN THOUSAND MILLION on Anglo alone (4 by the government plus 9 of the 10 put in by the central bank). We are now about to lose another NINE THOUSAND MILLION. So we will have lost TWENTY TWO THOUSAND MILLION, 22,000,000,000 on Anglo with thousands of millions more to lose on the other banks. This madness must stop. The senior bondholders must share the losses (as they would do if it was wound up) and the subordinates must be totally wiped out.

I disagree with Phil Hogan who says that John Gormley covered up what went on in the DDDA. He didn’t keep it secret – he kept it private!


Anyone got a link to those DDDA Reports?

Just wondering if my 95% stat sig*** on Corporate Governance Yesterday = Corporate Governance Today might need to be updated?

@Oliver Vandt

Yes – amazing how the press generally forget about those 10 billion from central bank – and we might as factor in a substantial percentage of the 35-37 billion apparently on its way to NAMA ……..

To be fair to Minister Gormley – he has commissioned A. N. Other Report, and if implicitly on 6 O’Clock Newz, that our Offaly Man & UCD Man on sabbatical & PD man contemplating a come-back – may have ‘questions to answer’!

@ Oliver Vandt & David O’Donnell,

Absolutely correct on the Anglo Repo of €10bn with the Central Bank.

If memory serves the ECB as pawnbroker has €30bn of Anglo Repo crap.

Now, I think the ECB gets its wad back in NAMA bonds and the Government knows in no uncertain terms that a debt owed to the ECB is National Debt.

The simple question that neither Fine Gale, Labour or Sinn Fein are asking is this….

Will the Central Bank of Ireland be repaid if Anglo get a further €9bn of cash from the State?

The answer of course is they won’t.

So, are Fine Gale, Labour & Sinn Fein just too stupid to ask the question or do they want Fianna Fail & the Green Party to do the dirty work, finish their term and then say “Ah sure there’s not a thing we can do about it in the whole wide world, no pay up peasants”

The revolt against Cowen keeps on building. Poster Adamirer on another forum:

“John NcGuinness TD: “Consider his position”
Mattie McGrath TD: “Lazy and inept”,
MJ Nolan TD: “Serious discontent at every level of the party…we have to make serious changes…He’s been a great disappointment.”
Brendan Kennelly TD: “I consider myself to be a good friend of his.. but I hope he will heed this message… There are a lot of unhappy people there at present”

Maire Hoctor:
John Cregan: “Disappointed not to be promoted, done everything asked of me..”
Jim McDais: ”

The RTE senior staff are playing it down though. They’re giving the organisation a bad (nick)name, Pravda. Poster Tommy O’Brien points out that they have hardly covered the loud discontent with Cowen:

“”TOB, does it not underline the politicisation of RTE under Cowen’s tenure.”

It does. But it was almost as bad under Ahern too. FF know how to get RTÉ to do what it wants – point out that its licence fee increase depends on not p-sing off FF in government. If a story critical of FF is carried in the morning, it is always useful to watch what happens to it during the day.

The original story will say that X in the opposition has said.

By lunchtime it will say that X has claimed.

By tea-time it will say how FF has criticised X for claiming and dismissed the allegation.

By 9pm the story will have disappeared.

It happens all the time. Opposition comments are toned down in media reports. Government responses are talked up.

Similarly a story critical of FF may lead the bulletin in the morning, by lunchtime it will have dropped to 2 or 3 in the running order – though the lead story is often a non-story. By Six-One it will have dropped way down. By 9 O’Clock if it survives at all it will be in the second half of the bulletin. Watch how it happens, day by day.

On another occasion an interview with a FF Taoiseach lead all the news bulletins all day. All the opposition parties then (FG, Labour, the Greens and SF) had their leaders criticise the story early in the morning. But their comments never made it onto bulletins. Instead the FF Taoiseach had the run of the news bulletins from 9am until 6pm, when finally the opposition comments were mentioned, in passing.”

Something has to be done to hugely increase media diversity.

RTE ignored the O’Dea story until almost the final hour. They may be doing it again with the spiralling discontent with Homer. Poster Tommy O’Brien again on another forum:

“”I thought McGrath entering the fray would have added legs to this story. However, there is no mention of it thus far on RTE.

Is this a similar situation to when at the height of the Willie O’Dea controversy RTE just decided not to cover that story….until they had to??!!”

That is all-too-typical RTÉ.

For example, earlier this week Cowen insisted that the Government could not intervene on the issue of pay increases to senior Anglo staff. When challenged by Enda Kenny, he replied by saying “as you know, or should know” the government cannot intervene.

His usual abuse however, was misleading. Kenny replied by quoting the relevant section (section 50) of the Statutory Instrument that explicitly empowered the government to intervene. Cowen was caught out, and stumbled badly, deciding when he couldn’t win the argument, and was shown to be spoofing, to make personal attacks. Gilmore returned to the issue in his question, with another law which would allow the government to intervene. Cowen again was obnoxious and abusive when caught out.

Everyone in politics saw the one minute clip of Cowen being abusive and saying that he could not intervene, and Kenny replying “you are wrong” and quoting section 50, as a classic example of Cowen being caught cold. Even FF TDs saw it as a disastrous performance by Cowen, and his complete demolition on Kenny, who kept his comments tight, focused and blunt, quoting chapter and verse of the SI.

So how did RTÉ cover it?

On the One O’Clock News they showed it, and Gilmore’s later clip referring to another Act.

On the Six-One News, Kenny’s gutting of Cowen using the SI miraculously disappeared, with the clip showing Cowen attacking Kenny, and then a different comment by Kenny that edited out the meat of Kenny’s response.

By 9’O Clock, all that was shown was Cowen’s abusive attack on Kenny. The fact that Kenny quoted the SI to demolish Cowen mysteriously disappeared entirely. So did Gilmore’s quoting of another Act. So viewers watching the 9 were left with the impression that Kenny called for Cowen to act, Cowen said in an abusive manner that he couldn’t, and that was the sum total of the discussion. That Cowen’s comments were disproved by two different leaders using two different pieces of legislation, was missing.

That is common with RTÉ. Either deliberately or through incompetence, the key fact shown in Leaders Questions, that Cowen was proven wrong, had disappeared.”

@Oliver Vandt – “It happens all the time. Opposition comments are toned down in media reports. Government responses are talked up. ”

Yes – as an interested ‘observer’ of Irish media I had noticed… the various influences out there that there are on the media is an interesting subject… and it’s not just RTE.

I’m currently looking into how the proposals for the obligatory pension scheme were reported (in print) – tied in with moves from DB to DC pension schemes – and overall so far, government quotes feature heavily but the few opposition quotes are limited mainly to FG – with SF and Labour hardly getting a look in.

I’ve practically given up watching/listening to anyone from the government being interviewed. For so-called journalists, I’ve never heard such a bunch of pussy-cats in my life as I have in Ireland. I sit there listening to the politician talk and then expect to hear such-and-such a question from the journalist but all he/she then does is either accept what was said at face value or lets them off. Amazing.

Is it because Ireland is so small (as in ‘small world’) that journos tend not to want to upset ‘important’ people as they will be cut off from information/access? I guess when there are no other media jobs to move to (perhaps with the exception of Messrs Bird and Lee), people tread too carefully?

Mind you, you are more likely to pick up a media role by being good looking these days than anything to do with your skills as a journalist. What a pi55poor state of affairs. The fourth estate has become a sink estate.

p.s. I also suspect that there’s an actual FF unit that goes round nobbling the media. This is something I’m currently looking into and will drop a note on this blog if I find the proof.

Comments are closed.