Coalition vows to make work pay
The Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government has vowed to make work pay as a new cabinet line-up was announced.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny outlined a series of dramatic changes to the top ministerial ranks for the final 18 months of the partnership with the big winners including Leo Varadkar as the new Health Minister.
“The objective of Government should always be to create the conditions and supports to allow families to thrive, prosper and reach their full potential,” he said.
“A plan to make work pay will be a big part of our priorities for the remainder of this Government.
“Fairness and job creation will go hand in hand. Everyone must have the opportunity to work and live their lives at home.”
The raft of changes in the top ranks of Fine Gael and Labour took place after tough talking between Mr Kenny and the new Labour leader, Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton over the last week.
In one of the most high profile promotions Mr Varadkar, a qualified doctor, moves from transport, tourism and sport, to succeed Dr James Reilly in the Department of Health.
The former health minister, a close ally of the Taoiseach, moves to a new role in the junior ranks but combining the important divisions of children and public health.
Charlie Flanagan, also a Kenny ally, has been promoted to Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Simon Coveney, widely seen as a rising star in the Fine Gael ranks alongside Mr Varadkar, has been given the new responsibility of defence alongside his role as Agriculture Minister.
Big changes also took place in the Labour ranks.
Ms Burton said the cabinet reshuffle and a policy document to be published on the future work of the Government will deliver social recovery to accompany the economic revival for the many and not the few.
Key policies she pointed to included a commission on the minimum wage and low pay issues, collective bargaining rights for workers, tax reforms for low and middle-income earners, tripling the number of social houses built to 25,000 a year by 2020.
“The social recovery starts with jobs, because secure work is the single best protection against poverty,” the Tánaiste said.
“This vital window of opportunity must not be lost, because the people of this country suffered hugely as a result of a crisis they did not cause, endured while this Government implemented the necessary policies to end it, and now must feel the benefits of the recovery in their lives.
“That is our task, and we will work with head and heart to deliver.”
Jan O’Sullivan, formerly a junior minister, moves to head the Department of Education while the party’s recently-appointed deputy leader Alan Kelly is also promoted, taking up the role of Environment Minister.
Mr Kelly replaces Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan, who stands down and is being put forward for a European Commissioner role.
The switch also means Labour takes control of housing policy, which had been a key plank of Ms Burton’s ambitions after winning the party leadership.
The new Cabinet:
Leo Varadkar (FG) - Sport and Transport to Health
James Reilly (FG) – Health to Children
Jan O’Sullivan (Labour) – Housing (super junior) to Education
Charlie Flanagan (FG) – Children to Foreign Affairs
Paschal Donohoe (FG) – Transport
Heather Humphreys (FG) – Arts
Alex White (Labour) – Communications
Alan Kelly (Labour) – Environment and Local Government
Ged Nash (Labour) – Business and Employment (super junior)
Michael Noonan (FG) – Finance
Brendan Howlin (Labour) – Public Expenditure and Reform
Joan Burton (Labour) – Social Protection
Richard Bruton (FG) – Jobs
Simon Coveney (FG) – Agriculture and Defence
Frances Fitzgerald (FG) – Justice
Paul Kehoe (FG) – Government Chief Whip/junior defence minister