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Ministerial roles pass over to Coughlan, Carey, Smith, Hanafin and O Cuiv

Six familiar Fianna Fail faces double up on jobs left behind by their resigning colleagues.

Mary Coughlan has been given responsiblity for the Department of Health and Children
Mary Coughlan has been given responsiblity for the Department of Health and Children

TANAISTE MARY COUGHLAN is to take over the Department of Health up until the country votes in the general election on March 11. And Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin’s lack of confidence in Brian Cowen as leader of Fianna Fail this week did not go against her: she was given responsibility for Trade and Enterprise.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced the reassignment of portfolios left vacant by the resignation of six Government ministers in the past 36 hours. He himself took over the portfolio of Foreign Affairs from Micheal Martin who resigned on Tuesday night after voting against the Taoiseach’s motion of confidence in himself as leader of Fianna Fail.

The other reassignments of departments go as follows:

Health and Children: Tanaiste Mary Coughlan takes over from independent Mary Harney, who resigned last night.

Transport: Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey takes over from Noel Dempsey.

Justice and Law Reform: Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Brendan Smith takes over from Dermot Ahern.

Enterprise, Trade and Innovation: Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin takes over from Batt O’Keeffe.

Defence: Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv takes over from Tony Killeen.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen paid tribute to the ministers who had resigned their posts. He spoke of Mary Harney’s “enduring contribution” to Irish political life and Irish society, the morning after she offered him her resignation as Minister for Health and Children.

He called Noel Dempsey a “straight-talking” member of government. He cited his role as Minister for Transport, saying that he had introduced measures that were instrumental in reducing road deaths.

Dermot Ahern got the nod for introducing “ground-breaking” anti-gangland legislation and for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Even though Tony Killeen’s time as Defence Minister was “brief” – he took over from Willie O’Dea who resigned in February last year – Cowen said he found him a “wise and sensible” voice in Cabinet in “tough times”.

Cowen reserved his warmest praise for Batt O’Keeffe who he described as “one of my best friends in politics – and life”. He said that O’Keeffe shared his assessment that there was a need to have “more young people in government” to renew and revitalise political life.

Micheal Martin, the only one of the six resigning ministers who is to run again in General Election 2011, was “crucial” in the negotiation of the Hillsborough Castle Agreement last February, said Cowen. He mentioned his work in Education and Health, but did not cite the smoking or plastic bags ban, which are achievements most often associated with the Cork TD.

No Green Party members were reassigned a ministerial portfolio, nor we they present in the Dail chamber for the Taoiseach’s speech. They were still holding their parliamentary meeting at the time.

Read the Taoiseach’s statement to the Dail in full here>

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