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Joan Burton: 'I'm qualified to do most of the jobs in cabinet'

The new Minister for Social Protection says she hadn’t had any discussions about ministerial portfolios before appointment.

Many saw Joan Burton's appointment to the Social Protection brief as a demotion given her performance as Labour's finance spokesperson.
Many saw Joan Burton's appointment to the Social Protection brief as a demotion given her performance as Labour's finance spokesperson.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

IRELAND’S NEW MINISTER for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has insisted she was “very honoured and awed” to have been included in the cabinet – but added she felt she was qualified enough to do most of the jobs in the cabinet.

Burton had been hotly tipped to be appointed to one of the two ministries at the Department of Finance, with a new ministry of Public Expenditure being spun off from the department.

That job, however, was given to Brendan Howlin – with many seeing Burton’s assignment to the Social Protection brief as an unfair demotion given her performance as Labour’s finance spokesperson.

This morning, speaking to RTÉ radio’s Charlie Bird, Burton said she didn’t think anybody ”had any guarantee in relation to any position” being assigned within the cabinet – but insisted she felt she was capable of performing in any brief.

“I was qualified – I am qualified – to be a minister in any department in the government,” Burton said. “My mindset was that I was going to be in the cabinet, and whatever it was, I was going to do a good job.

“I’d been immersed completely, as everybody knows, in the banking and the finance situation,” Burton added, explaining that she had been given around sixty seconds to consider the offer of appointment to the Social Protection brief.

“The difficulty for me was, having been so concentrated on the economy and on the banks, and on the structures and renegotiation of the [bailout] deal, I then had this challenge… [but] I was asked to be a member of the government, and I accepted.”

Burton said she hoped to bring the “same intensity” to the Social Protection role as she had brought to her economic brief while in opposition, and added that Howlin – who got the job many expected her to be appointed to – was a great personal friend of hers.

She added that she had been offered “a lot of sympathy” from people concerned about her perceived demotion, but explained she had told people she wanted “to move on.”

Listen to Burton on RTÉ Radio 1 >

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Gavan Reilly

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