Europe

Enda Kenny unveils Irish cabinet for 'new phase of recovery'

The new Irish cabinet, as announced by Prime Minister Enda Kenny (first right), on Friday Image copyright Merrionstreet.ie
Image caption Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny (far right) said the sacrifices made by the people of Ireland during three years of austerity would "neither be taken for granted nor squandered by this government"

The Irish prime minister has said his country "owes" its economic recovery to its workers as he announced a reshuffle of government ministers.

Enda Kenny said the Republic of Ireland had "been through the wars" after the financial crisis, adding that years of austerity had been "galling" for many.

But he said Irish workers had put the state "back on track" and he vowed to make life a little "easier" for them.

Mr Kenny said his new cabinet aims to return the state to full employment.

The reshuffle has seen five ministers resign, while other ministers have been moved to different departments.

The changes were agreed days after Joan Burton was elected leader of the Labour party - the junior partner in the coalition government.

'New phase'

The former transport minister, Leo Varadkar, has been appointed as the new health minister, replacing James Reilly.

Mr Reilly is moving to the Department of Children, replacing Charlie Flanagan who has been selected as the new minister for foreign affairs.

The five people joining the cabinet are new Environment Minister Alan Kelly, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, Arts Minister Heather Humphries, while Paschal Donohoe will lead the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney keeps his portfolio but has also been asked to lead the Department of Defence.

The prime Minister (taoiseach) outlined the changes as he addressed parliament on Friday afternoon.

He said the Republic of Ireland was entering a "new phase of recovery" and he paid tribute to Irish workers, particularly those on low and middle incomes.

"Despite waves of economic instability, they got out and they got to work," Mr Kenny said.

"And because they did they got us the country back on track. Today, we owe our workers our recovery."

The prime minister's Fine Gael party has been in coalition government with Labour since 2011.

'Very difficult'

The two parties have introduced a series of austerity measures, after the previous Irish government had to seek an international financial bailout.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) provided emergency financial assistance to the state after Irish banks were brought to the brink of collapse during the 2008 financial crisis.

On Friday, Mr Kenny told parliament that the past three years had been "very difficult" for the Republic of Ireland.

He said his coalition government had made "difficult, but necessary, decisions" but he also admitted that "we haven't got everything right".

However, Mr Kenny said that over the past year, the Republic of Ireland had the "highest employment-growth rate in Europe", creating 61,000 new jobs.

"Since we exited the EU/IMF bailout, I'm glad to say that the economy has continued to recover strongly. But vital as it is and was, I want to stress that economic recovery was never the end in itself," the prime minister added.

'Sacrifices'

He said too few Irish citizens had begun to see the benefits of the recovery in their own lives.

"I want to assure the people of Ireland that their efforts and sacrifices to date will neither be taken for granted nor squandered by this government," Mr Kenny told parliament.

"The resources we have at hand will be used to promote ever more job creation.

"It is by returning the country to full employment that we can best reach our goal of making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and security."

Mr Kenny also confirmed that he had accepted the cabinet resignations of Eamon Gilmore, Ruairi Quinn, Phil Hogan, Jimmy Deenihan and Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Gilmore, who was the former leader of the Labour party, had already announced his resignation as deputy prime minister (tánaiste) a week ago.

Mr Kenny paid tribute to him, saying: "As Tanaiste, over the last three years, he has been outstanding in the service of Ireland and the Irish people."

'Disappointed'

Mr Quinn, who is a long-standing senior member of the Labour party, had confirmed he was stepping down as education minister last week.

Mr Deenihan has been given other roles within Mr Kenny's own department and at the Department of Foreign Affairs, with special responsibility for the Irish abroad.

Mr Rabbitte told the Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, that he was "disappointed but not surprised" that he was leaving the cabinet but added that he wished the government well.

Cabinet members who remain in post are Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Pubic Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton.

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