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'Devastated' Burton in last minute Cabinet demotion

THE Labour Party look to be unravelling at the seams as major tensions grow following Joan Burton's shut out by Eamon Gilmore.

Ms Burton was dramatcially demoted from a major ministry seconds before the cabinet announcent yesterday.

The new Social Protection Minister is said to be devastated by the move.

A well-placed source suggested that Joan Burton was initially selected for the education portfolio, while Roisin Shorthall was to take the social protection job.

This would have taken the number of women in Cabinet to three, however the Dail was adjourned for 30 minutes as an argument developed.

As Ms Shorthall walked into the Dail chamber alongside Jan O'Sullivan they smiled at female reporters and laughed "sorry girls".

Ms Burton was not available for comment today but sources suggested that she would be "happy but not delighted" with her new portfolio.

A source said: "The expectation, rightly or wrongly, was that she would get the second ministry at the Department of Finance -- so why would she be delighted with anything less than that?"

Former Dublin Labour TD Mary Upton said today she was "very surprised" that Burton did not get a finance portfolio

"I just expected she would get a financial portfolio, particularly as there were two financial portfolios this time. She had worked so hard on finance and was widely acknowledged in the party as extremely competent in the role. I don't understand it."

Labour TD Kathleen Lynch said today she was very disappointed just two women ministers have been appointed to Cabinet. And she declared it was not in Joan Burton's nature to be "furious" about being passed over for a major financial portfolio.



EXHAUSTING

"Joan for the past five or six years has carried the flag in relation to finance. I know she had found it quite exhausting and once said it was like sitting the Leaving Cert every day of the week. I suppose from that point of view she might welcome the chance to be doing work that was a litle less ardous," she said.

Ruairi Quinn, who claimed the Education and Skills ministry, confirmed that he had heard the rumours of unrest within Labour but said that he had no part in them.

He denied being behind any row over ministerial positions. "I wasn't involved," he told the Herald today.

Asked about Joan Burton's appointment as Social Protection Minister, he said: "Joan has been given the biggest spending department in Government. There is major reform needed there and change. She's going to be very good at it."

Mr Quinn said that he didn't get the call until "around 4pm" yesterday and had no contact with Eamon Gilmore or his representatives before that.

"Everybody was called over one by one," he explained, adding: "I haven't a clue what went on except for myself."

Mr Quinn said: "Every person who was a frontbench spokesperson was hoping to get a position. I wasn't hanging by the phone."

There was some disappointment too within Fine Gael with Enda Kenny's constituency colleague Michael Ring said to be "livid" at his exclusion.

The new cabinet was due to meet at 11am today at which point Enda Kenny will discuss the appointment of junior ministers to various departments.

This list is expected to include Mr Ring as well as some TDs who went against Mr Kenny in last year's heave, like Charlie Flanagan and Brian Hayes. Labour's Roisin Shortall is certain to become a junior minister while Jan O'Sullivan is also thought to be in line for a consolation prize.

hnews@herald.ie