Clare Fianna F´il TD, Tony Killeen has received a ringing endorsement from Taoiseach Brian Cowen by retaining his post in Wednesday’s reshuffle of junior ministers.
The good news for the long-serving deputy is that not alone was he re-appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with special responsibility for Forestry and Fisheries in the Cabinet reshuffle but his portfolio has been broadened to include that of Marine.
Minister Killeen told The Clare Champion he was thrilled with his reappointment and, modestly, viewed it as “a reasonable endorsement by An Taoiseach”.
He was also heartened that in the lead-up to the announcement, he received a lot of encouragement and support from organisations and fishermen around the country, which indicated to him “that he must have been performing satisfactorily in his job”.
“Naturally, I’m delighted. I think I’m as pleased now as I was by my first appointment,” he explained. “This is my fourth ministerial appointment and I should be getting accustomed to it. But I’m not and I’m thrilled I have been assigned the same portfolio,” he admitted.
Minister Killeen accepted that it was a notoriously difficult portfolio because of “the complexities and technical issues involved in the fisheries department given the regime internally and at European level”.
But if the workload wasn’t demanding enough, he now has the added responsibility for the marine as well.
“It’s extraordinary but in the past, marine was spread over 10 different departments. By assuming responsibility for marine, I am effectively co-ordinating everything. I had already starting fulfilling that role but it hadn’t become public knowledge,” he revealed.
In reshuffles, there are winners and losers and Minister Killeen said that he was disappointed for the seven junior ministers who got dropped.
“I feel sorry for my seven colleagues who weren’t re-appointed. They were all hard working and I’d have to say very helpful to me during my illness. When I asked them to do things for me, which I did in the last few months because I wasn’t able to do it myself, they hadn’t to be asked twice.”
“I’ve spoken to them since the announcements and they all understand that An Taoiseach was under political pressure and in the climate had to make the changes. Somebody had to go. Then you have two new appointees, both first-time TDs and it’s a huge honour for them,” he commented.
Of his own battle with bowel cancer, Minister Killeen revealed that he faces three more weeks of treatment and expects to be back to full health by the end of June. “An Taoiseach is happy for me to continue as junior minister, so am I,” he said.
His Clare and party colleague, Timmy Dooley, has welcomed Minister Killeen’s appointment.
He said, “I was not at all disappointed not to be elevated to Minister of State. I never expected it. I was delighted that Tony Killeen was re-appointed. He has done an exceptionally good job in the role he is in and while he has suffered from ill health, he has continued to fulfil his duties. I was in no doubt but that he would be re-appointed. While the speculation was interesting, I never felt there was a vacancy there.”