LOUTH TD Fergus O’Dowd insists he could not have got a more important job after being appointed a Junior Minister on Thursday with the title of Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources and Department of Environment, Community and Local Government with responsibility for NewEra Project.
While he talked up his appointment, the Drogheda-based TD admitted his disappointment at not receiving a senior minister’s post the previous day.
It was widely anticipated that O’Dowd would be made a senior minister if he succeeded in winning Fine Gael a second seat in Louth for the first time in 57 years – something he did when Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick was elected alongside him.
However, 63-year-old O’Dowd insists that he is delighted with his new role.
“It’s some job,” he said.
“It’s the most important job I could ever be given. It’s to manage the creation of 20,000 jobs per year. To do that we’ve to transform and modernise our economy. It’s a very important position and I’ll be working with Phil Hogan and Pat Rabbitte and with semi-state companies. It’s a very challenging job and I’m really looking forward to it.”
O’Dowd says he has to deliver in his new post and was looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m giving it 100pc of my commitment. It’s a wonderful challenge and I’m really honoured that Enda has given me this job.
“Obviously it will be the benchmark of this government. NewERA has been the Fine Gael flagship policy in job creation for a number of years now so when I’m tasked with delivering that, then it’s a big challenge but it’s one that I’m certainly up to.”
O’Dowd admitted, however, that he was disappointed not to have got a place at the cabinet table of the new government.
“Let’s be very honest about this, there was only so many places at cabinet and of course I was very disappointed but I accept totally that Enda has the right to appoint whoever he wishes and there were issues like there being too many of us on the east coast but I don’t believe I could have got a more important job than this.”
O’Dowd also denied that his decision to back Richard Bruton in last year’s leadership challenge against Enda Kenny had been a factor in the new Taoiseach’s decision to omit the former party spokesperson on education and transport from his new cabinet.
“Some people would say that but there’s another side to that argument as well and that is to be put in charge of the management of NewEra is the most important job that anybody could have in this country. My job is basically to make sure that those 20,000 jobs are created every year and that the infrastructure is in place to do that.
“The disappointment is over. Lots of people don’t make it to cabinet. It is a coalition government and if it was a Fine Gael government the cabinet might be different but he has to balance it.”
O’Dowd said he was now looking forward to getting stuck into his new role and saw a big role for County Louth in it, particularly in terms of the input that Dundalk Institute of Technology could have.
“I’ll have an open door for ideas. This is for the country, it’s not just for me and for Fine Gael. This is to give people the hope that they won’t have to emigrate and show that we can attract new industry and investment and I’m very happy to do that.
“Obviously the jobs will have to come everywhere but as I understand it DkIT is the centre in Ireland for renewable energy and one of my first stops will be to go there to see what we can do.
“I don’t have a bias for or against anyone though. If anyone has an idea for job creation I want to hear from them but Louth has some very bright and intelligent people.
“The darkest hour is gone and we’re now facing the dawn of a new era. We’re hungry to get the job done and we’re going to do it in an open, transparent way to get people to buy into what we’re doing. We’re totally focused on the goal and the goal is jobs,” he said.