Irish defence minister replaces Burke at talks

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Dublin's defence minister, David Andrews, was last night installed as the new Irish foreign minister and co-sponsor of the Northern Ireland peace talks. Mr Andrews, 62, regarded as a "safe pair of hands" returns to a post he previously held in 1992 when he helped formulate the formula for Northern Ireland diplomacy. He replaces Ray Burke who was forced to step down after admitting accepting pounds 30,000 from a developer seeking planning permissions. Mr Burke, a former chairman of Dublin County Council, could not to explain why the payment was made.

Following Mr Burke's departure from both the cabinet and the Dail, Opposition leaders are targeting the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The Democratic Left leader, Proinssias de Rossa, said yesterday that Mr Ahern's conspicuous failure to tackle the long-simmering Burke payment row highlighted his "indecisiveness and ineptitude". A controversial passports-for-investment scheme under which Irish citizenship was provided for wealthy foreigners in return for investment in Irish firms is to be dropped. Breaches of procedures under the scheme by Mr Burke while justice minister helped to accelerate his resignation on Tuesday. Mr Ahern faces a battle to win the two Dail seats left vacant by Mr Burke's exit and the death of the Labour chairman Jim Kemmy.