Fiachra Ó Cionnaith assesses the likely winners and losers in incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s new cabinet.


The likely winners and losers in Leo Varadkar’s revamped cabinet

They were all singing for their supper, but now the meals are coming who will be left hungry? Fiachra Ó Cionnaith assesses the likely winners and losers in incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s new cabinet.

The likely winners and losers in Leo Varadkar’s revamped cabinet

Enda Kenny - Outgoing Taoiseach:

Mr Kenny is the big loser. While a Brexit Minister role has been ruled out, a Brexit envoy position has been hinted at.

Frances Fitzgerald - Tánaiste and Justice:

The crisis-hit minister is likely to lose her Tánaiste position to Simon Coveney, but it remains unclear if she will retain justice. She may be replaced by Richard Bruton, although keeping her could limit garda scandal contamination. Her Varadkar support and the small number of women in cabinet ensure another ministerial role.

Simon Coveney - Housing:

Mr Coveney wants to retain housing, but there is speculation Mr Varadkar will make him Tánaiste. Keep your friends close... particularly when that friend is backed by two thirds of grassroots members.

Michael Noonan - Outgoing Finance Minister:

The veteran politician does not want to be considered for the next cabinet.

Paschal Donohoe - Public Expenditure:

Guaranteed to remain in cabinet. It is likely the pay talks will mean he retains public expenditure, although an eventual move to finance is inevitable. An outside possibility for Tánaiste, too.

Richard Bruton - Education:

Mr Bruton notably announced on the leadership campaign’s first morning that he would back Mr Varadkar, leading to speculation of a deal. A move to justice or finance looks likely.

Simon Harris - Health:

Much has been made about how Coveney support and a perceived frosty relationship with Mr Varadkar mean he is heading for the door. But a lengthy stay in health may be Mr Harris’s true punishment.

Charlie Flanagan - Foreign Affairs:

While Mr Flanagan is part of the older generation which Mr Varadkar will wish to subtly leave behind, Flanagan’s experience in foreign affairs, political difficulties in Northern Ireland, and Brexit may mean he will be kept where he is for now.

Heather Humphreys - Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs:

The Cavan-Monaghan TD has won over her detractors, while her geographical location and gender ensure her retention.

Michael Creed - Agriculture:

The Cork TD — who will have a key role in the Brexit fallout — will stay where he is.

Denis Naughten - Communications, Climate Change and Environment:

Fine Gael-Independents deal guarantees his position.

Katherine Zappone - Children:

Fine Gael-Independents deal guarantees her position.

Shane Ross - Tourism and Sport:

Fine Gael-Independents deal guarantees his position.

Mary Mitchell O’connor - Jobs:

One of the most at-risk ministers, she will likely be replaced by Mr Varadkar’s campaign manager and junior finance minister, Eoghan Murphy. The backbenches beckon.

Safe junior ministers

Finian McGrath - junior disabilities minister:

Retained due to Fine Gael- Independents deal.

John Halligan - junior training and skills minister:

Retained due to Fine Gael-Independents deal.

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran - junior OPW minister:

Retained due to Fine Gael- Independents deal.

Damien English - junior housing minister:

Mr Coveney will ensure his campaign manager is retained.

Patrick O’Donovan - junior sports minister:

May be retained, due to geographical reasons and Varadkar support.

Junior ministers vying for promotion

Eoghan Murphy - junior finance minister:

Promotion certainty.

Regina Doherty - chief whip:

Promotion contender.

Helen McEntee - junior mental health minister:

Promotion contender.

Michael Ring - junior regional development minister:

Promotion contender.

Joe McHugh - junior diaspora minister:

Promotion contender.

Sean Kyne - junior gaeltacht minister:

Promotion contender.

Pat Breen - junior small business minister:


Paul Kehoe - junior defence minister:

Demotion likely.

Catherine Byrne - junior drugs minister:

Demotion likely.

Dara Murphy - junior European affairs minister:

At risk of demotion, but Brexit experience may save him.

David Stanton - junior justice minister:

At risk of demotion.

Marcella Corcoran Kenny - junior health minister:

At risk of demotion.

Ambitious backbenchers

Michael D’Arcy (Wexford)

John Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny)

Brendan Griffin (Kerry)

Jim Daly (Cork South West)

Josepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown)

Noel Rock (Dublin North West)

Peter Burke (Longford-Westmeath)

Alan Farrell (Dublin Fingal).

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