‘New-look’Cabinet to be unveiled today

The Taoiseach is expected to opt for a wide-ranging reshuffle of his Cabinet today in an effort to present a "new-look" coalition ahead of the next Dáil term and reverse his own party’s sagging fortunes.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is likely to move to the Department of Health, where a safe pair of hands is needed to steer it out of the headlines following a number of damaging controversies including the medical card fiasco.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who is seen as having successfully managed his department over the past three years, is likely to move to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Fine Gael is expected to take back the portfolio, with the Taoiseach believing a renewed focus is needed on the North following heightened tensions in recent months.

Enda Kenny met with Tánaiste Joan Burton late into last night to reach agreement on a number of sticking points surrounding the allocation of portfolios.

He is believed to have been reluctant to hand over the Jobs portfolio. But some Fine Gael sources last night conceded that it may be given to Labour or at least split into two roles.

Mr Kenny has already spoken to some ministers about their views on shifting departments, but is giving nothing away until today when he will announce the new line up to the Dáil.

The newly formed Cabinet will visit Áras an Uachtaráin to receive their seals of office from President Michael D Higgins, and will also hold their first meeting there.

Mr Kenny is not expected to bring in many new faces, but will make significant changes, promoting ministers considered to be doing a good job, including Mr Bruton, Mr Coveney and Leo Varadkar.

Health Minster James Reilly will be moved to another position but it is believed Mr Varadkar might be too controversy-prone to take on the portfolio where Mr Kenny insists he wants no more bad headlines.

The current chief whip, Paul Keogh, is expected to be moved to agriculture — an important brief for Fine Gael. More significant changes will be made to the junior ministerial ranks later this week, where Áine Collins, Simon Harris, Regina Doherty, and Damien English, are among those tipped for promotion.

The Labour leader will promote three new faces to Cabinet, likely to include deputy leader, Alan Kelly, and Cork North Central TD, Kathleen Lynch.

Fine Gael’s view is that Labour will bring in significant changes and “we need to be part of that fresh, new-look Government”.

After poor election results, poor politics and a number of avoidable controversies in recent months, the Taoiseach is anxious, according to one source, to present a “fresh start with an energised Cabinet that is setting the agenda at the start of the new term”.

ANALYSIS: 13


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