Mixed reaction to Kenny’s new assorted cabinet

Enda Kenny’s new Cabinet has received mixed reaction with praise after he appointed more women to government, but also questions about the role he gave certain ministers.

For the first time since the 1960s, the make-up of the Government also includes several ministers who are not from specific parties and are Independent.

A number of Fine Gael TDs were also promoted from the backbenches, while Mr Kenny also broke up the Department of Environment and created a new Department of Housing, and he also merged new areas into the Department of Communications and the Department of Arts.

As expected, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was reappointed in her role but also made Tánaiste after Labour and party leader Joan Burton left government.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan

Paschal Donohoe was promoted from Transport to Public Expenditure, a move which was flagged but will put the Dublin Central TD in a strong position where he will work alongside Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who also retains his position.

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

Charlie Flanagan also remains as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

However, Mr Kenny made several changes in his Cabinet. Most notably, Leo Varadkar was taken out of Health and put into Social Protection, a decision which sources close to the Dublin West TD said they were happy with, despite views that the move represents a demotion for him.

Mr Varadkar said: “The Taoiseach and I had a conversation about the future and the different portfolios I might hold.”

Asked if he was given a choice, he said: “ I don’t want to have a conversation with you about my conversation with the Taosieach. On a certain level I’m sorry to be leaving health.”

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar was replaced by Simon Harris, previously the junior finance minister, bringing the 29-year-old into Cabinet for the first time.

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Elsewhere, Shane Ross, an outspoken critic of public sector transport, was made Minister for Transport.

There were questions about the appointment for the Independent Alliance leader to the position, given the fact that he has previously accused Luas drivers of holding the country to ransom and the fact that pay demands in general in the sector are expected.

Shane Ross
Shane Ross

Mr Kenny’s decision to promote some female backbenchers to Cabinet was viewed as positive, as he increased the number of women in Cabinet by one. While Mr Kenny had previously pledged to have equal numbers of men and women in Cabinet, this was unlikely to go ahead given the fragmented make-up of the new Government.

Dun Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor was made Minister for Jobs. There had been speculation the two-time TD may get promoted, especially after her running mate Maria Bailey was elected in the general election. On her promotion, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said: “I’m delighted, but I have a big job ahead of me.”

Meath East TD Regina Doherty, who was also expected to be brought into Cabinet, was promoted to the role of chief government whip, a difficult role given the co-operation that will be needed with Independent TDs and Fianna Fáil for the minority government.

Meath East TD Regina Doherty
Meath East TD Regina Doherty

One surprise was the promotion of Cork North West’s Michael Creed to Cabinet as agriculture minister. While he had been flagged for a junior ministerial post, his appointment will bolster Fine Gael’s position in Cork and comes after Mr Creed was previously reported as having voted against Mr Kenny in the attempted coup in 2010.

Michael Creed: Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Michael Creed: Agriculture, Food and the Marine

His appointment allowed fellow Cork TD Simon Coveney, who led the negotiations on the formation for government, to be moved from Agriculture to take over the new Department of Housing and Local Government.

Simon Coveney: Housing, Planning, Local Government
Simon Coveney: Housing, Planning, Local Government

One-time Fine Gael leadership contender Richard Bruton has been appointed Education and Skills Minister in what is being seen as a win for the long-time TD.

The former jobs minister was widely believed to have lobbied to replace the outgoing Labour TD Jan O Sullivan in Education and was in positive mood after coming from Government Buildings moments before the Cabinet was announced.

Mr Bruton was the TD who led the failed leadership heave against Kenny in 2010, a move many felt ended his hope of returning to a high-ranking position.

However, the decision to move him at his apparent request to Education is a further indication the Dublin TD is trusted again by those in Kenny’s camp.

Richard Bruton
Richard Bruton

Outgoing Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht minister Heather Humphreys is now Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts, and the Gaeltacht, adding another duty to her watch.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD will be relieved to have retained her position at the Cabinet table after a string of controversies recently.

Elsewhere, Dublin Bay North and Independent Alliance member Finian McGrath was, as expected, appointed as super junior minister at Cabinet in charge of disabilities. This gives him to right to sit at Cabinet but denies him any voting power. Paul Kehoe, the outgoing government whip, was also appointed as defence minister, but in a similar super junior role.

Rural Alliance TD Denis Naughten, formerly of Fine Gael, was brought into Cabinet and given responsibility for the combined department of communications and climate change. The appointment is also a sign of Mr Kenny’s move to heal any old wounds in the party.

Outgoing attorney general Maire Whelan, who was a Labour appointment in the last government, was returned in her position.

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