Richard Bruton set for justice portfolio

Education Minister Richard Bruton looks set to be handed the challenge of restoring confidence in An Garda Síochána as justice minister.

Incoming taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made it known he wants to reconfigure a number of government departments in light of ongoing crises and to deal with the fallout of Brexit.

“That is something that is under consideration, the restructuring of government departments to reflect what I believe [are] the particular needs into the future,” said Mr Varadkar.

While Mr Bruton had been linked with a move to the Department of Finance to replace Michael Noonan, it now appears likely that he will take over from Frances Fitzgerald who is almost certain to leave her current post as justice minister.

Mr Bruton would like to remain in the Department of Education but speculation is linking him with the Department of Justice, which could be split in two to allow for a home affairs minister.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that the Department of Jobs is to be beefed up to take on an explicit Brexit role and other departments are also likely to see similar Brexit-specific functions added to their brief.

There is also likely to be significant changes in the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, which is deemed unwieldy.

Government sources have said the department could see a major infrastructure element added to its title and functions.

“This is not a reflection on Heather Humphreys, who is an excellent minister, but the brief needs to be more manageable and Leo seems keen to beef up the Gaeltacht functions,” said a senior government source.

It is increasingly likely there will be some significant reform of the two finance departments, with two options being considered.

Firstly, it has been suggested that Paschal Donohoe could be appointed as finance minister while keeping on his role as public expenditure and reform minister for at least 12 months and possibly longer.

The other option being considered is a move to reunite the departments under Mr Donohoe, but this is being strongly resisted by senior civil servants keen to retain a powerful Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Mr Varadkar has also said the Independent members of the Cabinet will be kept in their portfolios — therefore he has 11 positions to allocate to Fine Gael TDs.


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