Suspense building as Fine Gael TDs await reshuffle

With just 48 hours or so to go, there will be many frayed nerves in the Fine Gael ranks this morning.

Some will be fearing the chop, others will be hopeful of promotion.

Politics is a cruel business and hopeful aspirants know that, should they miss out this time around, they will have to wait until 2019 before another chance comes their way.

That is if Fine Gael are still in Government at that stage.

While many of them, 51 to be accurate, put their support behind Leo Varadkar, he doesn’t have anything near that number of positions to dole out so there will be plenty of disappointment.

In total, should he leave things as they are, Mr Varadkar will have 12 Cabinet spots, including his own, to hand out, plus 16 junior Fine Gael ministries.

He committed yesterday to leave his independent colleagues alone in his reshuffle so any alterations will be limited to the Fine Gael ranks.

What do we know for sure?

Well, we know that both Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan will make way for younger blood.

That leaves two slots at a minimum to be filled.

Mr Varadkar will move on from the Department of Social Protection to Government Buildings so he will need to be replaced there.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe is now likely to assume control of both finance departments, which will allow Mr Varadkar a bit more flexibility in his deliberations.

It is almost certain that Frances Fitzgerald is coming to the end of her tenure in the Department of Justice and will also lose the mantle of Tánaiste.

She is likely to remain on in Cabinet, though, and could replace Mr Varadkar in Social Protection.

It has been widely surmised that the defeated Simon Coveney will be moved into Foreign Affairs and could be appointed Tánaiste to dilute the Dublin-centric feel to the Cabinet ranks.

It is also anticipated that a Minister for the West would have to be appointed, given Mr Kenny’s departure, and his constituency colleague Michael Ring has been tipped for promotion.

But Mr Varadkar’s options are limited after that and will require the tough decision to forcibly remove one or two others if he is to reward those seeking advancement.

It is envisaged that Eoghan Murphy, the current junior finance minister and Varadkar campaign manager, will be elevated and could replace Mary Mitchell O’Connor at the Department of Jobs.

But geography will play its role too, and while the Cabinet will be Dublin-heavy, Mr Varadkar will also have difficult choices in ensuring his supporters in the South East are looked after.

It would seem tricky to ensure that Paul Kehoe and Michael Darcy in Wexford, John Deasy in Waterford, and John Paul Phelan in Kilkenny all attain ministerial office, despite each having a legitimate claim.

A nation holds its breath.

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