Taoiseach to name Simon Coveney as Tánaiste

The Taoiseach is expected to announce the appointment of Simon Coveney as Tánaiste in the Dáil today.

Sources close to the Taoiseach have said Leo Varadkar recognised the “loyalty and support” given by Mr Coveney in recent days and weeks as the McCabe emails controversy threatened to bring down the Government. Mr Varadkar also believes Mr Coveney has been particularity strong on Brexit as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Mr Varadkar last night confirmed to a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that he would be appointing a Tánaiste and Business Minister today, after the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald.

But Mr Varadkar is expected to make “minimal” changes to Cabinet today. He will announce the appointments in the Dáil this afternoon before travelling to the Áras where those appointed will receive their seals of office.

However, Fine Gael members did not rule out Heather Humphreys last night, with both Richard Bruton and Paschal Donohoe also being tipped as having an outside chance of securing the tánaiste’s role.

Sources cited the the fact that Ms Humphreys is based along the border, her religious background and her gender as playing in her favour.

But a number of Fine Gael members warned that denying Mr Coveney the role could lead to splintering and deep discontent within the party, especially among those who had supported the Cork South Central TD during the leadership race.

Many TDs said it would be “shocking” if Simon Coveney was not named tánaiste. The logic is his appointment would help heal any wounds from the summer Fine Gael leadership race and further strengthen Coveney’s and therefor Ireland’s position when it comes to negotiating over Brexit.

Mr Coveney’s appointment would also please the ordinary membership, whose members plumbed for the Cork man over Leo Varadkar during the Fine Gael contest.

Moreover, Coveney is seen as a safe pair of hands who could easily take Leaders Questions on a Thursday, which traditionally has fallen to a Tanaiste.

Talk of an immediate wider reshuffle though was being played down last night. While Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said this week that there was a “possibility” of a wider Cabinet reshuffle, it is thought Mr Varadkar may leave this, if at all, until the New Year.

Many Fine Gael politicians were tipping Ms Humphreys to take over Ms Fitzgerald’s vacant portfolio of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

But the departure of Ms Fitzgerald also leaves the Taoiseach open to making some changes and the possibility of elevating a first-time TD to the rank of Minister of State or perhaps straight to a cabinet position was being discussed around Leinster House.

However, he will have to consider a number of issues, including gender, geography and loyalty when making his choices.

A number of backbenchers and junior TDs are among those being talked up as getting promotion. These include European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee and Dublin-Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan.

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