Wait goes on as Joan and Enda mull over issues

Talks between Tánaiste and new Labour leader Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny will resume this morning, ahead of an expected announcement of a re-focused Government agenda and Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Kenny told Fine Gael TDs last night that there were no major obstacles between both Coalition leaders, but that it was taking time for issues to be gone through line by line.

There was some impatience among backbenchers and ministers that the process should not be allowed to drag out too much longer, because it could give an impression of instability.

There is still some uncertainty surrounding which party should get the prized Jobs portfolio, but the incumbent minister, Richard Bruton, has made clear he wants to hold onto it.

It was speculated that Fine Gael will hold onto the portfolio, while responsibility for trade would move from the Department of Foreign Affairs into the Transport and Tourism portfolio which would be taken over by Labour.

Discussions yesterday focused on the policy priorities of the Coalition in the remaining 18 months in office including housing, medical cards and Ms Burton’s proposed low pay commission.

Problems surrounding medical card removals are still being raised by backbench TDs and resolving the crisis will be a priority for the newly appointed Cabinet.

The number of new faces on the Fine Gael side of Cabinet is expected to be limited to one or two.

Mr Kenny is expected to opt for a number of switches of ministers between briefs.

Health Minister James Reilly is widely expected to be moved to another brief, leaving the difficult department to be taken over by either Mr Bruton, Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar.

A safe pair of hands is needed to steer the department out of the headlines following a number of damaging controversies.

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.

More significant changes will be made to the junior ministerial ranks later this week.

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 party is anxious to present a “fresh start with an energised Cabinet” in the autumn.

Discussions between the two leaders began on Monday.


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