Signalling a reshuffle in June should keep everyone on their toes

Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised the political tempo inside and outside his parliamentary party yesterday by announcing there will be a Cabinet reshuffle, although it won’t be until next year.

Mr Kenny said while he hadn’t yet discussed the idea with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, he was planning to move ministers in the “back half of the lifetime of this Government”, prompting speculation it will happen early next summer after the local and European elections.

“Everybody’s working very hard, everybody is diligent at their job. I’ve a good relationship with them all but everybody understands you have to make some changes,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Kenny told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “It’s like the All-Ireland finals these days, when the man appears on the sideline with a placard, it’s time for his replacement. It’s a matter we will consider in due course.”

One Fine Gael source described the decision to leave the reshuffle until possibly next June as a “shrewd political move”.

“This will keep that lot [TDs and senators] well in line and on good behaviour for the referendum and budget, never mind next year’s elections. It was a shrewd move by Enda... you’ve got to hand it to him.”

By June, Mr Kenny is also expected to nominate Ireland’s replacement for EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn, and Environment Minister Phil Hogan is one of those who is being tipped for the plum post, which carries an annual package of €276,000 per year.

Ministers said while they weren’t surprised, everyone would be treading carefully.

Junior finance minister Brian Hayes, one of those tipped for promotion, said he was in favour of change.

“It will keep everybody on their toes... We’ve a very large parliamentary party with lot of people with a huge amount to contribute, so I suppose freshening faces on the Cabinet or junior ranks is inevitable,” he said.

FG deputy leader, Health Minister James Reilly, said he welcomed the news.

“I think any good Taoiseach will want to keep his team on its toes at all times,” he said.

“We do bring changes in the middle of the game and we are mid-term and I think it’s historically been the case there have been reshuffles in all cabinets to freshen it up and to move people around. I’m quite happy to do what the Taoiseach dictates but clearly I’d much rather stay where I am.”

Transport and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said “it would be a privilege to serve in any part of the Cabinet and I’ll do what the Taoiseach says”.

At the Labour Party meeting in Enfield, Co Meath, Mr Gilmore said the issue had not yet been addressed.

“It’s quite normal in the life of a five-year government that there are changes but it’s not something that we have addressed yet,” he said.

Labour may opt to bring younger faces into the Cabinet while Fine Gael will have to manage the expectations of backbenchers.

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