Reshuffle inevitable as supporters jockey for cabinet posts

Inevitably with a new Cabinet or reshuffle of ministers, there will be losers as well as winners.

Reshuffle inevitable as supporters jockey for cabinet posts

Fine Gael leadership hopeful Leo Varadkar has given a hint of what changes he might or might not make.

While insisting he wanted to promote “philosophies of the future”, the social protection minister admitted he — if made leader — would be “inheriting” a Cabinet.

This signals that the Dublin West TD knows the limits of firing and hiring ministers in any new set-up.

Furthermore, Mr Varadkar was very clear yesterday at a Dublin launch that he would remain committed to the current regime plan as agreed with coalition partners the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil.

But there will be changes, partially due to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan retiring from Cabinet.

Moreover, Leo Varadkar has signalled that, if in power, he would put the Department of Public Expenditure back under the one roof with finance again.

Such changes would leave at least two-to-three cabinet seats free.

It is assumed Paschal Donohoe is a preferred choice as the next finance minister.

Mr Varadkar signalled as much yesterday, talking about his Dublin colleague’s thoughts on national debt.

The social protection position would come up if Mr Varadkar was made taoiseach.

Some have suggested that Richard Bruton, after backing him, has saved his cabinet seat. While it is speculated he may be given justice, instead of Frances Fitzgerald, Mr Bruton’s own supporters say he would like a money portfolio or instead remain where he is.

It is unclear if Ms Fitzgerald will stay at Cabinet, given the garda scandals.

Furthermore, there are other women keen for promotion, including Government Whip Regina Doherty.

Consequently, Ms Doherty’s place would be freed up. Carlow Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan may be suited to this job, say sources, having served 15 years as a parliamentarian.

In addition, many expect that Leo Varadkar’s campaign manager and junior minister Eoghan Murphy will be promoted to Cabinet.

A big decision though is what Mr Varadkar will do about the supporters of his rival Simon Coveney.

Undoubtedly, the biggest fear for those who backed the Cork minister is that they will face the chop or be overlooked for promotion.

Health Minister Simon Harris is a name that keeps coming up.

But, while he might be considered “damaged goods” if a Varadkar government was formed, he is still seen as a hard worker. Furthermore, not many ministers are begging to run that department.

Another key Coveney supporter, Damien English, is also likely to be left as a junior minister in housing, say Varadkar aides. The same is being said about keeping Simon Coveney as the senior minister there — if he loses.

“They’re doing a good job, why move them,” a Varadkar supporter remarked.

Other names linked to promotion, included Wexford TD Michael D’Arcy, Waterford’s John Deasy and Kerry’s Brendan Griffin.

Mayo TD and junior minister Michael Ring is undoubtedly set for promotion, especially for geographical reasons. Furthermore, a decision by Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to side with Varadkar at the outset of the contest will likely see her left in the post.

“She was an early convert,” said a Varadkar ally.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan may be left in Iveagh House. “He’s liked on both sides of the border,” said a Varadkar strategist.

Mr Varadkar insisted he had not promised any ministerial jobs to supporters but had “listened to their aspirations”.

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