Leo Varadkar wants 'non-contentious' department in new government

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is being linked with a move to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation as well as becoming Tánaiste.
Leo Varadkar wants 'non-contentious' department in new government
Leo Varadkar is meeting Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan today to finalise the make-up of the new government.
Leo Varadkar is meeting Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan today to finalise the make-up of the new government.

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is being linked with a move to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation as well as becoming Tánaiste.

With Fine Gael seeking to keep hold of key portfolios including Foreign Affairs and Justice, Mr Varadkar is said to want to move a “non-contentious” department which would allow him to transition back into the Taoiseach’s job in 2022.

Sources, speaking to the Irish Examiner, have said a move to the Department of Business, currently headed up by Heather Humphreys would be “ideal” for Mr Varadkar who has to rebuild his party after a deeply disappointing general election which saw them win just 35 seats.

“Leo won’t want justice as look what happened to Frances Fitzgerald and Alan Shatter in days gone by. Business is a busy but relatively quiet department and he could easily use the opportunity to travel the country,” said one senior figure.

What is clear is that outgoing Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will not be in Cabinet with fresh speculation that he will not even make the junior ministerial ranks.

Mr Murphy, who was campaign director for Mr Varadkar’s leadership campaign in 2017 is being linked with some new internal role to aid the party’s rebuilding.

The three party leaders – Mr Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan – are meeting today to finalise the make-up of the new government.

As revealed by the Irish Examiner, Fine Gael is expected to take the Departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Business and the Department of Jobs.

Fianna Fáil will take the Department of Housing while the Department of Children will become the Department of Children, Disability and Equality and a new Department of Climate, Energy, Transport and Natural Resources will be created, with Eamon Ryan at the helm.

A junior ministry responsible for roads is expected to be allocated to either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and it is likely to be a super junior ministry.

Fianna Fáil is expected to take the position of Government Chief Whip, with the other two super juniors at Cabinet going to Fine Gael and the Greens.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan will not be offered the position of Attorney General, thus ending speculation linking him with the post.

There has been persistent talk that incoming Taoiseach Micheál Martin may appoint Mr O’Callaghan, TD for Dublin Bay South and Senior Counsel – to the position which would allow him attend cabinet, but this has been ruled out.

“Jim will not be Attorney General,” one source said emphatically.

With Fianna Fáil expected to hold six seats at the Cabinet table, Mr Martin has extremely limited scope for including more than one minister from Dublin.

This is because along with himself he will include Dara Calleary his deputy leader and Michael McGrath his Cork South Central colleague in his ministerial make-up.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte is likely to be selected both because of her geographical location and gender, despite annoying many internally in recent days by suggesting internal critics of the programme for government need to “be slapped around the ankles”.

There is also likely to be one minister from Leinster with Barry Cowen and Thomas Byrne in contention.

This would mean just one slot for a Dublin minister with Mr O’Callaghan, and Fingal TD Darragh O’Brien in contention.

As the Irish Examiner reported earlier today, Fianna Fáil appear to have secured the housing portfolio which could tip the balance in favour of Mr O’Brien, hence the suggestion of the Attorney General role for Mr O’Callaghan had been put forward.

But this suggestion has now been ruled out completely by two sources familiar with the process.

Mr O’Callaghan was also said to be opposed to the idea of serving as Attorney General, reportedly telling people: “ I didn’t knock on 20,000 doors to be AG.” Should the three parties approve the deal as expected on Friday, Mr Martin will be formally elected Taoiseach on Saturday with outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar assuming the role of Tánaiste.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have committed to a principle of “parity of esteem” between them sharing equal number of ministries and the position of Taoiseach being rotated in 2022.

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