Fianna Fáil TDs have said they would not have an issue with Micheál Martin taking the Foreign Affairs portfolio despite discussions that it could spell trouble for his leadership of the party.
Speculation is mounting on what brief the Taoiseach will move to in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle and when he becomes Tánaiste on December 17.
A senior Government source has said they would expect Mr Martin to take the Foreign Affairs brief from Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney, but explicitly stated that nothing has been confirmed yet.
Mr Martin is travelling to Albania tonight, and a source said official discussions about the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle will begin when he returns later this week.
The three Coalition leaders may meet tomorrow, Tuesday, instead of their usual Monday evening meeting due to Mr Martin’s visit to Tirana for the EU-Western Balkans summit. Cabinet will instead be held early on Wednesday morning.
Some Fianna Fáil TDs have said they would prefer Micheál Martin to take a brief that would allow him to stay in Ireland more to focus on party matters and preparation for the next general election.
However, the majority of Fianna Fáil TDs have said they believe Mr Martin could handle the foreign affairs portfolio as well as focusing on leading the party into the next general election.
TDs in Leinster House have speculated in recent weeks that there could be an opportunity for a leadership heave if Mr Martin was constantly out of the country. One senior Fianna Fáil TD said:
“There is no constitutional requirement for him, as Tánaiste, to be consulted on Northern Ireland policy.
“The mood music has definitely changed on the positives of having Micheál in that ministry, his popularity is up and he’s proven he’s a success on the international stage.”
A second Fianna Fáil source said: “I don’t think taking up the foreign affairs brief would be a hindrance to the party once the proper people in HQ were in place to prepare for the next general election. If he does want to take up that ministry, then he needs to manage both, because we weren’t as ready as we should have been in the 2020 election and we can’t let that happen again.”
Others noted that as Tánaiste and potentially minister for foreign affairs, Mr Martin will have more time to spend on party issues and sources said it was clear Mr Martin was already focusing on the future as he has mentioned setting out the party’s focus ahead of the local and European elections.
Others believe Mr Martin could move the Shared Island initiative from the Department of Taoiseach to the Foreign Affairs ministry.
A third source said Mr Martin would want to be centre stage if the Northern Ireland Protocol issue is resolved.