First out of the starting blocks with a home-grown proposal was Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, who told his supporters at the weekend that he saw “a very positive future” for Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe where local people have been lobbying for months in a bid to ensure it would not be downgraded or closed altogether.
Meanwhile, in another example of local politics in action, the new administration is expected to clinch a deal on turf cutting with another Roscommon-Galway Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, in a bid to further shore up support for the minority government which is heavily reliant upon an agreement on paper whereby Fianna Fáil will facilitate its survival for now.
It has to be said that while the Taoiseach’s motivation was strongly influenced by his undeniable ambition to go down in history as the first leader of Fine Gael to bring the party over the line in successive terms of government, he has also emerged as a much tougher and shrewder politician than most people had imagined him to be.
For instance, he has effectively landed the Independent deputy Shane Ross, who once described Mr Kenny as a political corpse, in one of the most challenging jobs of all. As Transport Minister, the Wicklow deputy’s mettle and political reputation will be sorely tested by a rash of industrial strife coming down the track. His first test will be seen in how firmly and subtly he handles the seemingly intractable Luas row in Dublin.
With eight more strike days planned for June, drivers and the operating company Transdev continue to be locked in a bitter war of words. Amid claim and counter claim, tourists and hapless citizens of the capital are continually used as pawns in a cynical game of blackmail centred on a row over pay which repeatedly cripples the city. No doubt, the Taoiseach smiled inwardly when he appointed Deputy Ross.
Levelling the internal playing field as FG ministers line up to succeed him, Mr Kenny has effectively sidelined two by moving Simon Coveney to Housing and Planning and Leo Varadkar to Social Protection while promoting Simon Harris, who promptly announced a 10-year plan for Health, appointing Michael Creed, a former critic of his to Agriculture, and naming Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as Tánaiste.
It took 70 days to cobble this administration together. The burning question is how long will it last?
Voters are also wondering whether the promised new politics has any chance of working especially as problems will be consigned to committees which, unless firmly chaired, could turn into boring talking shops. Amid reports that hopeful deputies were tossing coins for ministerial portfolios, the outlook is not encouraging.