Four Ministers of State may lose posts

Burton is expected to scrap existing Labour-held post for a new junior ministry

Damien English is among the TDs who are tipped for promotion in the reshuffle. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Damien English is among the TDs who are tipped for promotion in the reshuffle. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:00

At least four Ministers of State are in jeopardy as Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton prepare to reshuffle the lower tier of the Government.

Although the Cabinet is expected to sign off on the junior ministerial reshuffle today, the prospect of a delay until tomorrow morning had not been entirely ruled out last evening.

Fine Gael Ministers of State John Perry (small business), Ciarán Cannon (training and skills) and Dinny McGinley (Gaeltacht) are the most exposed in the senior Coalition party while Labour Minister Joe Costello (trade and development) faces a struggle to hold on to his post.

Fine Gael TDs tipped for promotion include Darragh Murphy, Damien English, Dr Liam Twomey, Eoghan Murphy, Regina Doherty, Simon Harris, Mary Mitchell O’Connor. On the Labour side, TDs in contention include Ann Phelan, Kevin Humphreys, John Lyons and Michael McCarthy.

Of greatest interest politically is the junior finance ministry with responsibility for the Office of Public Works under Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, which was vacated by newly elected MEP Brian Hayes.

Dr Twomey is thought to be in contention for that job, which is the most high profile of all junior ministries.

However, he is based in Wexford alongside Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe. The allocation of three Government posts in a single constituency is considered unlikely.

It was also suggested yesterday that Labour had pressed for the post of Minister of State for Europe, vacant since the appointment to Cabinet of Paschal Donohoe in the transport portfolio. However, a move of the European ministry from Fine Gael was all but ruled out last night.

The overall number of junior ministerial jobs will not change but Ms Burton is expected to scrap one of the existing Labour-held posts to make way for a new junior ministry in the Department of Social Protection, where she holds the senior ministry.

This reflects her increased workload as Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party.

The creation of a new junior ministry in Social Affairs will be in addition to the expected reorganisation of some other portfolios, among them the likely establishment of a new ministry for rural affairs.

Talks last week between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on the Cabinet reshuffle were delayed for days before the final settlement on Friday.

With a new set of Government priorities already agreed, however, there was little expectation in Leinster House last night of any further delay.

The conclusion of the junior reshuffle will bring to a close many weeks of speculation over the allocation of posts within the Government in the wake of a poor result in the local and European elections in May.

This precipitated the departure of former tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and a five-week leadership election in Labour.