Leo Varadkar to vow to create ‘republic of opportunity’

Fine Gael TDs await incoming changes to ministries under new taoiseach

A pledge to make Ireland a “republic of opportunity” and a limited Cabinet reshuffle will be on Leo Varadkar’s agenda upon becoming taoiseach.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

A pledge to make Ireland a “republic of opportunity” and a limited Cabinet reshuffle will be on Leo Varadkar’s agenda upon becoming taoiseach. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

A pledge to make Ireland a “republic of opportunity” and a limited Cabinet reshuffle will be Leo Varadkar’s first acts after becoming taoiseach today.

Discussions were continuing on a possible reorganisation of some departments late last night as Mr Varadkar and his aides sought to prepare for a ministerial reshuffle.

In his first address to the Dáil as taoiseach, expected in the early afternoon, Mr Varadkar will focus on the need to remove barriers to education and employment and his desire to make it easier to foster personal innovation and ambition.

He will say his goal is for Ireland to be “a republic of opportunity” and cite reducing child poverty as a personal priority. The Fine Gael leader will also outline his response to Brexit.

Mr Varadkar will stress the need to invest in capital infrastructure as the economy continues to improve, with a focus on housing and health.

After six years as taoiseach, Enda Kenny yesterday chaired his final Cabinet meeting, at which a decision was taken to reopen Stepaside Garda station in Shane Ross’s constituency and to appoint Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Alliance said Mr Ross told Cabinet he disapproved of the way judges were appointed.

Ms Fitzgerald had sought a list of candidates from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board that would be suitable to fill the Court of Appeal vacancy but her department said the board was not in a position to recommend a person for appointment. The Government then nominated Ms Whelan.

Motivation

In his final address, Mr Kenny said he had not got everything right during his years in the role “but I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people”.

Mr Varadkar told yesterday’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that his defeated leadership rival Simon Coveney had been appointed deputy party leader.

Sources close to Mr Varadkar said Mr Coveney “did very well with the membership and Leo sees the importance in connecting and re-energising the membership.”

There was widespread speculation that Mr Coveney would become minister for foreign affairs, a suggestion people close to Mr Varadkar did not dismiss.

However, he is not expected to be named tánaiste, with Frances Fitzgerald expected to remain in that role but moving from the Department of Justice to another portfolio.

Mr Varadkar was last night understood to be receiving advice on the legalities of a plan to split the Department of Justice into two. Some sources said the legal and technical difficulties of such a move midway through the Government’s term might prove too much.

Combined role

Paschal Donohoe is expected to be made Minister for Finance, in addition to his role as Minister for Public Expenditure, combining the leadership of the two most powerful government departments.

A new role, combining the job of chief whip with responsibility for management of the Government’s agenda and Fine Gael’s preparation for the next election, is also being considered, with Mr Varadkar’s campaign manager Eoghan Murphy thought likely to fill it.