Hard to discern any coherent rationale to Kenny’s choices

Opinion: Seeds may have been sown for a breakdown in relationship with TDs

Sun, Jul 20, 2014, 01:00

Last Tuesday morning, before the reshuffle of Ministers of State was announced, former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates – who knows a thing or two about family wars in that party during John Bruton’s leadership – told his Newstalk listeners to note the date. Seeds, he suggested, would be sown that day for what could prove to be a fatal breakdown in Enda Kenny’s relationship with many of his TDs.

Kenny, who is often assumed to be conservative in his approach to ministerial reshuffles, actually sacked four of the nine Fine Gael’s Ministers of State later that day. A fifth vacancy was available to him arising from Brian Hayes’s election to the European Parliament.

It is difficult, however, to discern any coherent or consistent rationale to the Taoiseach’s choices.

One would hope that considerations around the ability of the respective contenders played some part in his decisions. Assessing the competence of politicians is a subjective task but objectively the decision, for example, to demote Ciaran Cannon was curious. Many working in both education and the IT sector were impressed by Cannon’s performance as Minster of State for Training and Skills. He was a younger and relatively energetic Minister and one of the few capable of making a comprehensive speech or contribution without reading from notes.

While Kenny said yesterday that geography played a role in his reshuffle it is difficult to find any such justification in Cannon’s demotion since it leaves Galway without a Minister at either senior or junior level, while neighbouring Mayo, for example, has one of each.

Surprise demotion

Sometimes the surprise demotion of an able Minister of State is later privately explained by suggestions of disloyalty or some personal slight to the Taoiseach of the day. None such has emerged in Cannon’s case, or at least not yet.

It cannot be said that loyalty was the key determinant of Kenny’s reshuffle. The new Ministers of State include some who actively schemed against him during the 2010 heave.

Strong loyal voices are also included among those promoted.

This time last year Simon Harris first garnered a national profile on the frontline of the Fine Gael Seanad referendum campaign. Since then he has deepened his imprint in politics by effective performances at the Public Accounts Committee and his impressive run in the South constituency in last month’s European elections.

He has now been duly rewarded with the significant brief as Minister of State for Finance and Public Expenditure. From that berth this autumn he will effectively become the Minister for Morning Ireland and other news programmes in the lead into the budget.

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