Taoiseach quotes Wilde ahead of reshuffle

Analysis: ‘I’m a man of simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is served breakfast by chef Neven Maguire at the launch of Taste of Cavan. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is served breakfast by chef Neven Maguire at the launch of Taste of Cavan. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 16:28

Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched a food festival yesterday at which he quoted Oscar Wilde before tucking into a fry prepared by celebrity chef Neven Maguire: “I’m a man of simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

Whether or not Mr Kenny will apply this catchy line to his Ministerial personnel remains to be seen. Factors other than merit have tended to come into the selection of Irish cabinets.

Playing fantasy Cabinet reshuffle is a political parlour game in which the gossipy participants run a high risk of ending up with a serious amount of egg on their faces.

That said, it remains an enjoyable pursuit for political nerds of all stripes as long as all predictions are taken with a pinch of salt, to continue with the foodie analogies.

So, let’s begin with what we might call the “known knowns” in the Labour Party.Yesterday’s move by Ruairí Quinn absolutely confirms what everyone in political circles was saying: that the outgoing Minister for Education would not be reappointed to the Cabinet.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte are also not expected to remain as senior Ministers if, as widely anticipated, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton becomes party leader tomorrow.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will stay put with his portfolio. Ms Burton will continue as Minister for Social Protection, although if she manages the difficult task of taking the Jobs Department from Fine Gael she will no doubt be tempted to opt for that post herself.

The consensus is that Ms Burton will give her deputy leader a Cabinet post. Most observers say that will be Minister of State for public transport Alan Kelly, but others describe Cork’s Michael McCarthy as a more transfer-friendly dark horse.

Going on her past pronouncements about the importance of gender balance, Ms Burton will instinctively want to appoint women to Cabinet.

Getting there on merit would be Minister of State for equality and mental health Kathleen Lynch, who has repeatedly gone out to bat for a Government which has endured its fair share of sticky wickets.

Labour’s “super junior” Minister, Jan O’Sullivan, has been working away quietly but conscientiously below the radar on housing and planning and also deserves promotion.

But where would that leave Ms Burton’s rival in the leadership stakes, Minister for Public Health Alex White?

Some Labour figures say if he pulls in a respectable vote - somewhere in the region of 25 or 30 per cent - Ms Burton will feel a moral obligation to give him a Cabinet post. There has been no indication Ms Burton shares that view.

On the Fine Gael side of the house, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan appears untouchable. The relatively newly-appointed Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan should be allowed to complete their work.

Mr Kenny will have to move his deputy leader Minister for Health James Reilly out of his current Department or else risk a mini rebellion from Fine Gael backbenchers.

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan is also said to be vulnerable, although his geographical location remains in his favour.

What Mr Kenny does with the two young men marked out as potential future Fine Gael leaders - Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney - may tell a lot about his own future ambitions.

Where will Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton go if, as expected, he departs from the jobs portfolio?

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan still appears all set for Europe despite the best efforts of those around Mr Gilmore. But that’s probably a story for another column.

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