Taoiseach’s ‘more focused’ Cabinet subcommittees hold first meetings

Five groups rather than 10 will now assess areas of Government policy

Cabinet subcommittees: Leo Varadkar signalled soon after he succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach that he wanted to reduce the number of groups. Photograph: Maxwells

Cabinet subcommittees: Leo Varadkar signalled soon after he succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach that he wanted to reduce the number of groups. Photograph: Maxwells

 

The first meetings of the Cabinet subcommittees introduced by Leo Varadkar are taking place this week.

Mr Varadkar halved the number of subcommittees, which look at particular areas of Government policy, from 10 to five soon after taking office, in June.

Each of the new groups, which consists of the Taoiseach and relevant Ministers, has a broad remit. Subcommittee A looks at economic issues and trade matters; B looks at social policy and public services, including arts, education, culture and the Irish language; C has responsibility for Brexit, and EU and international affairs, among other areas. Subcommittee D is responsible for infrastructure and climate change; and E examines health services. Meetings take place several times each year.

A sixth, separate committee, with responsibility for national security, which was established shortly after the others, held its inaugural meeting before the summer recess.

The five other committees scheduled their meetings for Monday and Tuesday, ahead of the full Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Brexit co-ordination

After the meeting of subcommittee C a Government spokesman said it had confirmed that Foreign Affairs would remain the co-ordinating department for Brexit, even though all other departments would play a role in responding to the UK’s imminent departure from the EU.

Mr Varadkar signalled soon after he succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach that he wanted to reduce the number of committees. “I think there were too many, quite frankly. I am going to reconfigure them into a smaller number of Cabinet subcommittees – which, of course, I will chair,” he said in June. “They need to be more focused.”

Subcommittees do not make Government decisions but discuss policies and draft Bills to a point where they can be sent to the Cabinet.

There was sharp criticism from the Opposition, which claimed that climate change and the Irish language had both been “demoted” by being absorbed into larger committees.