Which Ministers can make it over Becher’s Brook?

Harry McGee throws caution to the wind and predicts a fantasy cabinet

Ahead of the expected Cabinet re-shuffle, Harry McGee gives his predictions for the likely winners and losers. Video: Daniel O' Connor

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 14:43

Predicting the outcome of Enda Kenny and Joan Burton’s deliberations on the Cabinet is like asking a person who doesn’t know the difference between a mule and a pony to predict the outcome of the Grand National.

Of course, that doesn’t stop any of the paid-up political anoraks from doing it or from taking a flutter.

From the moment this new Coalition was formed in 2011, those close to Kenny were saying that all his instincts were very like Bertie Ahern’s when it came to reshuffles - minimalistic, cautious, reluctant to sack loyal colleagues. Kenny’s approach was said to have been tempered by his experience of the 1980s when an attempted shake-up by then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald backfired badly.

But then circumstances change and sometimes the political realities - or the political facts on the ground, to use the more fashionable phrase - dictate a new approach. Hence, the view that has formed that the reshuffle will be more extensive that we would have thought a few years ago.

In some ways, that thinking may be influenced by the Labour side of Government where there will be more action. The reasons for that, naturally enough, is that the party has a new leader and there is no stronger means of leaving your mark as a new leader than to clear out the old guard and replace them with those you rate most highly.

So three of the five seats on the Labour side will change. But how many will change on the Fine Gael side?

Well, the departure of Alan Shatter - and his replacement by Charlie Flanagan - counts as one. And Enda Kenny will effect a further two changes at most... but possibly only one.

If there is one, it means nobody in Cabinet is getting fired (remember the score cards?) and Jimmy Deenihan - a veteran in a junior ministry - will retain a position. The only vacancy will arise from Phil Hogan going to Europe.

In that scenario, it will be odds on for Paschal Donohoe to be promoted and get the rejigged Arts and Heritage department, renamed Defence and Public Works possibly, with Deenihan moving elsewhere.

Such a minimalist move would be typical of Kenny but would create a great deal of unease among the legion of the party’s younger and newer backbench TDs who would see the changes in Labour and no equivalent in their own party. Would that lead to unease and to mutterings? Possibly, probably. And it would not be alleviated by the clean-out that is being predicted in the junior ministerial ranks, with Ciaran Cannon, John Perry, Fergus O’Dowd and Dinny McGinley all vulnerable. Now, there might be the creation of one or two extra juniors. That to me seems like a return to the bad practices of “old politics” - like a person who has given up cigarettes “‘chancing” a social smoke on a night out and thinking they will get away with it. They’ll be pilloried for doing so.

In this exercise, I’ve created two vacancies in Fine Gael, one of which I’ve given to Paul Kehoe. I think that for all his hard work, Kehoe will stay put as chief whip and won’t get promotion. So it may be a little moot.

On the Labour side I’ve nominally given the two ministries to Alex White and to Kathleen Lynch, though others such as Sean Sherlock and Jan O’Sullivan may have a very strong shout.

I’ve also assumed that Labour will get Jobs. But that really is a Ministry that is in play and there will be a right tussle between both parties for it.

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