Cabinet reshuffle ruled out as Kenny says economic challenge paramount


FINE GAEL PARTY THINK-IN:TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has ruled out any Cabinet reshuffle over the next six months saying changing Ministers is not a priority for him at the moment.

Mr Kenny said Government Ministers should be allowed focus on the big economic challenges, including December’s budget. He indicated that making any departmental switches during that period would distract from the process.

The Taoiseach was speaking yesterday in Westport, Co Mayo, at the conclusion of Fine Gael’s annual two-day parliamentary party meeting.

Asked about a possible Cabinet reshuffle at a press conference, Mr Kenny said: “It is not a priority . . . We have a very big job for the next six months, we have . . . challenging things to do with the economy.

“It will be very hard at home and internationally and we have to make the progress that people want us to make.”

There had been speculation about an earlier reshuffle after Mr Kenny had made a jocose reference to a plan by Fine Gael TDs and Senators to climb Croagh Patrick.

He said Ministers who successfully climbed “the Reek” would be guaranteed promotion.

Mr Kenny said the meeting had played an important part in party preparations for the forthcoming Dáil session which begins next week. He said it would be dominated by a budget in which €3.5 billion of adjustments will be made. “It is a critical period in the politics of the country. The focus was on key issues and on the budgetary situation and the Government’s initiative in job creation and also on the fundamental issue of child protection,” he said.

The prevailing mood among the TDs and Senators was of “resolve and determination”, he added.

“We will not resile from the mandate given by the people but to fulfil it and make sure Government runs its full term . . . to restore the economy to good health and make sure people get back to work.

“The party recognises clearly the scale of the challenge that faces us. We are resolved to deal with the challenging position that faces us in the time ahead.

“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that lies ahead. We never said that this was something that could be sorted out overnight or that it would be easy,” he said.

“What we said was the Government would not turn its back on making hard choices for the people.”

Mr Kenny would not be drawn on the nature or scale of property tax that will be introduced from July 2013, only to say that it would be unveiled on budget day and the yield would be considerably lower than the €1 billion recommended by the International Monetary Fund this week.

Asked to comment on a Fine Gael member of Cork County Council, Michael Hegarty, admitting he is facing a possible drink-driving charge, Mr Kenny said he was not aware of the circumstances. But there was “no case for anyone in this country to sit behind the wheel of a motor vehicle with alcohol”.

A group comprising eight Fine Gael parliamentarians began a climb of Croagh Patrick after the conference while another larger group, including Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, went on a cycle along the “Green Way” cycling route that links Westport with Achill Island.