Varadkar unlikely to opt for radical Cabinet overhaul

Big question is what to do with Simon Harris, the Minister for Health who backed Coveney

Leo Varadkar  at the Mansion House, Dublin, after his election: The vast majority of senior Ministers voted for him, so a major overhaul is not expected. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Leo Varadkar at the Mansion House, Dublin, after his election: The vast majority of senior Ministers voted for him, so a major overhaul is not expected. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

And now for the hard part.

After trouncing Simon Coveney among TDs in the Fine Gael leadership race, Leo Varadkar has many mouths to feed.

The jostling for jobs had already begun before the votes were counted, as TDs fought over the spoils of victory.

Sources in Varadkar’s camp, however, are cautioning against talk of a radical Cabinet overhaul. Firstly, the vast majority of senior Ministers voted for Varadkar.

It is also just over a year since this Government took office and reshuffling Ministers just as they are getting into their stride may not be the wisest course of action.

Varadkar has said the Independent members of the Cabinet will be kept in their portfolios, so he has 11 positions to allocate to Fine Gael TDs.

Geography, as always, will be crucial. The departure of Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan means deputies from the west and midwest will fancy their chances. Michael Ring, Kenny’s constituency colleague in Mayo, will expect a Cabinet post but Sean Kyne, another junior minister and a Galway West TD, was an early Varadkar backer.

Difficulties

Simon Coveney, tipped to be tánaiste, and Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, will represent Cork but Varadkar faces difficulties in the southeast.

Michael D’Arcy and Paul Kehoe, both Wexford TDs, were crucial members of the Varadkar campaign. Kehoe is a so-called “super junior” who attends Cabinet meetings but would like a full ministerial role.

D’Arcy is a backbencher and will want a job. Carlow Kilkenny’s John Paul Phelan, another key member of the Varadkar campaign, is tipped to be chief whip, with Regina Doherty possibly being promoted. Waterford’s John Deasy will also hope for advancement, possibly in the Departments of Justice or Jobs.

Eoghan Murphy, the Dublin Bay South deputy who ran Varadkar’s campaign, is expected to be promoted to Cabinet, either to the Department of Jobs or the Department of Foreign Affairs, although certain sources downplayed the latter prospect.

One casualty

The addition of Murphy would mean six of the 12 senior Fine Gael Ministers would be based in Dublin: Varadkar himself as taoiseach, Paschal Donohoe, Richard Bruton, Frances Fitzgerald, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Murphy. It is likely there will be at least one casualty.

Bruton would like to remain in the Department of Education or be appointed Minister for Finance, although this is expected to go to Donohoe, who would also keep his current responsibilities as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Internal Fine Gael speculation is linking Bruton with the Department of Justice, which could be split in two to allow for a Minister for Home Affairs.

The biggest question is what Varadkar will do with Simon Harris, the Minister for Health who backed Coveney. It is believed to be unlikely that he will be sacked, with remaining in situ seen as adequate punishment.

Some in the Varadkar camp also say that first time TDs are unlikely to be given significant positions, either at Cabinet or as junior ministers.

But the final call, of course, rests with Varadkar alone.

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