Analysis: Bruton could challenge Noonan for Finance portfolio

With his record in enterprise as his calling card, he could make a pitch for finance role

Richard Bruton led a leadership heave against Enda Kenny in 2010, which failed.

Richard Bruton led a leadership heave against Enda Kenny in 2010, which failed.

 

Richard Bruton would have been Minister for Finance in this Government were it not for those heady few days in June 2010 when his putsch against Enda Kenny failed.

While the prize of finance eluded him during this Government’s term of office, perhaps Bruton may yet make it to Merrion Street.

A number of factors could work in his favour. One is his record at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The other is internal Fine Gael politics.

Before the 2010 heave, Bruton, as finance spokesman, was one of Fine Gael’s main assets and can take credit for his party adopting a position against the benchmarking process favoured by Fianna Fáil during its time in office.

Kenny, seeking to heal the wounds of the heave, brought Bruton back on to the front bench as enterprise spokesman.

A rehabilitated Michael Noonan took the finance position and assumed a father of the nation-style role in the months before the February 2011 general election, one he has attempted to maintain.

Bruton also sat around the Cabinet table, taking the rebranded Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation brief. Over the past 4½ years of this Government’s term, his calling card has been the Action Plan for Jobs, an initiative that sought to harness the whole system of government to the goal of creating employment.

Bruton says it entails “setting interim targets and monitoring” the targets, an approach which has helped the jobless rate drop to a six-year low of 9.5 per cent. The Coalition says it has more than delivered on its promise to create 100,000 jobs during its term.

“I am in politics a long time and I have seen many ambitious strategies in the past – decentralisation, health – heaps of big, big strategies and they never delivered because there was no-one who had a sense of responsibility for delivering the interim targets,” Bruton says of his Action Plan for Jobs. “What this has done is allowed this process to be formalised.”

While the Fine Gael selection convention for Limerick has yet to be held, the indications are Noonan will stand at the general election. The question then becomes about his position if Fine Gael returns to power: will he be reappointed to a second term in finance?

Assuming Fine Gael are again the majority coalition partner in the next government, Kenny’s cabinet appointments will be parsed for the clues they offer on who he favours as his successor as party leader.

The Taoiseach has indicated he will step down during the next Dáil term, interpreted by most that he will stand aside by 2018.

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