Cabinet reshuffle: Bruton replaces Naughten, Canney becomes a Minister of State

Varadkar makes number of changes following shock resignation of Denis Naughten

Richard Bruton is to become Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Richard Bruton is to become Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made a number of new ministerial appointment on Saturday morning following the shock resignation of Denis Naughten last week.

Richard Bruton has been appointed Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, replacing Mr Naughten.

The appointment of Mr Bruton will be seen as placing a steady pair of hands at the helm of the department as it struggles to regain control of the €500 million broadband project.

Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh has been appointed Minister for Education and Skills, replacing Mr Bruton.

Minister of State Sean Kyne is promoted to Chief Whip and Minister for the Gaeltacht and the islands.

Galway East Independent TD Seán Canney is to be appointment Minister of State at the Departments of Rural and Community Development and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The appointments are subject to the approval of the Dáil and the Cabinet.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Bruton said he was looking forward to working “on some of the most crucial issues currently facing the country”, in the new role.

“I am committed to implementing the National Broadband Plan, which will deliver broadband to over 500,000 homes, schools and businesses across the country,” he said.

While the changes do not alter the arithmetic for the Government – as Mr Canney has traditionally voted with it – giving him a ministerial portfolio solidifies his support.

Political focus will now turn to whether political overtures are made by the Taoiseach to other Independent TDs in a bid to secure additional support. Galway West TD Noel Grealish said on Saturday that he would support the Government during a “critical” phase of the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Canney was a former member of the Independent Alliance, before leaving the grouping in May this year. Under his new position he will be responsible for rural affairs and natural resources.

The working majority of the Government was threatened this week following the resignation of Mr Naughten over a controversy which has thrown the future of the national broadband plan into question.

Mr Naughten held four private dinners with David McCourt, the chairman of Granahan McCourt, the only remaining bidder for the broadband contract.

A report into whether the procurement process has been compromised by the meetings is due to be carried out.

Mr Canney was a former minister of state with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief, during his time in the Independent Alliance.

He left the grouping following a dispute with his colleague Kevin “Boxer” Moran, over the terms of an agreement to rotate a junior ministry position between the pair in Government.

Since leaving the grouping Mr Canney has voted with the Government as an Independent.

Mr Canney told The Irish Times on Saturday his main challenge would be to “get balanced regional development” for rural Ireland.

“Over the last week the one thing we cannot forget is the importance of the national broadband plan. That has to be completed, and all I can say is I will give Minister Bruton any support that I can on that,” he said.

It was “essential for rural Ireland” that the procurement process to deliver the plan did not collapse, he said.