Cabinet reshuffle planned for June or July, says Varadkar

Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris may be among Ministers to be reassigned portfolios

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: promised his supporters in the parliamentary party who expected promotion he would carry out bigger  changes in  next reshuffle.  Photograph:  Tom Honan/PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: promised his supporters in the parliamentary party who expected promotion he would carry out bigger changes in next reshuffle. Photograph: Tom Honan/PA

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he intends to carry out his first major Cabinet reshuffle in June or July this year, coinciding with the second anniversary of his election as Fine Gael leader.

Mr Varadkar left most of his predecessor Enda Kenny’s ministers in situ after becoming Taoiseach in 2016 but promised his supporters in the parliamentary party who expected promotion, that he would carry out greater changes in the next reshuffle.

In an interview with the media over Christmas, he confirmed that it would take place after the local and European elections.

“It was done on the last occasion by Enda Kenny as taoiseach [in 2014]. I’d be minded to do the same. There’ll be a chance to reshuffle the team then, perhaps in June or July. That would give them a chance over the summer to read into new briefs if they get them.”

Housing and health

There have been two minor reshuffles in the past 18 months, necessitated by the resignations of former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and former minister for communications Denis Naughten.

Mr Varadkar refused to talk about individuals, saying it would not be fair. But the general view is that his closest supporter in Cabinet, Eoghan Murphy, will expect to be moved from the difficult portfolio of housing, while a move might also be on the cards for Minister for Health Simon Harris.

In a separate interview, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he was happy to stay in his current role in foreign affairs.

“To be honest, I’m not focused on reshuffles. I would trust the Taoiseach’s judgment,” he said.

Turning to the local elections, Mr Varadkar said he wanted Fine Gael to become the major party of local government, a status it lost to Fianna Fáil in the 2014 elections.

“We’d like to regain that position [and] become the main party of local government, holding on to all of our existing seats in the European Parliament – we have four – and maybe challenging for a fifth one.”

Expected referendums

Asked did he plan to have any referendums, he said the immediate priority was plebiscites for directly elected executive mayors in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

He said there were also plans to then have referendums on divorce and also on extending the right to vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living outside of the State.

If there is early cross-party agreement on the referendum on women’s place in the home, he said that issue would take priority.

“We are determined to go ahead with the referendum to extend the right to vote to Irish citizens outside of Ireland in presidential elections. It means that when we elect the next president in seven years’ time, the presidency will be a president for the whole Irish nation, for all Irish citizens, living within the State but also those who live in Northern Ireland and those who live in other parts of the world,” he said.

Mr Coveney also said he was fully committed to this change.