Kenny and Burton Cabinet negotiations ongoing

Sources suggest a new Department of Defence and Public Works may be established

Tánaiste Joan Burton, the new Leader of the Labour Party, has been in discussions with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tánaiste Joan Burton, the new Leader of the Labour Party, has been in discussions with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Taoiseach Enda Kenny and new Tánaiste Joan Burton have completed their first day of negotiations over the future shape of the Coalition and its policies without any conclusive outcomes being reached.

Mr Kenny and Ms Burton, elected leader of the Labour Party on Friday, held private talks for six hours yesterday in Government Buildings without advisers or officials.

There was speculation last night that Mr Kenny may create another Government department and allocate it to someone freshly promoted to Cabinet, such as Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe.

A senior Government source said a possible scenario would be to join the Defence portfolio with the Office of Public Works, now within the Department of Finance.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht would be broken up in this case, with Arts going to the Department of Education, and Heritage going to the a new department of defence and public works.

It was further suggested the responsibility for the Gaeltacht could be kept within the Department of the Taoiseach, possibly controlled by a junior minister.

Earlier yesterday, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told reporters in Brussels that the scale of the reshuffle would be “reasonably significant”.

Fine Gael sources suggested Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar may go to the Department of the Environment, if Phil Hogan is appointed European commissioner, with Simon Coveney staying in the Department of Agriculture. “There is no one else to do the job,” one Fine Gael source said.


When Minister for Health James Reilly, who held two press conferences yesterday on different policy announcements, was asked if he was approaching the end of his term in the Department of Health, he said: “I want to keep working at what I’m doing as long as I can.”

Amid speculation that he is moving to the Department of Health, Richard Bruton yesterday mounted what some saw as a rearguard action to retain his Jobs and Enterprise portfolio.

Yesterday, he said that Mr Kenny had given him a job to create 100,000 new jobs by 2016: “I am very committed to the task.”

The talks were said to be detailed and ranged across policy priorities, departmental configuration and ministerial responsibilities.

According to insiders, there were no discussions about individual TDs or Ministers.

As he went into the meeting, the Taoiseach said that what people wanted was a “continuation of Government that will work in the interests of the people of Ireland”.

The Tánaiste said: “I think we both want the Government mandate to continue and we want to chart a pathway to, basically, a better Ireland. ”