Leo Varadkar’s key allies criticise new Cabinet

Taoiseach under fire from supporters for refusing to make radical changes in reshuffle

Leo Varadkar has been elected as the new Taoiseach by the Dáil and has received his Seals of Office from President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. Video: Kathleen Harris / Bryan O'Brien


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing criticism from key supporters for refusing to make radical changes to the Cabinet.

Mr Varadkar was strongly criticised by a number of allies for failing to make contact since his election as Fine Gael leader two weeks ago and for ignoring advice on appointments.

It is understood the re-appointment of Frances Fitzgerald as Tánaiste has angered some members who believe she should have been demoted from her role.

Sources close to Mr Varadkar insisted he was never going to be in a position to please everyone who supported him.

The Taoiseach is expected to make a number of changes to the Ministers of State to allow for promotion for his supporters.

Carlow Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan is set to be appointed as a junior minister in the Department of Housing, with responsibility for local government.

Michael Darcy is understood to be in line for a role in the Department of Finance, while Waterford TD John Deasy, Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin and Cork South West TD Jim Daly are expected to be promoted.

Meath East TD Damien English is set to be retained, while Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Cork East TD David Stanton, Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle and Cork North-Central TD Dara Murphy face demotion. Mr Varadkar will make his appointments known next Tuesday.

Key supporters

His decision to retain Ms Fitzgerald has angered some of his key supporters.

One prominent TD said the new Minister for Enterprise and Innovation had made little impact in her role as minister for justice.

Many questioned the re-appointment of Mary Mitchell O’Connor to Cabinet. She was appointed as a super junior for higher education.

However, Ms O’Connor declined a role in the Department of Justice with responsibility for equality and law reform.

She held two meetings with the Taoiseach, before agreeing to accept responsibility for higher education.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms O’Connor admitted she was unhappy with the decision to demote her from a full ministry to a super junior position. Super juniors do not have voting rights at Cabinet.

Ms O’Connor said: “Yes I was a little disappointed – but everyone knows my lifelong passion is education. I asked for education. I loved being a senior minister.

“During my tenure at Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I met many CEOs the world over; from China to the USA and here in Ireland, the one recurring issue is education and young people’s access to Stem, science, digital, arts and technology. I really look forward to the challenges and what I can bring to my new brief .”

Meanwhile Mr Varadkar will meet the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams today to discuss the ongoing failure to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has vowed to make this issue a key priority in the days ahead.