Fianna Fáil’s pre-election reshuffle

Dara Calleary’s elevation looks like an attempt to balance differing views on abortion

The frontbench reshuffle announced by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin looks like a move to prepare the party for the general election, which could happen any time from the autumn onwards.

The promotion of Dara Calleary to the vacant position of deputy leader will be popular with the party faithful while his role as director of policy development will give him an important input into election planning. It also looks like an attempt to balance the differing views on abortion in Fianna Fáil given that Calleary has expressed opposition to unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks while Martin has supported it.

Fianna Fáil, like Fine Gael, is allowing a free vote on the legislation so having the leader and deputy leader on different sides will help to ensure party unity once the referendum is over.

Another significant move is the promotion of Barry Cowen from housing to public expenditure and Reform. He will now work closely with Finance spokesman Michael McGrath on the Fianna Fáil response to the budget in October.


That budget will be the final instalment of the confidence-and-supply arrangement and will be critical in determining whether the next move is a general election or a continuation of the Government on a day-to-day basis. The approach to the budget will signal the kind of platform Fianna Fáil is preparing for the general election.

The move of Billy Kelleher from the health portfolio to jobs is a surprise. Kelleher took a liberal line on the abortion issue and it was one supported by the party leader, if not a majority of the parliamentary party. He will be replaced in health by Stephen Donnelly, who has taken a similar line on abortion. Another promotion is that of Lisa Chambers who has been moved from defence to spokeswoman on Brexit. She has been one of the best party performers in the Dáil and should have a bright future in politics. The elevation of 27-year-old Jack Chambers to the front bench and the move of Niall Collins to foreign affairs and Darragh O'Brien to housing complete the reshuffle.