News that a senior politician is in contention for a major international job would normally cause a mild frisson of interest and speculation. It is a measure of how important Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is deemed to be to the smooth running of the current Government that reports he is considering making a run for the position of managing director of the International Monetary Fund have been treated as one of the more serious threats to the stability of the three-party coalition since it took its first unsteady steps in 2020.
The reasons are not hard to understand. Donohoe and his Fianna Fáil counterpart, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, are widely regarded as the glue that binds the coalition’s two larger parties firmly together. His departure before the Government delivers its last budget and on the eve of a general election would boost already heightened levels of anxiety within his own party and raise the chances of friction with Fianna Fáil.
Losing Donohoe from its cabinet ranks would be the most damaging blow yet for Fine Gael, following a string of retirement announcements from backbench TDs.
The Minister himself has conspicuously declined to rule himself out for the prestigious position. While his international profile and good relationships with key decision-makers are a matter of record, the opaque appointment process makes it impossible to judge his chances of success. That process will come to a head next summer, just after the local and European elections, a timescale guaranteed to cause maximum nervousness in Government circles. Speculation that McGrath is considering a move to the European Commission hardly helps.
It should come as no surprise that after an unprecedented three terms in office, some Fine Gael politicians should be considering a career change. But if Donohoe does leave front-rank Irish politics, it will be a highly consequential decision with unpredictable consequences for the Government parties as the clock ticks inexorably towards next year’s fateful electoral challenges.