Business Farming

Saturday 30 August 2014

Reshuffle on cards, home and away

Declan O'Brien

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

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Minister Paul Kehoe T.D., Govt Chief Whip and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Simon Coveney TD with Bo Peep and George Graham Host Chairman at the launch of the Golden Shears World Sheep Shearing Championships.
Minister Paul Kehoe T.D., Govt Chief Whip and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Simon Coveney TD with Bo Peep and George Graham Host Chairman at the launch of the Golden Shears World Sheep Shearing Championships.

IS SIMON Coveney on his way out of Kildare Street and the Department of Agriculture?

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Well, those with the inside track on these matters maintain that the answer is yes – but you'd be unlikely to meet too many willing to put the contents of their wallet on it.

No information on the reshuffle has been forthcoming over the last week. Enda Kenny has possibly been waiting to see how adventurous Joan Burton would be with her ministerial choices.

It has been suggested that if the new Labour Party leader opts for major changes on her side of the coalition fence it would force Kenny to be equally bold.

However, let's face it, Burton's choices will, by their very nature, have to be radical given the veritable Dad's Army of ministers she inherited.

So, should Minister Coveney get the call to move, then who is most likely to replace him?

At the moment the favourite is Paul Kehoe. The Wexford TD is seen as having done a good job as Government chief whip, particularly during the difficult early Budget votes and also in the passing of abortion legislation which was a real political minefield for Fine Gael.

With vacancies at the top table available because of the likely departure of Phil Hogan to Europe and possible demotion of Health Minister James Reilly, Kenny has scope to make changes.

Among the others being mentioned as a possible successor for Coveney is Meath deputy Damien English. However, it is believed that a move from the backbenches into cabinet is very unlikely.

On the European front, Phil Hogan is in pole position to get the nod as Ireland's nominee. Although with each country being asked for two nominations, Mairead McGuinness is now also in the shake up.

There has been some talk of Ireland seeking to nail the agriculture job, however, a technology portfolio has also been mentioned.

The outgoing commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, is expected to be nominated again by Romania and he has expressed an interest in staying on in agriculture.

Whether Ireland is willing to lobby to oust Ciolos remains to be seen. The new chief of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is believed to be well disposed to leaving Ciolos in situ. However, EU politics could work against this.

It is understood that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is keen the German Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, should hold on to the energy portfolio. But Juncker is opposed to Germany's continued strong influence on the EU energy agenda and would prefer the portfolio to shift to another member state.

And therein lies the problem for Juncker; he can't very well hold Ciolos while seeking to shift Oettinger.

Politically, it promises to be an interesting few days in Dublin, and few months in Brussels.

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