Noonan tipped for finance brief as Kenny shuffles pack
THE biggest winner in Enda Kenny's new frontbench today is likely to be Michael Noonan, who is almost certain to be appointed finance spokesman.
Enda Kenny will reward his supporters when he names Fine Gael's new frontbench later today but he will not punish all nine senior colleagues who challenged his leadership.
Many of the party's biggest names seemed resigned to demotion yesterday but the biggest winner was so relaxed he needed to open one eye to wink. Michael Noonan looked like he had begun his holidays a week early sitting in the sunshine at Leinster House.
The party's former leader was content keeping his own counsel as his colleagues speculated.
The promotion is a long-delayed recognition of Mr Noonan's talents but the big question is: did he vote for Mr Kenny in the confidence motion? Most of his colleagues suspect he didn't but Mr Noonan is not telling anyone but the man he replaces in finance, Richard Bruton, who is expected to get the enterprise and employment brief.
Nothing could diminish the delight of Dr James Reilly, widely tipped to replace Mr Bruton as FG deputy leader and to retain the health portfolio. Most of their colleagues were fearful for Michael Creed, Charlie Flanagan, Brian Hayes, Simon Coveney, Olivia Mitchell and Billy Timmins -- all of whom are expect to be demoted.
The jury is split on former European spokeswoman Lucinda Creighton, who some tip for promotion to the frontbench. Ms Creighton was always a disbeliever, so Mr Kenny might want to keep her close.
There is unanimous agreement that Mr Kenny and his enforcer Phil Hogan -- who is expected to stay in environment -- will punish Roscommon TD Denis Naughten. Elevating his constituency rival, first-term TD Frank Feighan, would embarrass him.
Deirdre Clune is expected to replace Mr Coveney, as two of the party's blue-blood progeny in Cork South Central switch places. First-term TD Joe Carey in Clare, whose father was a close friend of Mr Kenny, is also expected to have his loyalty rewarded with a promotion.
Fergus O'Dowd is expected to stay on the frontbench but with a less demanding role, and there was speculation that Andrew Doyle in Wicklow may get the nod when Mr Timmins is demoted.
Mr Hayes has not been forgiven for his move against the leader although Mr Kenny can hardly afford to lose a popular TD in Dublin.
And despite his support for the Bruton-led heave, Leo Varadkar is expected to be given the social protection portfolio.