High number of Fine Gael ministers is a headache for leadership contenders
The unprecedented number of Fine Gael ministerial positions is set to become a headache for the main contenders in the battle to succeed Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
More than a third of the parliamentary party holds portfolios and sources say even before the race has officially started, the scramble to secure ministerial posts has begun.
And amid fears in the party that a general election is a prospect at any time, Fine Gael TDs will view ministerial jobs as a means of hanging on to their seat.
Mr Kenny installed 26 ministers from Fine Gael last year, with some junior ministers already said to have effectively told Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney the price for their support is holding on to their jobs.
However, the jockeying of position for jobs - and the numbers that already hold them - will create difficulties for the contenders. A source said: "It's a very tricky balance for any candidate because if you're promising backbench TD X a ministry - which minister are you dropping?"
Last night, both Mr Coveney and Mr Varakar said they haven't made any promises of jobs.
"It's much too early to be considering any of that," said Mr Varadkar, and he added: "Any appointments will be made on merit."
He said he wants to talk to people "about making Fine Gael a fighting force again" and broadening the party's appeal as well as the party's contribution to the future of the country.
He said: "Leadership is about more than one person and I am interested to hear from colleagues about the role they would like to play and where they see themselves."
A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said: "He isn't in the business of promising jobs. That's just not the way he plans to deal with this." She said any new leader or Taoiseach will "need to look at all the talents available and make sure that government is delivering for people."