Tuesday 25 April 2017

'Noonan's fate tied to Enda' - Fine Gael reshuffle could see minister go

Finance Minister Michael Noonan speaking to media at the Corporate Tax: Fairness, Responsibility and Leadership Conference at Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Finance Minister Michael Noonan speaking to media at the Corporate Tax: Fairness, Responsibility and Leadership Conference at Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to be one of the casualties of a leadership change in Fine Gael.

Senior party sources believe the Limerick TD will be dropped from Cabinet by Enda Kenny's successor.

The minister, who led Fine Gael prior to Mr Kenny, has been Finance Minister since 2011 and is widely credited by colleagues with leading the economic recovery.

However, a senior source said: "Michael hasn't given any indication that he's ready to step back but there is an assumption that his time is linked to Enda's."

Mr Noonan and Mr Kenny famously clashed in a leadership contest in 2001, but the current Taoiseach called on him to take the crucial financial portfolio at the height of the economic crash.

"It's hard to see how or why Leo or Simon would leave him in place though," another source said.

"He's part of the old-guard, along with Frances Fitzgerald and Charlie Flanagan, who are more likely to survive a Cabinet reshuffle."

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who has consistently said he will not seek to replace Mr Kenny as Taoiseach, is favoured to take over the reigns in finance.

Asked about the current crisis facing the party yesterday, Mr Noonan said he had "no idea what the Taoiseach's intention are".

"We had a parliamentary party meeting yesterday evening and nobody raised that issue," he said.

"The issue that was raised was the preparedness of the party for a general election."

Asked if the Taoiseach should indicate when he will go, he said Mr Kenny has said previously that he won't lead the party into the next election.

"But it's very early in the normal life of the Government. The Taoiseach has huge contacts internationally and an enormous amount of skill, and there are very trying times ahead, especially with Brexit.

"My view is that he has a skill set that is very important and valuable to the country at present, but it is entirely a matter for himself when he decides to fulfil the commitment he made to stand down as leader before the next election."

Mr Noonan strongly defended the Taoiseach's performance during the Garda whistleblower crisis, saying there were "a lot of the charges in the Dáil, he was being accused of things that he wasn't guilty of".

Referencing Mr Kenny's need to apologise for talking about a meeting with Children's Minister Katherine Zappone that never happened, Mr Noonan said: "He was correcting the record, that happens frequently. The Taoiseach has such busy days that sometimes in the evening, things that happened in the morning are as if they happened weeks before."

He said all parties are discussing the possible election.

Irish Independent

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