Saturday 27 December 2014

Choice of junior ministers could be a selection headache for Enda and Joan

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

TDs Simon Harris along with Mary Mitchell O'Connor
TDs Simon Harris along with Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Regina Doherty

ENDA Kenny and Joan Burton have the potential to make a dozen TDs happy, and another three dozen extremely unhappy.

To the average citizen, the job of junior minister is not a big deal. But in politics, promotion opportunities can be scarce and uneven in their allocation. Deft handling is vital to future party discipline for both leaders.

The appointment last week of Dail newcomer Heather Humphreys as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht straight from the Fine Gael backbenches three-and-a-half years after she was first elected is a good example of perceived unfairness. She passed out some TDs with decades of service.

First a quick look at the numbers available to both leaders today. There are a total of 15 junior ministers with nine going to Fine Gael and six going to Labour.

But Enda Kenny has already allocated two, with Paul Kehoe retained as chief whip, and the demoted minister Jimmy Deenihan given responsibility for relations with the Irish diaspora. So Fine Gael have seven slots.

Joan Burton has also filled one of her allocation with Ged Nash appointed 'super-junior' minister responsible for business and employment. That leaves five for Labour.

Now comes the hard part for both leaders as they choose who is in and who is out. Things are made a little easier for Mr Kenny by the Cabinet promotion of former junior Paschal Donohoe, while another junior, Brian Hayes, is now an MEP.

These changes free up the best positions of EU affairs and junior finance minister. On top of that, the Taoiseach is expected to drop four or even five of his current team and try to promote newcomers who have made an impression.

Fine Gael has to pay special attention to Greater Dublin, so Simon Harris of Wicklow and Mary Mitchell O'Connor of Dun Laoghaire are being looked at for promotion.

Damien English of Meath West, who has soldiered since 2002, and Frank Feighan of Roscommon, who took the blows over the downgrading of his local hospital, have grounds for hope, as has Joe McHugh of Donegal.

The future intentions of Irish-speaker Dinny McGinley should decide the destination of the Gaeltacht job with Sean Kyne of Galway also in that frame.

The need to promote women will give hope to Regina Doherty (pictured left) and Aine Collins.

Other hopefuls include Patrick O'Donovan and Paudie Coffey, while it is impossible to envisage a junior team without the energetic Michael Ring – who must retain responsibility for sport.

FG juniors in danger include John Perry, Ciaran Cannon, and Fergus O'Dowd.

Joan Burton's cabinet promotion of three juniors – Jan O'Sullivan, Alex White and Alan Kelly – eases the Labour pressure a little. But she has already signalled that Kathleen Lynch will stay in health.

Labour also need to shore up Dublin with one or two appointments and Kevin Humphreys looks set fair while the chances of Ann Phelan of Carlow-Kilkenny are also highly rated.

Existing junior Sean Sherlock is strongly tipped to persist, while his colleague Joe Costello appears unlikely to be retained.

 

John Downing

Irish Independent

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