Lise Hand: My Cabinet - a bit like political Jenga
A bit like the Tour de France, a reshuffle is all fun and games when you can spectate from the comfort of an armchair in front of the telly, but it’s pure torture when you’re actually in the saddle, negotiating hairpin bends, vertical climbs and treacherous road hazards.
For Enda and Joan are in the thick of it today, shaping government policies and priorities for the final two years and selecting a team, while also getting the measure of one another.
A reshuffle is like playing political Jenga - assembling a structure by removing some pieces altogether or placing them elsewhere while also adding on new pieces and all the while hoping it doesn’t topple over.
And the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have to consider not only ability, but age, geography, gender and party balance. Portfolios may be tweaked or re-organised.
Those close to Enda reckon his instinct is to be cautious with his senior team and will make few changes, but will radically overhaul the junior ranks.
Six Cabinet ministers, besides himself and Joan Burton in Social Protection, will stay put: the Batman and Robin of the economy, Michael Noonan in Finance and Brendan Howlin in PER (with the Finance Minister acquiring a junior in the able shape of Paschal Donohoe); newcomers Frances Fitzgerald in Justice and Charlie Flanagan in the Department of Children and Youth won’t be moved. Simon Coveney will remain in Agriculture as he’s built a good relationship with the farming community and - surprisingly for some - Jimmy Deenihan will not only hang onto Arts and Heritage but many get Defence also with an eye to the build-up to several years of centenary commemorations.
Despite his heartfelt wishes, James Reilly will be on the move, possibly to Foreign Affairs, to replace Eamon Gilmore. Leo Varadkar dodges the bullet of ‘Angola’ and goes to take over from Phil Hogan in Environment. Big Phil is most likely off to the EU as Commissioner, while Richard Bruton has the lovely fun ministry of Jobs taken away from him.
Alan Kelly is given the bump-up from junior Transport Minister to the full senior post - he’s made it abundantly clear to his new party leader that he expects a promotion (be careful of what you wish for, Alan).
Joan will also put Kathleen Lynch on the front bench, in Education. The feisty Corkwoman will have no problem dealing very robustly indeed with the endless moanathon which are the teachers’ conferences every Easter.
And in a surprise move, Senator Ivana Bacik will be plucked from the Seanad and plonked straight onto the front bench as Communications Minister, with Pat Rabbitte heading for the backbench hills.
But as this is Fantasy Cabinet, we can imagine that Enda will actually do something really daring. He’ll give rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll the showbiz portfolio of Jobs and pack him off to charm international companies over to our shores, while ensuring that every new jobs announcement will be a media scrum.
And the obvious choice for Health is Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary who will go through the HSE like a dose of salts, handing out P45s and PFOs (Please Feck Offs) to the unwieldy hordes of middle management and informing lobby groups, interest groups and intractable consultants that they are all gobshites.
Oh if only wishing made it so.....