Friday 15 December 2017

Coughlan faces loss of key roles

New economic portfolio will replace Enterprise

Fionnan Sheahan, Michael Brennan and Aine Kerr

The removal of responsibilities from Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is emerging as central to Taoiseach Brian Cowen's reshuffle to rejuvenate his flagging Government.

Mr Cowen is applying the finishing touches to his cabinet reshuffle masterplan. But there is understood to still be lobbying for sections of departments to be broken up.

The Taoiseach indicated yesterday that he had given in to Green Party demands for another junior minister. Mr Cowen met with Green leader John Gormley last night to discuss the details of the reshuffle. And he also suggested that the changes in personnel would be minimal, after the resignations of Martin Cullen and Willie O'Dea.

But several Fianna Fail sources warned last night that Mr Cowen might pull a surprise out of the bag. "He's shown form in the past with a few of his cabinet and junior minister appointments, who were not expected," a minister said.

Mr Cowen is expected to announce his reshuffle at about 3:15pm, after suspending the Dail when it resumes following the St Patrick's Day break at 2:30pm.

Those tipped for cabinet promotion include junior ministers Tony Killeen, Pat Carey, John Curran, Conor Lenihan, Barry Andrews, Billy Kelleher and Dara Calleary.

The Departments of Arts, Sport and Tourism and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs are for the chop, with their responsibilities being merged and redistributed.


The major changes to portfolios all revolve around Ms Coughlan's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, facilitating the emergence of a new economic portfolio.

Sources say Mr Cowen is anxious to ensure Ms Coughlan is not sidelined by the changes and it is expected she will remain in a slimmed-down version of her department.

Ministers Micheal Martin and Mary Hanafin have both been linked to the new economic portfolio to be created.

The Department of Finance is not believed to be keen on the formulation of a specific cabinet portfolio in charge of economic development, as this is part of its area of competence.

"Over their dead bodies -- and not in the middle of a term either," another minister said.

The new economic portfolio is expected to cover job-creation and innovation, stopping just short of trampling on Finance's turf.

However, a new super junior minister in charge of public-sector reform -- a key challenge for the Government -- is also in the pipeline.

Irish Independent

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