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Kenny faces tough task deciding on his ministers

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny is now facing another tough task -- choosing a cabinet without disappointing too many hopefuls in his party.

He will have 15 positions to fill -- and will have to give away at least five of them to secure a coalition deal with Labour.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Mr Kenny overcame a leadership heave last summer -- and some of those who backed him will be expecting to be rewarded for their loyalty. But after the general election count, he said publicly that his cabinet selection would not be about grudges.

"For those who had a different opinion from me, it's in the past," he said.

Former leadership challenger Richard Bruton will benefit from this -- with some in the party suggesting he could either reprise his former role as Enterprise Minister or take on the new position of Public Service Reform Minister. Mr Bruton said he was not going to be presumptuous.

"I think I have held virtually every brief in the Fine Gael front bench, except for justice. I'm open to all offers," he said.

Others who are seen as certainties to be in Mr Kenny's cabinet include deputy leader Dr James Reilly (who wants to be Health Minister), director of elections Phil Hogan, and finance spokesman Michael Noonan.

A Labour source last night suggested the finance ministry had to be on offer for the party to agree to a coalition deal.

Former leader Pat Rabbitte is thought to be a leading contender for the post, although the party's current finance spokeswoman Joan Burton would have different ideas.

But Fine Gael is equally determined to ensure that Mr Noonan gets the job.

A Fine Gael TD last night described Mr Noonan as the "engine" behind the party's victory and said it was hard to imagine anyone else in the post.

Fine Gael is adamant that its huge seat gains means the situation is different from the 1995-1997 Fine Gael-Labour coalition, when Labour's Ruairi Quinn got the Finance ministry.

Mr Kenny will need to appoint at least one woman --the leading favourite is newly elected Dublin Mid-West TD Frances Fitzgerald.


She brought in a running mate -- Derek Keating -- and is close to Mr Kenny. Other potential Dublin-based ministers include Alan Shatter and Leo Varadkar. Mr Shatter is a potential contender, again along with Mr Rabbitte, for Justice Minister. But as a solicitor with High Court and Supreme Court experience, Mr Shatter could also be appointed Attorney General.

Traditionally, geography has been used when appointing ministers. That could increase the chances of Cork-based frontbencher Simon Coveney, Laois's Charlie Flanagan and Roscommon's Frank Feighan.

Others in the frame for possible promotion include education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd, chief whip Paul Kehoe, agriculture spokesman Andrew Doyle, and tourism spokesman Jimmy Deenihan.

There will be no dedicated 'Ministerial Mercs' -- Mr Kenny has promised to introduce ministerial car pooling. And he has also said that he will end the "circus" of ministers attending local events --with strict instructions for them to concentrate on their national responsibilities.

There will also be intense competition in Labour. Mr Gilmore is expected to get the position of Tanaiste as well as another ministry, while deputy leader Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte are also set for promotion.

A Labour source said social protection spokesman Roisin Shortall was also in the running.

Other contenders include director of elections Ruairi Quinn, agriculture spokesman Sean Sherlock and Brendan Howlin.

Irish Independent