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Monday 18 February 2019

Enda's new era

> Kenny to meet EU chief l Cuts ministers' pay
> Labour fury at Burton snub

Down to business...Taoiseach Enda Kenny sits alongside Eamon Gilmore and the rest of his new team as they hold their first Cabinet meeting at the Aras last night

Fionnan Sheahan, Aine Kerr and Fiach Kelly

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will today kick off a new era in government as his Cabinet begins the massive task of fixing the shattered economy.

Mr Kenny meets with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels ahead of a series of crucial meetings with EU leaders on our crisis.

Backed by a new mandate and a strong government majority, he will attempt to persuade the EU to ease the State's crippling debt burden.

In his cabinet selections, the new Taoiseach opted for experience over new blood.

One of the new Government's first decisions last night was to reduce the Taoiseach's pay to €200,000 from €214,187. Salaries for the Tanaiste and senior and junior ministers were cut by a similar amount.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is embroiled in a backlash over his snub to female TDs in the selection of Labour ministers -- especially Joan Burton.

Labour's deputy leader appeared to be the biggest loser in the cabinet shake-up.

She was given the Social Protection portfolio but was passed over for a top job in the revamped Department of Finance.

That prestigious job of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister went to her party colleague Brendan Howlin.

But Mr Kenny's spokesman last night denied that a delay in the announcement of the Cabinet was down to a row within Labour over the ministerial selections.

"The half-hour delay was because of being late back from the Aras and spending more time with each individual minister," the spokesman said.

Mr Gilmore took Foreign Affairs and Trade with Labour's line-up also including Pat Rabbitte as Communications Minister, as expected.

While the Fine Gael selection was largely in line with predictions, there was some surprise at the inclusion of Ruairi Quinn and Willie Penrose on the Labour benches.

Mr Quinn is Education Minister with Mr Penrose becoming 'super junior' Minister for Housing and Planning.

But senior female Labour TDs Roisin Shortall and Jan O'Sullivan were left out of the Cabinet.

Labour figures were angered by Mr Gilmore's decision.

"I didn't expect that and I was disappointed. It seems there is an inner circle and that's who got appointed. I feel sorry for Joan especially considering what she has done over the last few years," a Labour TD said.

Mr Kenny avoided ruffling many feathers with his own cabinet selections.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar made the cut to claim senior ministries.

Fine Gael heavy hitters Phil Hogan (Environment), Michael Noonan (Finance), Alan Shatter (Justice), James Reilly (Health) and Richard Bruton (Enterprise) were all granted their first choice of cabinet positions where they had served as party spokesman.

Nine of his new ministers are Dublin-based, while the average age of the 15 in Cabinet is 58, with 13 over the age of 50 and six of these over 60.

The only ministers under 40 are Leo Varadkar (32) and Simon Coveney (38).

Mr Kenny's constituency colleague Michael Ring was reportedly angry at being left out of the Cabinet, while new Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett denied he had demanded a ministerial portfolio.


The Taoiseach will today provide consolation prizes when he announces his junior ministers. Mr Kenny is tipped to name his minister of state line-up before he heads off to Brussels -- and Mr Ring and Fergus O'Dowd are top of the list for promotion.

On his first international engagement, Mr Kenny will meet with Mr Barroso ahead of meetings of the European Council and the eurozone heads of government tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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