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FG anger as Kenny still to replace McEntee

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is under mounting pressure from within his own party over the delay in naming a junior agriculture minister to succeed the late Shane McEntee, despite a series of crises currently engulfing the department.

The post has been left vacant for four months and during that time both the horsemeat scandal and fodder crisis erupted.

Ireland also holds the EU presidency, with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney attempting to handle delicate negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It had been expected that the post would be filled in the wake of last Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, but high-ranking sources said Mr McEntee's successor wouldn't be named in the near future.

Favourite to take the post is Meath West TD Damien English, who successfully ran the by-election campaign for Mr McEntee's daughter Helen.

Other names include Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle, who has a strong agricultural background, Cavan's Joe O'Reilly or Kildare North's Bernard Durkan. When asked by the Sunday Independent recently about the post, Mr Kenny said it would be filled "in due course, but that there were a number of items to attend to first".

But some Government TDs fear Mr Coveney has been left unsupported at a time of crisis.

"I cant understand it, particularly when you think of what Simon has on his plate. Maybe he is doing it to keep a number of the troops on their toes, but there is no reason for him not to name Damien or whoever he has in mind as soon as possible," said one junior minister.

Meanwhile, Labour is not willing to raise the issue with Mr Kenny as the €130,000-a-year position is a FG post.

And, according to senior Labour figures, the timing of naming a successor is "entirely a matter for the Taoiseach". Mr Kenny also has a spare Seanad seat to award as a result of the resignation of Martin McAleese.

Irish Independent