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Friday 15 December 2017

Kenny and Gilmore to finalise Cabinet jobs

The leaders of the two main parties are to finalise Cabinet positions in the new coalition government.

Fine Gael's Enda Kenny is to discuss the appointments with Labour's Eamon Gilmore after a deal was struck on a programme for government at the weekend.

The two men are to sign off on the key posts ahead of the Cabinet announcement on Wednesday when the 31st Dail sits.

Mr Kenny will also be elected Taoiseach on the day and Mr Gilmore named Tanaiste.

Joan Burton, Labour's finance spokeswoman but widely tipped to lead public sector reform in a new-style Department of Finance, said no positions were finalised in talks which concluded in the early hours of Sunday.

Ms Burton would not be drawn on what job she wants.

"The negotiators were not involved in discussing who would be involved in what job in the government - that's a matter which is entirely being left to the Taoiseach-elect Enda Kenny and the Tanaiste-elect Eamon Gilmore," she said.

Under the partnership deal, a new super-ministry will be set up within the Cabinet to take sole charge of the country's economic direction.

The Department of Finance will be split in two.

The new finance minister will look after budgets and taxes while an estimates and public service reform minister will take control of spending and the overhaul of the public sector.

Both these ministers along with two others, one from each party, will form an economic council - effectively a super-ministry - within the Cabinet.

The council will not be answerable to the Taoiseach and will have supreme power over steering the country out of an historic crisis.

Fine Gael's Michael Noonan, a former party leader, is widely tipped to be the new finance minister.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore are understood to be in their constituencies today, Mayo and Dun Laoghaire, as they prepare final sign-off on appointments.

The coalition yesterday announced its commitment to demand a renegotiation of the EU/IMF bailout.

Stress tests on the state of the banks are due at the end of the month in a bid to establish what further financial crises they, and the Exchequer, may face.

"The IMF-EU deal is built around the banking crisis," Ms Burton said.

"The stress tests at the end of the month will tell us more about what the likely losses are, particularly in relation to people who are in distress with their mortgage.

"I don't think there's an economist on the planet, including in particular in the IMF, who believe the targets that were set out in the memo of understanding were actually achievable."

The coalition has agreed to accept the reforms enacted in Budget 2011 and accept the targets agreed with the IMF and EU for next year.

But the Fine Gael-Labour partnership is pushing to have the tail end of the deal revised.

Ms Burton also said the coalition would use €4.9bn from the National Pension Reserve Fund in a "cautious and intelligent" way to stimulate investment in infrastructure.

Press Association

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