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Sunday 17 December 2017

No root-and-branch reshuffle this time

Sam Smyth

MINIMALIST Brian Cowen doesn't twitter, fidget or do root-and-branch reshuffles over a weekend.

And it is almost certain he will not use the opportunity presented to him by Willie O'Dea's resignation to drastically alter his embattled Cabinet.

The Taoiseach is expected to appoint a new Defence Minister from within his tight group of trusted junior ministers and promote another TD from the backbenches.

A radical reshuffle is very unlikely for several months and when he does move it will be more of a reorganisation of government departments than a culling of senior ministers.

The Taoiseach will be monitoring the health of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and will move one of his most senior ministers to help on the economy, if required.

Dermot Ahern and Micheal Martin are the frontrunners for this role but if another proves his or her worth, it would fast-track them to the trilogy of potential leaders.

Disappointment in Tanaiste Mary Coughlan's performance is now widespread in Fianna Fail after her handling of the Dublin airport jobs row this week.


Conservative and cautious, Clare-based Tony Killeen is the bookies' favourite to get the nod and geography favours his appointment. Insiders believe that Chief Whip Pat Carey is the best-qualified and most deserving candidate for the job.

The gap in the mid-west left by Willie O'Dea gives Mr Killeen an advantage over Pat Carey who is too precious an asset for the Government to promote.

Mr Killeen, the Fisheries Minister, is understood to have fully recovered from a serious illness and his Clare base will help fill the ministerial void in Limerick.

Overseas Aid Minister Peter Power, who is based in Limerick, is also expecting a call from the Taoiseach but local politics and old loyalties could put the kybosh on that.

Others believe the new Defence Minister will be promoted from the junior ranks such as Mayo's rising star Dara Calleary, Conor Lenihan or Barry Andrews.

A reshuffling of departments and the dropping of ministers such as Martin Cullen seems inevitable in the coming months.

Mary Harney is reluctant to leave Health but if he wants to refresh his Government for the next election, the Taoiseach will replace her.

Both government parties face wipeout in an election and have a shared interest in keeping their coalition functioning over the next 18 months.

Irish Independent

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