'Big Paschal': Donohoe handed Big Phil Hogan's old role as Fine Gael election campaign hardman
Fine Gael is ramping up general election preparations despite Fianna Fáil's commitments to extending the Confidence and Supply Agreement for an extra year.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has been appointed as Fine Gael's director of organisation ahead of the next general election.
The role puts him in an extremely powerful position within the party. He will now have the ultimate say on Fine Gael candidates and referee on local constituency rows.
The job was previously occupied by Fine Gael grandee and now European Commissioner 'Big' Phil Hogan, who developed a reputation for his no-nonsense approach.
The position also give Mr Donohoe heavy influence over party backbenchers, putting him in clear position to become the next leader.
In his new role, Mr Donohoe will be the link between Fine Gael candidates and party headquarters.
He will also be responsible for mentoring first-time election candidates.
Meanwhile, all of Fine Gael's general election candidates have been instructed to attend a special parliamentary party meeting in Dublin on Monday.
The meeting will focus on environmental issues but Mr Donohoe is expected to brief the party on election preparations ahead of the new Dáil term.
It has also emerged Fine Gael general election candidates who are not members of the Oireachtas may come under pressure to run in the local election in May.
However, this could cause division in constituencies where local election candidates have been selected or where there are already a number of sitting councillors.
It is understood there are some candidates who are considering a local election run while others prefer to sit out the vote in May.
Julie O'Leary, who is running in Cork North Central, is expected to contest the locals, as is Garrett Ahern in Tipperary and Eimear Currie in Dublin West. Former Mayo footballer Alan Dillon may come under pressure to put his name forward to run in Castlebar.
There is also mounting speculation a general election could still be called this year if Theresa May can convince the British parliament to vote in favour of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which she negotiated with the EU.