Cabinet Report Card
Reflecting on the cabinet as they head into the last Government meeting before the summer break
Taoiseach: Enda Kenny
His focus has moved to matters electoral with a heavy concentration on his Mayo constituency and the upcoming contest nationally. The major gaffes which characterised 2014 have been avoided but political momentum has been lost. The economy is now in a far better place and he hopes it will be the election battleground. A Budget followed by an election are now his concerns.
Tanaiste & Social Protection: Joan Burton
Keeping her nerve amid considerable adversity. Has shown courage in battling through lone parent payment changes. Still the victim of her own and her party’s unrealistic political promises. Her predecessor, Eamon Gilmore was ousted due to terrible local and European election results – but she has not improved things.
Finance Minister: Michael Noonan
Still basking in the considerable glory of economic recovery and job creation. Less than assured recently over the Siteserv sale controversy. Will continue to be challenged about NAMA operations.
Public Expenditure: Brendan Howlin
Hard-working “scrooge” of the Government he has remained constant throughout his term in office, using his 28 years at Leinster House to good effect. Faced justifiable criticism for prompt public pay concessions but has avoided major industrial relations problems in public sector.
Justice: Frances Fitzgerald
Has successfully taken the heat out of a series of controversies in which her department was embroiled through 2014. On her watch a series of
reforms are quietly going ahead. Careful media performer. A major cabinet success
Jobs & Enterprise: Richard Bruton
A practiced ribbon-cutter he has had the good fortune to preside over great work by the IDA. Sticks closely with the task in hand and works hard,
avoiding any political showboating.
Agriculture & Defence: Simon Coveney
The original surprise star of the Cabinet, still tipped as a potential Taoiseach. Stole some of Labour’s credit for the gay marriage referendum success. May be hugely tested in run-in to election as big problems loom for the milk and beef sectors which could sour farmer-government relations.
Transport, Tourism and Sport: Paschal Donohue
Emerged with credit from Aer Lingus share sell-off. Has avoided a major public transport stoppage – albeit at cost of big concessions to the unions. Helped end an unacceptable backlog at NCT test centres.
Education: Jan O’Sullivan
Managed through her only real test on Junior Cert reform by huge concessions to unions. The big challenge of third level funding will be dodged until after the election.
Communications, Energy & Natural resources: Alex White
Did not get sufficient credit for gay marriage referendum success. Slow progress in hugely wide-ranging and difficult department.
Foreign Affairs: Charlie Flanagan
Operated very well in a job which often keeps him out of the public eye domestically. Struck a very correct tone in Berkeley and Tunisian tragedies. Creditably active well in advance on potential fallout from British exit from the EU.
Environment & Local government: Alan Kelly
The Cabinet’s political pugilist fights a daily war over the debacle that is Irish Water. Huge political credibility is being expended for not very much revenue. Has unveiled ambitious housing plans which are long on targets. The immediate housing rental market is chaotic.
Children & Youth Affairs: James Reilly
Like Micheal Martin before him, he is seeking political redemption in a war on tobacco industry after a calamitous stint as Health Minister. Lucky that his predecessor as Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, had done much of the heavy lifting and trying hard to stay out of political trouble.
Health: Leo Varadkar
The would-be future Taoiseach’s huge popularity and, his smooth honesty-in-dishonesty approach on radio and television, belie the reality he has made no progress on reforming the health services. His success has been in lowering national expectations and getting away with acting as a commentator on flaws in a service for which he is ultimately responsible.
Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht: Heather Humphreys
Hit by disastrous early foul-up on the appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Working hard on the politically difficult task of reconciling various interests in the 1916 Rising centenary celebrations.