Sunday 18 March 2018

Enda and Joan's shaky house of cabinet cards

The electoral bacon-slicer is looking closely at a nervous cabinet

Paul Kehoe and Simon Harris
Paul Kehoe and Simon Harris
Kevin Humphreys
Jan O'Sullivan
Dr James Reilly
Kathleen Lynch
Jimmy Deenihan

The spectacle of a Minister losing their seat used to be as rare as a sober Irishman on St Patrick's Day.

Those certainties are now over.

Indeed such has been the collapse in support for the Coalition that it is almost easier to name the Ministers who might survive than the ones who won't.

So when it comes to Enda and Joan's desperate Ministers, who are safe?

Who should but can't be sure they will be safe?

And who are in the 'going, going, gone' ranks who are fighting for their personal political survival?



Richard Bruton - Minds the constituency as carefully as the economy. Our Enterprise Minister may be a fan of jam-making but there is no danger that he might end up in a stew in Dublin Bay North.

Michael Noonan - National Grandfather and Limerick's most celebrated politician should be secure.

Simon Coveney - Cork will not lose out in its second chance at having a proper Merchant Prince as Taoiseach.

Charlie Flanagan - Honest stayer will not be under pressure in Laois if the Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail candidates have anything to do with it.


Enda Kenny - The Dear Leader, despite all the mutterings of neglect and how Pee Flynn was a better man at delivering the bacon should survive but he may, courtesy of turbulent minions like Michael Ring and Michelle Mulherin, suffer some indignities.

Leo Varadkar - Has colonised the posh Castleknock vote in a manner that would impress the British Empire, but in a highly competitive constituency he could be dragged into a relegation battle.

Damien English - Two out of three won't happen for Fine Gael in Meath West.

Joe McHugh - Will be fighting a Fianna Fail/ Independent/Sinn Fein surge but should survive; particularly if he gets John McNulty as a running mate.

Michael Ring - The man who has delivered for Mayo may, if the tide is out, find himself facing a real battle for the last seat

Dara Murphy - Who? Good call. Should be all right but in a radicalised constituency cannot be sure if the tide is out. Just ask Brian Hayes Dara.


Frances Fitzgerald - The odds are that she will survive but is fighting on several fronts versus Fianna Fail, the Independent tide and Sinn Fein. One Fine Gael seat will go and Frances will have to be careful. We're sure Fine Gael's Penelope Pitstop will.

James Reilly - Certainly didn't enjoy the life of Reilly in Health. Current status redolent of the old saying about the man who had: 'two chances, slim and none and guess who just left town.''

Paschal Donohoe - Cruel constituency revision and lacklustre transport performance means he is a man in trouble. Despite a docile public persona that would make an altar boy look like a Millwall supporter Paschal will scrap to the end and could surprise.

Heather Humphreys - Has recovered after a rocky start in Arts, mostly by disappearing and saying nothing. It's hardly a long term strategy, but it's the best one she has come up with so far. The problem is one of the Fine Gael Cavan Monaghan seats will go. Ironically her status as a Minister could be a real hindrance in an anti-Coalition election.

Paul Kehoe - The strength of the Fine Gael Wexford team spells trouble for Paul who could end up fighting it out with Brendan Howlin for the last seat.

Paudie Coffey - Who that man? Good question. Outside of Reilly, poor Paudie is the man whose ministerial trousers are closest to the kiss of the bacon slicer.

Tom Hayes - The Sinn Fein surge and the inevitable threat posed by Fianna Fail, even in its current becalmed state could mean he will be fighting it out with Noel Coonan for the sole certain Fine Gael Tipperary seat.

Jimmy Deenihan - A similar set of factors to Tipperary means Jimmy will be taking on the FG young gun Brendan Griffin.

Simon Harris - He may be Fine Gael's newest most clever Junior Minister. However any recovery for Fianna Fail, the certainty of a Sinn Fein Wicklow seat and a strong running mate Andrew Doyle brings a phrase from Alex Ferguson to mind.





Brendan Howlin - May have saved the country but can he save himself. Faces a real battle in Wexford but the one last hurrah vote may see him survive. Indeed if he is not careful he might end up leading Labour after all.


Joan Burton - May be Ireland's Queenie but on a local level will be fighting to escape losing her seat a second time. The battle could even be with Leo. The Tanaiste will scrap like a Tasmanian devil to avoid a Michael McDowell style denouement, but she is fighting on an awful lot of fronts.

Alan Kelly - Future leader all right but only if he survives the Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein/Independent Tipperary Troika. Could be waiting late on count night, but can be consoled by the indignities predecessors such as Dick Spring had to endure.

Jan O'Sullivan - Never secure at the best of times and this is the worst of times. Jan is not helped by an understated style that is too logical for dealing with teachers let alone Irish politics.

Alex White - It could be ice cold for Alex in Dublin Rathdown particularly if that nice Mr Shatter runs again. The poor voters will face an agonising decision over which of the duo will get their eighth preference.

Ged Nash - Will, despite his elegant style struggle to contain the Sinn Fein surge. Might end up being the last man at the card table with whatever numbskull is chosen as Gerry's running mate.

Sean Sherlock - Once seen as the bright new future but those Fianna Fail cannibals are snapping at his heels. Not yet fully detached from the herd but the jackals are looking at him inquisitively.

Kathleen Lynch - Doughty fighter but in the last chance saloon in Cork

Ann Phelan - Carlow Kilkenny has always been a marginal Labour seat and it certainly won't be any different this time. Will have to find a lot of post offices for rural Ireland.

Kevin Humphreys - Drastic local election result means he may not even be saved by the exit of Ruairi Quinn. Has a bit of that FF style cuteness that might yet save our man.


In an election year, the most critical factors in securing the maximum seat return for the Coalition will be discipline and leadership from the top.

One of the rogue factors in this regard has to be the perilous political life chances of so many cabinet ministers.

This is particularly the case with Labour who, top heavy from the triumphs of the Gilmore era, have so many more positions in peril. It is astonishing to see that all nine Labour ministers are in real trouble.

It will be even more interesting to see how inter-party discipline holds up should that position not change for though you might not think this to be the case, Ministers are human too.

The problem with this is that a fish rots from the head and a scarified Labour cabinet will not enhance the sort of order required for that planned final push.

Fine Gael will of course counter with the claim that theirs is not a green and pleasant land either.

Indeed, Fine Gael can justifiably claim nine of their ministers are on the political plank too.

It should all make for very interesting cabinet meetings.

One final thought does emerge. How does the Coalition claim that they are a competent government square off with the apparent desire to render unto Enda and Joan's cabinet house of cards that which was done unto Brian Cowan with such relish?

Sunday Independent

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