Wednesday 21 February 2018

Former minister Reilly says he will take Seanad seat if nominated by Taoiseach

Newly appointed Senator James Reilly
Newly appointed Senator James Reilly

Cormac McQuinn and Caroline Crawford

Former Fine Gael minister Dr James Reilly - who lost his seat in the election - has said he would accept a Seanad seat if he is nominated by the Taoiseach.

Enda Kenny is expected to announce his 11 nominees to the Seanad after he returns from a trip to the United States.

Several Fine Gael politicians who lost their Dáil seats in February have been linked to Seanad seats in reports about Mr Kenny's impending decision.

The party's deputy leader, former Dublin Fingal TD Mr Reilly, is the most high-profile name on a list of possible nominees that includes former junior minister Paudie Coffey in Waterford, Mayo's Michelle Mulherin and Longford Westmeath's James Bannon among others.

Asked last night if he would take a Seanad seat if he was offered it by Mr Kenny, Dr Reilly said: "It's all speculation," but he added: "Of course I would."

He said he was still involved with Fine Gael and attended the party's National Consultative Conference in Athlone at the weekend. Mr Kenny mentioned at the meeting that there had been 70 expressions of interest by individuals eager to be among the Taoiseach's nominees.

Mr Reilly declined to say if he was among those who made their interest in a Seanad seat known. He said he had yet to hear from Mr Kenny on the matter and said of Mr Kenny's decision: "I'll leave it to the Taoiseach."

Mr Reilly served as a minister in the departments of health and children during the Fine Gael/Labour coalition. Last month he spoke of how he believes he was a "lightening rod" for the outgoing government's problems.

"A decision was made to get out of the bailout and health was the one that paid the price for it," Mr Reilly said.

Mr Kenny last night said he intended to announce his Seanad nominees and junior ministers this week. He refused to be drawn on speculation that former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was among those he would choose for the Seanad.

He said: "There is always speculation, I've got over 70 names on my desk and no matter what I do, you can't win in that sense, so obviously you try to pick the best team that you can to improve the work of the Seanad."

Mr Kenny also said he wanted to carve out specific responsibilities for junior ministers to provide them with "clearly defined roles and responsibilities".

He said he did not want to see TDs take up junior positions "with no real focus on what it is they should be doing".

Irish Independent

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