Gilmore and Howlin to swap jobs in reshuffle
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin are set to "swap" departments when the Cabinet is reshuffled later this year, the Irish Independent understands.
With Labour's support level in various opinion polls slipping back below 10pc, senior party sources have conceded that Mr Gilmore must move to another, more domestically focused, ministry.
Changes to the Cabinet are not expected until the autumn, but the recent controversies surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the gardai have seen support for the Government slip and discussions have taken place as to what changes will happen.
Both Fine Gael and Labour have ruled out a reshuffle that would see ministries being swapped between the parties, meaning Mr Gilmore can only move to a department held by a Labour minister.
"There was an initial resistance to Eamon moving, but it has become a stick to beat him. He will move and Public Expenditure is the most likely place as of now," one source said.
Mr Gilmore had sought a move into the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, but Fine Gael made it clear it was not available.
The Irish Independent has confirmed that Mr Howlin has expressed a willingness to move from his current department to Foreign Affairs.
Speaking this weekend, three senior sources said Mr Howlin believes "his work in PER is done" and is open to a move.
"There is a feeling that Brendan has done much if not all of the heavy lifting in terms of putting shape on the public finances and beginning the reform of the public sector. He does feel, yes, largely his work is done," one source said.
With an improving economy and the demand for cuts to the public finances easing, the thinking of having Mr Gilmore in a key finance ministry heading into 2016 is an attractive prospect for many within Labour.
While the decision will ultimately be Mr Gilmore's, the input of chief of staff Mark Garrett will be crucial and he is said to be in favour of Mr Gilmore changing portfolios.
Separately, sources close to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn have said they believe he will not survive the reshuffle and that he will most likely be replaced by junior health minister Alex White.
If, as expected, Environment Minister Phil Hogan takes up the post as Ireland's next European Union commissioner, there will have to be at least one new Fine Gael face at Cabinet.
Recently promoted junior minister Paschal Donohoe is now seen as the clear favourite to be elevated, given how he has performed since taking over from Lucinda Creighton last July.
"When Phil goes, all the money is on Paschal at this stage. He has done well and has the confidence of his colleagues. He also needs all the help he can get if he is going to retain his seat," a FG source said. Mr Donohoe is facing an uphill battle to retain his Dublin Central seat, given two of his support bases were hived off into different constituencies when the boundary was redrawn.
Last night, separate suggestions that Mr Shatter is to be dropped from the Cabinet were being denied. "Enda feels he owes Shatter a lot given the heave. Even with his unhappiness because of all of these scandals, he is not going to drop him unless he really has to," one FG source said last night.