Monday 9 December 2019

Kenny's wife to play key role in choosing new cabinet team

Fine Gael Party Leader Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala
Fine Gael Party Leader Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala
John Downing

John Downing

THE Taoiseach's wife, Fionnuala O'Kelly, is set to play a key role in deciding the new cabinet team expected to be announced next week.

TDs and senators in both government parties at Leinster House concede that the Taoiseach has so far managed an "information lockdown" and not consulted anyone inside the parliamentary party.

Mr Kenny has confined discussions on his reshuffle plans to his small advisory team at Government Buildings and several ministers also believe that Fionnuala will have considerable input in his final decisions.

"He always has set great store by Fionnuala's political judgment and her views on big-picture presentation. There is no doubt that she will be very influential in the coming week," one well-placed Fine Gael source said last night.

Ms O'Kelly served as a press officer for Fianna Fail leader Charlie Haughey from 1981 to 1990. She was for a time head of the Government Information Service before moving on to become head of the RTE press service.

Ms O'Kelly has avoided involvement in the details of her husband's political life. But he relies upon her judgment on presentation for big occasions.


"There is a lot at stake in this reshuffle and there are few people he can rely on. I believe she will have a big input," the FG source added.

Mr Kenny is principally relying upon his own judgment to pick his nine senior ministers and nine juniors. Apart from his wife, he is relying on advisers Andrew McDowell and Mark Kennelly for their views.

After weeks of inactivity and growing speculation, the Irish political scene will see significant change in the coming week culminating in the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle expected to be announced next Tuesday afternoon in the Dail chamber.

This will be preceded by a weekend of intense consultation between the Taoiseach and his officials and the new Labour leader, whose election will be announced late this Friday afternoon. Everybody expects Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to be confirmed as leader and speculation about some of her choices for five full cabinet seats and at least six juniors has been more assured.

Many politicians at Leinster House accept that Labour ministers Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte and outgoing leader Eamon Gilmore are headed for the backbenches.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin will remain while Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly and rival party leadership candidate Alex White are among those tipped for promotion.

Fine Gael still expects Environment Minister Phil Hogan to be appointed Ireland's EU Commissioner.

The big question is whether FG deputy leader Dr James Reilly will be moved from the Health Department or fully dropped from Cabinet.

Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan is deemed vulnerable. But some FG TDs are increasingly speculating about the prospect of Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton being moved to the Health Department.

Irish Independent

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