Friday 17 January 2020

Leo's first team will give us flavour of his governing plan

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
John Downing

John Downing

The old personnel handbooks used to tell us that you only get one shot at making a first impression.

So Leo Varadkar's first Cabinet will be the first public manifestation of what his style as Taoiseach will be. Enda Kenny always tried to style himself as "chairman rather than chief" - a designation for judging Taoisigh framed by the late and very great political analyst, Brian Farrell.

Leo Varadkar has done much to propound the image of a "chieftain" rather than somebody who leads a talented team. Yet, all the mood music and signals, suggest he will begin tentatively this afternoon by announcing minimal change to this hybrid minority Cabinet.

Barring the three senior and three junior ministries, which are already taken by Independents, Mr Varadkar, has 11 senior ministerial jobs to give out, and eventually 15 junior ministries. We expect him to put names on all senior ministerial posts this afternoon.

He will stick with the long-established custom and practice of waiting until next Tuesday before he announces the bulk of the junior team. Now that could prove a bigger challenge than picking his "senior team" as it is here the hopes of the bulk of the "pro-Leo rebels" lie.

But that is another day's struggle. For today we are left expecting a minimally changed line-up from "team Enda." Basically, two people, Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan, exit the Cabinet room.

We expect the two people replacing them to be Michael Ring and Eoghan Murphy. There is also a belief that current chief whip, Regina Doherty, is set for promotion.

Currently, Ms Doherty attends cabinet meetings and is ranked the most senior of the juniors. Her move to a fully-fledged senior ministry would create a vacancy for a newcomer and that could see one of the so-called "nine Leo rebels" get a call-up.

Michael Ring's name is being linked with the creation of a new full ministry to deal with regional and rural affairs. Eoghan Murphy was last night being talked about as a potential "super-junior minister" taking on a strong Brexit role.

This could be something short of his considerable ambitions. He is a politician of some ability and is already a junior minister for finance.

The only certainty is that Paschal Donohoe will head the Finance Department, possibly also taking control of Public Expenditure. For the rest, all the outgoing cabinet members have good grounds to believe they will hold their team place but may move departments.

There is an interesting internal struggle for Foreign Affairs between the incumbent Charlie Flanagan and the defeated leadership contender, Simon Coveney. The latter's elevation to Fine Gael deputy leader fuelled further speculation.

Irish Independent

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