News Politics

Saturday 26 May 2018

Varadkar leaves TDs in dark on Cabinet picks

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Leo Varadkar is set to leave potential ministers hanging by the phone until late tomorrow afternoon in a bid to prevent a backlash from colleagues who miss out on promotion.

The incoming Taoiseach has not forewarned any TDs about their job prospect, leaving many - including Health Minister Simon Harris - facing an anxious 48 hours.

Several ministers told the Irish Independent they have not heard directly from Mr Varadkar since last week, and don't anticipate contact from him before tomorrow.

Frances Fitzgerald and Paschal Donohoe are believed to have struck deals with Mr Varadkar in advance of publicly backing him for the leadership.

But the Fine Gael leader is facing major questions over who to appoint as foreign affairs minister, with the incumbent Charlie Flanagan and current Housing Minister Simon Coveney battling for the position.

He also has to decide which two junior ministers will be moved up to full Cabinet positions. Among the names short-listed for elevation are Michael Ring, Eoghan Murphy and Regina Doherty.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday that he is "giving a lot of thought to a lot of things at the moment".

"The first priority is to secure the abstention of Fianna Fáil and the votes of a number of Independents so that we can elect a new Taoiseach and government on Wednesday.

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"Obviously I've been giving thoughts as well to the ministerial team and the structure of departments.

"I've made no final decisions on that and I may not do so until Wednesday," he said.

Independent TD Michael Lowry last night confirmed that he will support Mr Varadkar's election as Taoiseach tomorrow.

This brings Mr Varadkar's support up to the 58 TDs required to ensure his election.

Enda Kenny will formally announce his decision to step down as Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon, with party leaders being invited to mark the occasion with statements.

He is then expected to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin for a meeting with President Michael D Higgins.

The Dáil will be suspended until 11am tomorrow when it will reconvene to elect Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach.

Other parties will have the opportunity to nominate their own candidate for the position but Fianna Fáil has already agreed to abstain and Sinn Féin has confirmed it will go through the motions of putting Gerry Adams's name forward on this occasion.

Mr Varadkar will receive his seal of office from the President before returning to Government Buildings to begin phoning members of his new cabinet.

They are likely to be introduced to the Dáil in the early evening before traveling to Áras an Uachtaráin where they will receive their seals of office and hold their first cabinet meeting.

Senior ministers believe Mr Donohoe is certain to take over the Department of Finance, but any appointments beyond that are being described as "speculation".

Richard Bruton is being linked to the justice portfolio but is believed to be angling to remain in education or to move to an economic post.

It is believed that Mr Varadkar will retain all of the outgoing cabinet in some capacity.

Irish Independent

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