Saturday 24 March 2018

Warning to Harris as Varadkar says he wants Cabinet he trusts

Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Leo Varadkar has said "trust" will be central to his considerations on who he will appoint to Cabinet in what is being viewed as a direct warning to Simon Harris.

The Health Minister backed Simon Coveney in the Fine Gael leadership contest and his fate after Mr Varadkar is elected Taoiseach remains unclear. Mr Varadkar is expected to be made Taoiseach on Wednesday.

Mr Coveney earlier this week said he "hopes and expects" the 30-year-old will "be part of Leo's plan".

Asked directly if Mr Harris will keep his job, Mr Varadkar replied: "I haven't made any decisions at this stage."

He said he would select ministers based on "what's best for the country" and his key consideration would be "ability and the capability of people to do the job".

He also said he would take the need for a degree of regional and gender balance into account "and of course the core issue of trust".

Mr Varadkar added: "Anyone who heads up a government, heads up a football team, needs to know that everyone on that team is going to be fully behind your programme."

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Ministerial colleagues interpreted the remarks as a warning to Mr Harris. "He has either decided to drop Harris or is trying to give him some sleepless nights ahead of next Wednesday," said one source.

Sources said Mr Varadkar had given no indication to any colleagues as to whether they would be in his Cabinet.

Mr Varadkar said his focus in recent days had been on meetings with the Independents supporting the Government and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, which he described as "fruitful".

He said he had had no discussions with Independent TD Michael Lowry - who has been backing the Fine Gael-led Government - as yet.

Mr Lowry previously said he had an "understanding" with Fine Gael. Mr Varadkar said he was not aware of any agreement with Mr Lowry.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said the public sector pay deal would impact on the amount of fiscal space available for Budget 2018.

But he said he still believed there was "scope" to honour the pay deal, if it's agreed by the union members, some reductions in tax for "working families" and for improvements in public services and capital expenditure.

Irish Independent

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