Tuesday 28 January 2020

Only half of FG's new team will make it to cabinet

Sam Smyth

AFTER a dizzying day of hoopla and self-congratulation Fine Gael's new shadow cabinet was taking a reality check last night.

The question on their lips: which of the 21 appointed yesterday are likely to be in cabinet if a Rainbow Coalition takes office after the next general election?

The answer: only half of those who trooped out after their leader Enda Kenny yesterday can expect cabinet seats in a Fine Gael-led government.

And despite regaining top slot as the most popular party in an opinion poll last Sunday, party-poopers are already succumbing to depressingly negative notions.

Their darkest fear is that Enda Kenny will be pressed to share the Taoiseach's office with the leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore.

Dissidents such as Brian Hayes, Olivia Mitchell, Denis Naughten and Billy Timmins, who were not included in yesterday's frontbench, can have no realistic expectation of making it to cabinet.

Enda Kenny's closest advisers during the recent heave, Phil Hogan, Paul Kehoe, James Reilly, Frances Fitzgerald and Alan Shatter, will have first call.

If you add Richard Bruton and Michael Noonan -- and Mr Kenny wouldn't dare drop them if he includes so many of his own pals -- that's a full Fine Gael complement of eight seats in cabinet.

Fine Gael only took eight cabinet seats in the 1994-1997 Rainbow Coalition it shared with the Labour Party and Democratic Left.

Even if they negotiated another couple of cabinet seats for die-hard Enda loyalists such as John Perry and Michael Ring, the legion of disappointed frontbenchers would be scary.

Dissidents Leo Varadkar, Charlie Flanagan, Simon Coveney and Fergus O'Dowd made it to the shadow cabinet yesterday -- but can they expect to become ministers?

And then there are the other TDs who were promised positions in return for supporting Enda Kenny as leader.

Fine Gael are just a couple of percentage points above their standing in the last general election, despite Fianna Fail being more unpopular than at any time since its foundation. But the Labour Party is stealing a march on Mr Kenny and Fine Gael, fencing them in around Dublin and the east coast.

Irish Independent

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