Friday 13 December 2019

TDs waiting for Cowen to dial 'R' for reshuffle

Lise Hand

It was somewhat apt that the Taoiseach should round off his week with a spin out to Ardmore Studios in Bray yesterday afternoon.

After all, the chap is rapidly transmogrifying into the government's very own Alfred Hitchcock -- master of mystery and suspense, king of the cliffhanger, supremo of sudden sticky endings.

For despite the fact that both Willie O'Dea's and Trevor Sargent's ministerial seats are now covered in a rising layer of dust, Brian Cowen appears to be in no hurry to fill them by way of a Cabinet reshuffle/realignment/ reconfiguration.

Instead the Taoiseach pootles about his business, imperturbably brushing off all speculation and surmise, while undoubtedly reducing his existing Cabinet team's nerves to flitters.

It can't be easy playing the waiting game if you're either the possessor of a shiny Merc, or harbour high hopes of being awarded with one at the expense of some unfortunate colleague disappearing overboard.

Earlier in the day, one of the former category gave a hint of what the white-knuckle suspense is like. Transport Minister Noel Dempsey is no stranger to bopping around the ministries; he's been at the receiving end of the Cabinet Call four times since 1997.

Noel was in Dun Laoghaire to present the annual awards to mark safety at sea, and revealed that his boss was indeed doing a Hitchcock. "He hasn't said to anybody yet 'I'm having a reshuffle'. He certainly hasn't said 'I'm having a reshuffle next week' or whatever else," he said.

"I know people find this hard to grasp, but the Taoiseach will make up his mind if he's going to have a reshuffle. He'll make up his mind what the date is and the day before, he'll start ringing ministers and say 'I want to see you'," added Noel.

Golly. So it's not just young lassies that anxiously wait for the phone to ring. Tough Meathmen do so too, it seems, as Noel elaborated in enthusiastic detail on the whole torturous 'will-he-won't-he' palaver.

"It's always a good sign if somebody says to you that the Taoiseach wants to see you the Monday evening before the Tuesday. If it's a bit earlier than that, you start getting worried. I'm glad he hasn't contacted me yet," grinned Noel.

So given that the Transport Minister is being transported to fly the green flag in the US state of Georgia next week, did he reckon that he was safe from a grisly end? "Well, until after St Patrick's Day anyway," he said cautiously. No point putting ideas in the boss's head that Noel is the 'Man Who Knows Too Much'.

So, who should worry that the boss will do a Hitchcock? Well given that blonde women always suffer some horrible fate in his films, perhaps the two blonde Marys, Hanafin and Coughlan, should be feeling a little insecure. Will he 'Dial M' for Martin? If he does, will it be Cullen (out) or Mansergh (in)?

Certainly it seems that the Taoiseach is quite the enthusiast for the film genre. After he and local minister Dick Roche were given a whistle-stop tour of the studio, Brian seemed inspired.

He was dying to talk about the film industry -- even when the questions were about banks, or the Great Paddy's Day Exodus. He was overflowing with facts and figures. "There are 6,000 people employed in the audiovisual industry, outside those in our national television stations," he informed everyone, adding that the hugely successful TV series, 'The Tudors', which was shot in Ardmore, brought "€120m in terms of net spend into the country".

And he even intends to talk pictures when he heads off to the US next week. "The role that the creative industry plays in our economic life is something that will be one of the themes of what we have to say when we travel for St Patrick's Day," he declared.

Ah, but what about his own thriller? Is he going to call a wrap on that production before everyone is for the birds? Is there now a break for the ads until after Paddy's Day?

Brian winced and regarded the press with bemusement. "I just can't continue to fuel this speculation that you seem to be addicted to," he sighed theatrically. "Everywhere I go ... " he trailed off and then exited, stage right.

And so the suspense goes on. But one thing's for sure -- when the credits roll eventually someone in the Cabinet's gonna be Janet Leigh.

Irish Independent

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