Tuesday 20 February 2018

Countdown to success - how Varadkar can make a dream start with crucial early gains

Hand over: Leo Varadkar is looking to hit the ground running as he takes over as Taoiseach. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Hand over: Leo Varadkar is looking to hit the ground running as he takes over as Taoiseach. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Shane Coleman

Shane Coleman

This morning next week, Leo Varadkar should be travelling into Government Buildings for his first full day's work as Taoiseach. It's a huge challenge. A good start is essential. Brian Cowen and Albert Reynolds are two examples of Taoisigh who never really recovered from a shaky beginning. Whereas Enda Kenny prospered for far longer largely on the basis of what he did in the first couple of years in office. Here's 10 things the new Taoiseach might do to ensure he hits the ground running.

1. Make sure his best men and women are on the pitch. Sounds obvious but some of Enda Kenny's cabinet choices last time around were baffling. Geography will always be a factor in cabinet selection, as will gender balance. Plus, any leader needs to reward those who helped get him or her to the top. But ability and work ethic must be the most important criteria. Of the current Fine Gael ministers, Paschal Donohoe, Simon Coveney, Heather Humphreys, Richard Bruton (probably) and also Simon Harris should be the first names on the new team sheet (punishing the latter for backing Coveney would send out a really bad signal). After that though, it's far less clear cut. New energy and ideas are required. The last government wasn't working so a Bertie Ahern-style minimalist cabinet reshuffle won't suffice.

2. Get the best from Simon. It's irrelevant whether Coveney is Tánaiste or not. Since the foundation of the State, there have been only four tánaistí out of 24 who could realistically have been regarded as obviously next in line as head of government - Brian Cowen, George Colley, Seán Lemass and perhaps Kevin O'Higgins. It's far more important Coveney stays in Housing - the single biggest issue around. The Ireland 2040 spatial plan is vital in ensuring a repeat of the disastrous planning errors of the past - a major cause of our housing crisis and the over-dependence on Dublin - is avoided. Coveney gets that; and has the bottle to see the job through.

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