Kenny and Burton fight over Jobs post in reshuffle talks

By Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton are locked in a battle over the coveted Jobs Minister's position, the Herald has learned.

The Labour Party wants the position in Cabinet, but Fine Gael doesn't want to give it up.

Mr Kenny and Ms Burton are understood to be examining options around splitting the Jobs portfolio or moving the Trade element out of the Department of Foreign Affairs and boosting its importance.

A possibility being kicked about is of recreating the Department of Tourism and Trade - a post which Mr Kenny himself held in the Rainbow coalition in the 1990s. The development would give both parties a minister with responsibility for job creation.

Fine Gael sources say Mr Kenny has turned down Ms Burton's suggestions that Labour would take over the Jobs post. "He has said 'No' consistently since yesterday morning," a minister said.

The Cabinet reshuffle is still expected to be announced today, but Coalition sources did admit the talks between Mr Kenny and Ms Burton were taking longer than expected.

"The tone is different now. There's not exactly a meeting of minds. This is not as smooth as people thought it might be," a Coalition source said.

"It's making progress, but it's slow. We would have preferred things to move faster. The discussions are centring around the reconfiguration of certain ministries and departments. It's hard to say if it will be done tomorrow," a Labour source said.

Mr Kenny and Ms Burton continued their talks on the reshuffle and the policy priorities for the Government yesterday following the Cabinet meeting.

The initial meetings focused mainly on policy issues. Ms Burton is believed to have pitched for the Jobs portfolio, but was rebutted by Mr Kenny.

The old Cabinet held its first meeting since Ms Burton replaced Mr Gilmore as Tanaiste - and the last before the reshuffle.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach personally thanked former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore for his contribution to Government over the past three years. Mr Kenny also thanked the other ministers around the table for their work to date.

While the talks are continuing in Government Buildings, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive in Leinster House.

Environment minister Phil Hogan is expected to be confirmed as Ireland's European Commissioner today.

Health minister Dr James Reilly, who is tipped to be replaced by Richard Bruton in a contentious move.