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Taoiseach vows to beef up his Cabinet with big reshuffle

A MAJOR Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards following the resignations of Willie O'Dea and Trevor Sargent.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is understood to be preparing a three-pronged effort to revitalise his embattled Government.

The Herald understands that Mr Cowen intends to bring fresh blood into the Cabinet, reassign the priorities of some departments and reduce the roles of others.

His focus will be on creating ministries that have responsibility for specific parts of the economy.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is likely to be broken up so that one minister is not burdened with too much responsibility.

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has been heavily criticised for handling of that department at a time when unemployment is reaching record levels.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is expected to stay in his position.

His strong performance in tackling the economy while he battles pancreatic cancer has proved a boost to Mr Cowen's Government.


Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen is expected to step aside in any reshuffle.

He is suffering from a back complaint and sources say that while he would like to stay in Cabinet, his health is an issue.

The two Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Arts, Sport and Tourism, may be devolved.

The Bord Snip Nua report recommended that both departments be scrapped and this is not being ruled out entirely.

The creation of a minister in charge of employment and social protection, combining the retraining of the unemployed with the payment of social welfare benefits is reported to be in consideration.

"The public sector reform has to be looked at. Somebody's portfolio would specifically be the public sector. He needs to put a greater economic and industry focus on the shape of the Government and address the public service," a department source said. "It does need somebody to drive it on," another coalition source said.