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'There will be disappointments': There just aren't enough junior ministries to keep Leo supporters happy

The new Taoiseach names his second tier ministers this week – so who’s in and who’s out?

Jim Daly, Brendan Griffin and Pat Deering during the Fine Gael think-in last year.
Jim Daly, Brendan Griffin and Pat Deering during the Fine Gael think-in last year.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

THE NEWLY ELECTED Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has been flagging for some time now that there will be disappointments when it comes to appointing his junior ministers.

When it comes down to it, there just won’t be enough seats at the table to keep all his supporters happy.

While Varadkar – and other senior ministers – said regularly throughout the campaign that no job promises were made on his behalf, a large number of backbenchers will be expecting a reward for throwing their support behind the new Fine Gael leader.

By all accounts, Varadkar’s new Cabinet was rejigged at the final hour, with some surprise allocations – like Eoghan Murphy to Housing, and the creation of a new ‘super’ junior ministry for Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

So, will Varadkar panic at the last-minute and throw in some surprises to the junior ministries?

Or will he ‘pull a Bertie’ and just bump up the number of juniors in order to keep the peace in the party?

6438 Leo_90514883 Source: Rollingnews.ie

Bump up the numbers 

Last year, Enda Kenny was heavily criticised for increasing the number of junior ministers from 15 to 18.

During the boom-times, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern appointed 20 junior ministers in 2007 – the highest number ever in the State.

However, due to costs (each junior minister gets an extra €34,000 per year, on top of their yearly TD salary of €87,000) the number of second-tier ministries was slashed during the recession.

As it stands, there are 18 junior roles.

“He won’t do anything radical by increasing the numbers,” one source suggested. However, another TD said that due to the merging of the Department of Finance and the Department of Expenditure and Reform under one senior minister, Varadkar could well boost the numbers back to Celtic Tiger levels.

With some juniors being promoted to Cabinet portfolios, there are three vacancies up for grabs. However, there could well be another three vacancies, after existing junior ministers are removed from their roles.

So, who’s in line to stay put, who’s in line for a boost, and who’s most likely to be given the boot?

File Photo The chair of the Fianna Fail Dublin Central constituency organisation has said it will be up to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whether or not he wants to rejoin the party.Ê Brian Mahon said a motion had been passed this evening after a long disc Bertie Ahern Source: Laura Hutton

Vacancies to be filled 

First, there are the vacancies.

With Eoghan Murphy and Michael Ring getting the nod for Cabinet, there are vacancies in the junior ministries for Financial Services and Economic Development. And with Joe McHugh becoming the Chief Whip, that might leave the junior ministry for the Diaspora and Overseas Development up for grabs.

There are a number of Fine Gael TDs tipped for promotion. It’s widely expected that John Paul Phelan and John Deasy will be the first two to get the call.

“They have both been on the sidelines for over 15 years, it’s time for them to get the nod. Leo believes in fairness and in people getting their turn. For those two it was also very personal from Kenny as to why they were left out in the cold, it was never on merit. Leo will right that wrong,” said one TD.

Michael D’Arcy, Jim Daly, and Brendan Griffin (who were also vocal about Enda Kenny moving on) are all expected to get a junior ministry.

If there are just six vacancies, then there is just one spot left.

Names being mentioned include Pat Deering (who went so far as almost calling a motion of no confidence in Enda Kenny at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting), Fergus O’Dowd and Martin Heydon.

While Josepha Madigan stood up in the Dáil to second the nomination of Varadkar as Taoiseach, it’s widely understood that first time TDs, such as Madigan and Noel Rock will not get promoted. However, a female TD might be needed in order to be gender-balanced.

Who’s likely to get the boot? 

So who’s likely to lose out? Mainly the people who backed Simon Coveney to be the next leader of Fine Gael.

Despite speculation that Coveney would fight his corner during talks with the new Taoiseach, there’s speculation Damien English, junior minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, could be out.

Junior Minister for European Affairs and Data protection Dara Murphy, as well as Junior Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, are also expected to lose out.

So, who is likely to stay in their roles? 

Junior Minister for Forestry, Horticulture and Food, Wicklow’s Andrew Doyle is likely to stay. Leo Varadkar was down in his constituency on two occasions during the leadership contest and Doyle supported him when his constituency colleague Simon Harris backed Coveney.

Junior Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee is safe. She was front and centre during Varadkar’s campaign.

Junior Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources Sean Kyne (who is reported to be less-than-thrilled after being overlooked for a Cabinet position) is expected to be safe and could be in line for a more important portfolio.

Also likely to stay where they are: Tourism and Sport junior minister Patrick O’Donovan; Pat Breen for Employment and Small Business; Equality, Immigration and Integration junior minister David Stanton; and Communities and National Drugs Strategy junior minister Catherine Byrne.

Independent Alliance TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran has just assumed his role as the Junior Minister for the OPW and Flood Relief, so he is safe – as is the Junior Minister for Training and Skills John Halligan.

The latter two would have been ‘a given’, in order to ensure support from the Independent Alliance.

Read: Pro-choice group fears wording of abortion referendum will be too limited>

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