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The top jobs: Who is likely to take a seat at the Cabinet table?

Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan will be carving up the Cabinet positions. Here’s who we predict.

Who will get a seat at the big table in the next government?
Who will get a seat at the big table in the next government?

FIANNA FÁIL, FINE Gael and the Green Party all sitting side-by-side on the government benches.

While many, even in those parties, might have found it hard to imagine before the election, it will be Ireland’s new reality if the party members vote in favour of the agreed programme for government.

If the new government does get off the ground, who will get seats at the Cabinet table?

While party leaders state publicly that no one has discussed such matters, speculation is already mounting in Leinster House as to who might get the top jobs.

Here are our predictions for who will make the roster:

Taoiseach: Micheál Martin (and Defence) (FF)

FF 35 Source: Sam Boal

The Fianna Fáil leader is getting the first go at the top job. Under the programme for government, his terms will expire on 15 December 2022.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Business, Jobs (and the Economy): Leo Varadkar

NO FEE TAOISEACH ARTS COUNCIL JB7

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, while tánaiste, could take over a beefed-up Department of Enterprise. There has been speculation that due to the fallout of the Covid-19 crisis, a more focused Jobs, Enterprise and the Economy tacked-on, will drive the country’s recovery and employment figures.

It is understood that Varadkar has three choices – Finance, Foreign Affairs or Enterprise – with the latter being the most likely.

Foreign Affairs: Simon Coveney (FG)

COVID-19 PRESS CONF044 (1) Source: Sam Boal

Simon Coveney has said he would like to remain as Minister for Foreign Affairs, telling Sarah McInerney this week: “I’ve always had a passion for international politics and foreign affairs and it is a brief that I really enjoy.”

Brexit hasn’t gone away you know, and Coveney has built up significant relationships in the last number of years.

It would seem foolish to move him out as the crunch Brexit point approaches.

Health: Simon Harris (FG)

9026 NO FEE Cabinet Meeting Source: Leon Farrell

Some Fianna Fáil TDs say the party wants the departments of housing and health, (Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly has said he’d like the latter job), but with the Covid-19 pandemic still very much an issue, it is expected that Harris might stay where he is.

It can take ministers some time to get a handle on their briefs, time which many state the government cannot afford right now when dealing with the pandemic.

Finance: Michael McGrath (FF)

dail 061 Source: Sam Boal

Fianna Fáil wants to hold the purse-strings, so it is expected that McGrath will step in as Finance Minister.

With the Taoiseach’s role in rotation, there is also a chance that the finance portfolio will rotate back to Paschal Donohoe in 2022 when Varadkar takes over.

Public Expenditure and Reform: Paschal Donohoe (FG)

234NO REPRO FEE Post Cabinet Press Briefing Source: Photocall Ireland

As indicated above, Donohoe and McGrath might enter into their own rotation in the roles of Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure over the coming years.

Justice and Equality: Dara Calleary (FF)

7346 Fianna Fail Talks

If there is ever to be a heave against Micheál Martin, many in the party believe it will be done so Jim O’Callaghan can take the reigns. Some think that Micheál might want to keep him close in Cabinet (it didn’t work out too well when Enda Kenny tried this with Leo Varadkar), but there are only so many seats to go around.

While O’Callaghan is definitely in the mix, the deputy party leader Dara Calleary could be tasked with filling this role.

It is believed that the current minister, Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan, will lose his Cabinet seat.

Social Protection and Children: Anne Rabbitte (FF)

3816 European Election Manifesto Source: Leah Farrell

The Galway East TD was a member of the Fianna Fáil negotiating team so is likely to get the nod for Cabinet. With Fianna Fáil’s female representation being depleted at the general election, a woman in one of the top jobs is a must.

It was mooted that the Department of Children would be scrapped but there has been significant lobbying to have it retained.

Housing: Barry Cowen (FF)

186 Source: RollingNews.ie

Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy is a certainly not getting another run-out at Cabinet. His housing brief is getting the same reputation as the health brief has held for the past 30 years due to the monumental challenge of sorting out the housing crisis. 

Barry Cowen, brother of former taoiseach Brian Cowen, has experience in this area,  having been the spokesperson for the party previously. Whoever gets this job, they would want to have a thick skin, as it remains the one of the biggest issues facing the next government.

Education: Catherine Martin

9920 Green party Special Convention Source: Leah Farrell

The deputy leader of the Green Party told her members this week that they had made some big wins in education reform in the programme for government, which might mean they want to ensure they can drive the agenda on those issues over the next few years.

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Higher Education: Thomas Byrne (FF)

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The Meath East TD has been going head-to-head with the current Education Minister Joe McHugh throughout the Covid-19 crisis and called for the suspension of the Leaving Certificate early on.

Getting Higher Education a seat at the Cabinet table was a red line issue for Fianna Fáil and in particular, Micheál Martin. It makes sense the former education spokesperson would lead on it.

Tourism, Culture, Heritage and Sport: Roderic O’Gorman

4871 Green party negotiators Source: Leah Farrell

With three Cabinet seats going to the Greens it is difficult to know where the third seat will go.

Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin will take two – but the third could go to Roderic O’Gorman, Joe O’Brien or even Neasa Hourigan (though her chance might have slipped away due to being so vocal against even entering government).

With all three Green TDs being Dublin-based, the Gaeltacht aspect could be reconfigured into perhaps the Department for Rural Development.

Some have floated the idea of putting the Tourism and Sport brief – two sectors that have been severely impacted by the public health emergency – in with Culture and Heritage in order to be able to deal with a focused package of supports for those areas, which will need a significant dig-out when a government is formed. 

Agriculture: Heather Humphreys (FG)

2 NO FEE GOV Briefing Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Having served on the negotiating team while also handling the Business brief during the outbreak of Covid-19 outbreak, Humphreys is tipped to stay on.

There is speculation however that the choice could come down to her or Helen McEntee, who some speculate is due to jump up the ladder because of her work on Brexit in the last year.

Transport, Climate Action and the Environment: Eamon Ryan (GP)

9805 Green party Special Convention Source: Leah Farrell

Ever since it became known that the Greens might be serious contenders for entering into government, Ryan has been a given for the Environment ministry. However, throughout the talks it is understood there were calls from his party for the transport aspect be rolled together with Climate Action, as the two are so interlinked.

Minister for Communications, Rural and Community Development and the Gaeltacht: Hildegarde Naughton (FG)

3760 Plastic bill Source: Rollingnews.ie

The Galway West TD was first elected in the 2016 general election. She has served as the chair of the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment and is well regarded in the party. 

She was part of the Fine Gael negotiating team, and is believed to be heading towards a ministerial role. With Fine Gael facing criticism from some members that going in with the Greens will be bad news for rural Ireland, they are keen to ensure they keep hold of this brief (and in the west), which has been occupied by vocal Mayo TD Michael Ring – who has not been shy in speaking out against his party entering into government with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

If Communications is also under her remit, she would be tasked with the rollout of rural broadband across the country – a big win for Fine Gael if they manage to deliver on it. 

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