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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018
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LEO VARADKAR announced that Simon Coveney is to be the new Tánaiste who will replace Frances Fitzgerald who resigned from her role this week.

It’s been a tough week for Fine Gael having lost one of its ministers and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday.

Leo Varadkar is set to announce who will be her replacement. He is also set to announce a new Business and Enterprise minister, and perhaps might promote a first-time TD to Cabinet.

So who would you like to get the job?

Poll: Who do you want to see as Tánaiste?

Joe McHugh says the nomination of Tanaiste will take place now before Leaders’ Questions. It will be confined to 60 minutes.

Simon Coveney and Heather Humpreys have been tipped for the job – but it looks like Coveney is sitting in the seat next to Leo Varadkar…

Leo Varadkar nominates Simon Coveney as Tánaiste.

Heather Humprheys is the new Business minister and Josepha Madigan is new Arts minister.

Minister says there will be a new committee set up – committee G – which will drive changes in the Dept of Justice.

Micheál Martin congratulates those in their new roles and says he is glad that the Taoiseach has begun to realise the importance of County Cork.

Martin says no one takes joy behind the reason why people have had to be reshuffled, and says the co-ordinated effort to maintain that nothing wrong was done reflects badly on the Taoiseach.

He also hits out at the focus on communications and the constant need to rebrand everything.

Marin congratulates Josepha Madigan on her new arts minister, and says the first thing she should do is ring-fence funding for RTE orchestra.

Mary Lou McDonald says Varadkar now has a very Cork flavour in his government – “Michael Creed, Jim Daly who I don’t see here, Micheál Martin…”

McDonald says there not only needs to be a change of faces but also a change of policy. Howlin also offers his congratulations to Madigan – it is rather unusual for a TD to be elevated straight to Cabinet having not held a junior ministry.

Ruth Coppinger and Richard Boyd Barrett says they will continue to hold the new Tánaiste and ministers to account.

Mattie McGrath wishes them well but says they will be watching all of their actions.

Dáil now has to have a formal vote on appointment of Coveney as Tánaiste and Madigan as a new member of Cabinet. There will have to be a walk-through vote, which takes a few minutes.

Lots of congratulatory handshakes taking place in the Dáil now.

Screenshot 2017-11-30 at 12.25.50

A hug and kiss from Coveney to Humphreys and Madigan just got a big hug from Kevin Boxer Moran.

Screenshot 2017-11-30 at 12.27.32

Josepha Madigan is a Dublin Rathdown TD and was elected for the first time in the 2016 election.

She is a lawyer and also Chair of Oireachtas Budgetary Oversight Committee.

Dáil approves Madigan as new Culture Minister by 52 votes in favour, 39 against and 38 abstentions.

There’s a round of applause.

Now it’s time to get down to business and Coveney is being thrown in the deep end by taking his first Leaders’ Questions as Tánaiste.

It’s a case of sink or swim as they say…

Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil TD, is asking the Tánaiste about the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)

Coveney, as a former Agriculture minister is well briefed on this issue. He says Phil Hogan – the EU Commissioner for Agriculture – has handled this in a smart way.

Hogan wants to explore the possibility of imposing compulsory caps on EU direct farm support payments as part of reforms to the CAP that will come into effect from 2020 onwards.

Yesterday he launched a White Paper in Brussels on the reforms which will target farmers who are actively farming in order to earn their living.

Coveney says there could be a gap in future CAP funding due to Britain leaving the EU.

“It’s crucial that we engage with our European partners to ensure that the funding gap, with the UK leaving the union, is plugged,” says McConalogue.

Mary Lou McDonald is now up and she wants to talk about that big EU Council meeting taking place next month.

She is hitting out at some of the words being bandied about from Conservative MPs in recent weeks.

McDonald says Ireland cannot be collateral damage in Brexit. She says that he must not blink and must hold firm to ensure we get a good deal.

Any talk of a parallel process is “dangerous nonsense”.

Coveney says there is a lot of misunderstanding about Ireland using its veto. He says the EU’s challenge is Ireland’s challenge, adding that all EU leaders he has talked to are fully behind Ireland. There will be no need to use a veto as Ireland is fully backed by these countries.

He is due to meet Donald Tusk tomorrow in Dublin.

Screenshot 2017-11-30 at 12.51.01

We are looking for significantly more clarity from British negotiators, he says.

He wants to see that sooner rather than later.

McDonald says he shouldn’t miss the clear impatience by some to move on to phase two. She says it is a mistake to ambivalent on this issue.

McDonald says there cannot be any ambiguity over the issue.

Coveney wants to reassure the House that he regards that decisions taken on 14 Dec or may not be taken have a “historic” consequence for Ireland.

He says the Irish government has not changed its position for months – though he says some might have thought we might have buckled under pressure. “We have not done that,” he says.

The issues in Northern Ireland need “tailormade solutions” says Coveney.

“We will continue to hold to that position,” he adds.

Gavan Reilly of TV3 (formerly of this parish) has some interesting info for those who are unclear of where the terms Taoiseach and Tánaiste come from, for the day that’s in it:

The Tanaiste says he is familiar with some of the whistleblower cases, and says it is something he has taken a personal interest in.

He says he is restricted to what he can say in the Dáil.

Coveney says there have been successful negotiations with current defence forces representatives which have provided pay increases.

Further pay increases are due over the next three years – but he says it is difficult to separate out individual sectors.

Howlin says the case might be made to pay different sectors differently in this case.

The Tánaiste says improvements in the economy mean they can pay civil servants more.

He says he understands there is frustration felt by families – but he says there will be improvements in pay.

Three that have made protected disclosures in the past have replied to the Defence Minister about the independent review of their disclosures. This can now move forward says Coveney.

Discussions now move to health and Slaintecare.

Coveney says this government are anxious to get on with the implementation plan.

He says it is being led at the most senior level in the Department of Health and Department of An Taoiseach and a delivery office is being set up to ensure the work gets done.

The issue of Galway’s Merlin Park Hospital where procedures have been cancelled due to a leaky roof at the hospital is raised.

Coveney says he knows they are not where they need to be in terms Galway but says there is a significant funding model in case.

That’s it for Leaders’ Questions – the Ceann Comhairle says he must not have been ringing the bell loud enough as they are significantly over time.

So that was Coveney’s first Leaders’ Questions as Tánaiste. He’ll now have to make his way over to Government Buildings for a photo op. Follow @TJ_Politics for updates today.

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