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Tale of the tapes: Who is going to take Cabinet posts?

While we’re waiting for the white smoke to emerge over Fine Gael’s talks with Labour, there’s no harm in looking towards who might fill the front bench in the 31st Dail, right?

Hello, Enda here - I need you...
Hello, Enda here - I need you...

PRESUMING THAT THE coalition dance  goes well between Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, a number of heavy-hitters from both parties will be fighting for posts in the next Cabinet.

We look at the likely face-offs for each main ministry…


Michael Noonan (FG) -The Limerick TD returned to first-string politics last July after Richard Bruton was removed from Finance after a failed leadership coup against Enda Kenny. Noonan had immediate strong words for bankers who presided over the crisis, saying they would have to clear out of their jobs within six months of a new government taking hold.

He has previously been Minister for Justice, Industry and Commerce (both in the 1980s) and Health. That last office became a notorious stint for Noonan when Health was brought into the contaminated blood scandal of the mid 1990s. Noonan had to issue apologies for his stance on the Bridget McCole case, although he managed to hold on to his ministry until the 1997 general election.


Joan Burton (Lab) – The Labour deputy leader has not consistently been put forward as the go-to person on economic matters for Labour during the 2011  election campaign, despite the fact that she is their Finance spokesperson. She has been a lecturer in accountancy and is a Commerce graduate and has been Labour’s Finance person since 2002. She was a junior minister at Foreign Affairs from 1992-1997.

NOTE: The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that the parties were “at odds” over who would take the portfolio, with Fine Gael willing to concede an extra ministry to Labour just so it can keep hold of Finance. Noonan must really, really want it.


James Reilly (FG) – A former president of the Irish Medical Organisation, Reilly could be seen as a representative of the professional interests in Health. However, he has a high-profile image among members of the public too, many will remember the moment he broke down on television news in 2007 outside Leinster House, upset and angered by the cancer tests mix-ups in Portlaoise and Tallaght.


Jan O’Sullivan (Lab) – The Labour spokesperson on health, O’Sullivan chaired the committee which heard the news from the HSE that some 568 women would have to undergo ultrasounds again at Portlaoise and was strong in her criticism of the health service. She was involved in running the family planning clinic in 1970s Limerick, and has been spokesperson for Justice as well as Health in her time in Labour.

NOTE: The Medical Independent, a dedicated newspaper for Irish doctors, has held an online survey of readers on whether Reilly or O’Sullivan get the nod. Reilly is leading but only by seven votes despite, as the MI says, Reilly being “a member of the profession and former president of the doctors’ union, the IMO”.


Fergus O’Dowd (FG) – The former teacher got into Louth on the first count at the weekend. He has only been Education spokesperson since the FG reshuffle last July – although he has been pretty strong on the questioned issuing of FAS certificates. Previously, since his first election to the Dail in 2002, he had been spokesperson for both Transport, Environment and Community, Rural and the Gaeltacht. Mind you, Richard Bruton was a long-term and highly visible spokesperson for Education before he was moved to Enterprise, Trade and Employment.


Ruairi Quinn (Lab) – With Reilly likely to shade it into Health, Education may well fall to Labour’s Education spokesperson Quinn. He was Minister for Finance until 1997 (a time regarded as laying the foundation for the fortunes to come in the early 2000s) and has previously served as Enterprise and Employment minister. He has been very voluble on education issues in all sectors, including calling for the closure of FAS and the transfer of control of primary education.

NOTE: Mary Mitchell-Connor (FG), a school principal, did happen to mention at her election in Dun Laoghaire that she would like a say in education – junior ministry, anyone?


Alan Shatter (FG) - He’s the party’s spokesperson on Justice but there has also been talk that he might be a potential Attorney-General with his background as partner of a legal firm, Gallagher-Shatter. His policies on tackling white collar crime might be popular in the current climate, and again, his legal prowess could be useful in law reform. Charlie Flanagan could look for representation in this portfolio too…


Pat Rabbitte (Lab) - The former Labour leader is bound for a prominent role in the next Cabinet, with Education and Enterprise also being namechecked (although the latter is probably destined for Gilmore, the man who would be Tanaiste). He’s been the Justice spokesperson since 2007. If Finance was to become a two-person job and Labour had a stab at it, could Joan Burton find herself battling Rabbitte for that prominence?


Richard Bruton (FG) - He has settled into the Enterprise spokesperson post since his failed leadership coup last summer against Enda Kenny, and has previoulsy served as Minister for Enterprise and Employment. While it is being presumed the job will go to Labour, his stint as President of the European Industrial Council won’t go against him. Neither would his past professional experience as an economic researcher.

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Eamon Gilmore (Lab) – A pre-politics background as a trade union activist made Gilmore familiar with the world of employment negotiations and lobbying. If he is Tanaiste, tradition might have it that Enterprise would go his way. However, Joan Burton could also be in with a shout here, should the Finance portfolio go to Noonan as expected.

…And what do you think of the chances of the rival spokespersons in these other ministries?

DEFENCE: David Stanton (FG), or Billy Timmins v Joe Costello, or Eamon Gilmore (Brian O’Shea, former Labour spokesperson for Defence, has retired)

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Sean Barrett (FG) was quick to express his interest in this portfolio on election in Dun Laoghaire. Labour’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs was the retiring Michael D Higgins. Could Barrett take it now that the role is no longer considered as strenuous as it was at the height of the peace process? If Ruairi Quinn wasn’t looking so good in Education, it could be a natural home for him…

ENVIRONMENT, HERITAGE, LOCAL GOVERNMENT:  Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan v Labour’s Joanna Tuffy

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FOOD: Andrew Doyle (FG), if he gets in in Wicklow as expected v Sean Sherlock (Lab) Note: Simon Coveney (FG) has also been mentioned in the frame by those in the fisheries sector.


COMMUNITY, EQUALITY, GAELTACHT AFFAIRS: Frank Feighan (FG) v … would it be too much of a stretch to consider first-timer Aodhan O Riordan as being in with a shout? (Brian O’Shea, spokesperson for the Irish language, didn’t seek re-election). Jan O’Sullivan could also find a home here for Fine Gael.

SOCIAL PROTECTION: Michael Ring (FG) v Roisin Shortall (Lab)

TOURISM, CULTURE, SPORT: Jimmy Deenihan (FG) v ? Note: Labour’s Mary Upton was spokesperson for Tourism and the Arts but she didn’t stand in this election. Fine Gael have some flagship policies for this department, including the reduction of local authority rates for hotels, and a flaghsip literature centre for Dublin, so they are likely to look to control it.

TRANSPORT: Simon Coveney (FG) v Tommy Broughan (Lab)

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