herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Deenihan likely to escape chop in Kenny's reshuffle

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny's reshuffle is expected to involve only one new minister stepping up to the Cabinet.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is believed to have intervened on behalf of long-time supporter and neighbouring TD Jimmy Deenihan to help him save his seat as Art Minister.

Leinster House sources suggested yesterday that Mr Kenny will confine himself to replacing only Phil Hogan, who will be named as Ireland's new European Commissioner as part of the changes expected to be announced today.

Dublin Central TD and Junior EU Affairs Minister Paschal Donohoe is still the hot favourite to take the vacant cabinet seat, though not necessarily in Mr Hogan's department.

The Environment Minister's post is seen as a contest between Fine Gael cabinet young guns Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

The reallocation of portfolios is central to ongoing Fine Gael-Labour negotiations.

There have been weeks of speculation that Mr Kenny was considering dropping at least two ministers - James Reilly from Health and Mr Deenihan from Arts - but sources last night said this was now very unlikely to happen.

Dr Reilly is still expected to be moved from the Health Department, but is rated just as likely to remain in the Cabinet room.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton remains the favourite to become the new Health Minister.

Mr Deenihan is also likely to retain a seat in the Cabinet. It has emerged that his case has been strengthened by the intervention of Mr Noonan.

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Mr Deenihan was a strong supporter of Mr Noonan back in January 2001 when he ousted then-Fine Gael leader John Bruton and went on to defeat Mr Kenny for the party leadership.

He has also been at Leinster House almost as long as Mr Noonan, and his Kerry North base adjoins the Finance Minister's Limerick City constituency.

Fine Gael sources also said Mr Deenihan's chances have been enhanced by constituency changes which see Kerry going to a single five-seat constituency at the next election.

"Fine Gael need Deenihan in Kerry next time out. It's as simple as that," one party source told the Herald.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe's chances of full cabinet membership also appear most unlikely.

hnews@herald.ie

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