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Cabinet to jet off on Paddy's Day travels

NEWLY appointed ministers will only have days to pack their bags for the annual St Patrick's Day exodus.

The first job of the new Cabinet will be to decide how many ministers travel the world, where they go and at what expense to the taxpayer.

Even US President Barack Obama hasn't been able to finalise the White House's plans for March 17 because he can't formally invite Enda Kenny until he is elected Taoiseach.

Washington and London are on the "must visit" list but it is not yet clear whether far-flung destinations like Japan, New Zealand, Australia and China will receive a minister this year.

Last year Brian Cowen, 11 Cabinet Ministers, 11 junior ministers and the Attorney General travelled to every continent.

The Dail will resume at 12 noon tomorrow by which time Mr Kenny is expected to have made known the details of his new Cabinet.

Sources now anticipate that Labour will be allowed to select the new Attorney General, with the party's financial secretary Maire Whelan SC thought to be the frontrunner.

Fine Gael and Labour will split the cabinet seats 10/5 but Eamon Gilmore may also pick a so-called "super junior" who will sit at the Cabinet table.

Fine Gael's Michael Noonan seems set for finance and Phil Hogan for environment.

Their colleague Alan Shatter could be the new justice minister. Dr James Reilly now appears a shoo-in for health.

Labour's Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte are vying for the newly created ministry in charge of public sector reform, while Brendan Howlin will also get a top post.

kdoyle@herald.ie