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Kenny rules out Cabinet reshuffle as 'ministers focus on EU presidency'

GOVERNMENT ministers have been handed some breathing space after the Taoiseach ruled out a reshuffle of his Cabinet.

Enda Kenny said that there would be no ministerial changes in 2013 despite speculation that big guns such as James Reilly and Eamon Gilmore would be shifted from their departments.

The Taoiseach had signalled that he was considering a shake-up of his Cabinet in the second half of the year, stating at Christmas that ministers had been handed a "reprieve".

However, Mr Kenny has now fully ruled out any changes, stating that ministers have too much work to do with the hosting of the EU Presidency.

"No, there will be no reshuffle in 2013," the Taoiseach said.

Coalition sources claim that his comments at Christmas represented an attempt by Mr Kenny to keep his Cabinet colleagues "on their toes".

"To be honest there has never been a real feeling that he would follow through with a reshuffle this early in the term," a minister told the Herald.

The speculation prompted reports that under-fire Health Minister James Reilly would be given the boot.

The Dublin North TD has been dogged by several crises as minister and saw his junior counterpart, Roisin Shortall, quit over the selection of Primary Care sites last year.

He has also been embroiled in a dispute with is neighbour in Rush over a fence.

But as deputy leader of Fine Gael, Dr Reilly is a close ally of the Taoiseach and backed him in the dramatic heave in 2010.

Asked directly about Dr Reilly's performance, the Taoiseach said he believed he was doing a good job -- adding that was he working hard with junior health ministers Kathleen Lynch and Alex White.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is also said to be keen to move out of the Foreign Affairs portfolio for a more "meatier" department. The Tanaiste indicated previously that if a reshuffle took place, he would have his pick of departments.

Sources say that any reshuffle will depend on whether the "old guards" such as Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn opt to leave their departments before the end of the term.