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Saturday 16 December 2017

Enda’s reshuffle needs to surprise us

Enda Kenny struggled to explain his vision of God during a recent appearance on RTE's The Meaning of Life.

Around this time next week, however, the Taoiseach will have a chance to play God himself.

The upcoming cabinet reshuffle is Kenny's last chance to give his government a badly needed makeover - and we can only hope that he has a few decent cards hidden up his sleeve.

Irish politics has effectively been on hold for the last month while Labour got on with the 
cumbersome process of electing a new leader. On Friday afternoon, Joan Burton is expected to become our next Tanaiste and the horse-trading can really begin.

First of all, Enda and Joan must reach agreement on one tricky question - who will be Ireland's next EU Commissioner?

For several months Kenny's right-hand man Phil Hogan looked like a shoo-in, but in recent days Labour have been making a strong push for their outgoing leader Eamon Gilmore.

While Big Phil is the frontrunner, Burton may make a big fuss about backing down in order to get her way on some other issues.

The Labour side of this reshuffle is much easier to predict. With Gilmore heading for an early bath, Burton will almost 
certainly order Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn to join him in the ex-leaders' dressing room.

rival

Although Joan has refused to promise her rival Alex White anything, a decent vote on Friday would make it hard to keep him out of the cabinet. Alan Kelly is favourite to win Labour's deputy leadership and join the top table as well.

After that, Burton will be keen to appoint at least one new female minister - with Kathleen Lynch an obvious choice.

Kenny's job is harder, partly because some vulnerable colleagues are also his friends. Fine Gael backbenchers desperately want him to sack the bumbling Health Minister James Reilly, while Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan also seems likely to face the chop.

When it comes to their replacements, Kenny has at least a dozen names to choose from. Paschal Donohoe and Regina Doherty are two fresh faces who could convince voters that this government has a future as well as a past.

Above all, Kenny should consider pulling off at least one major surprise that nobody has seen coming.

This could be a major promotion for Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney, or it might involve giving Joan Burton a key economic ministry so that Labour are fully tied into next October's budget.

Despite all the hype, most cabinet reshuffles are damp squibs. Enda Kenny needs to make sure that this one forces people to sit up and take notice.

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