Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop! Shuffletime!

Willie O'Dea's resignation last night leaves the post of Minister for Defence currently vacant. As an interim measure Brian Cowen has claimed control of the department, but it would be very unlikely that he will hold on to the post for any length of time. He does have some breathing time to decide what to do with the post - he could just promote someone from the back benches or take advantage of this opportunity to carry out a reshuffle.

If Cowen wants to just promote from within the obvious choice is moving Pat Carey from Chief Whip. Alternatively he might take a back bencher from a constituency where FF are looking shakey for holding on to seats at the next election. There may also be a requirement to appoint someone from the mid-west region for geographical reasons so you could be looking at Niall Collins, Máire Hoctor or Timmy Dooley. It would probably be too much of a kick in the teeth for O'Dea to have his constituency colleague Peter Power elevated to full ministerial office.

The second option is the big reshuffle. Mary Coughlan's almost daily gaffes and failures make it an imperative that she be moved from Enterprise. The only problem is where to put her if she is still to remain as Tánaiste. I shudder at the thought of her being in Foreign Affairs, and big spending departments like Education, Health and Social Welfare should be off limits too. Perhaps a move to Transport or back to Agriculture are plausible. Other candidates for change include Dermot Ahern, Batt O'Keefe, Mary Harney, Noel Dempsey, Martin Cullen and Mary Hanafin. Each of these have blotted their copybook in some form over the last while but it is impossible to see a Stalinesque purging of the old guard as it would precipitate a leadership challenge by one of the demoted within weeks and would collapse the government.

While a major re-jig would be great, I think the single promotion is the most likely outcome with perhaps a minor change to move Coughlan to somewhere harmless that might involve Smith going to Social Welfare and Hanafin moving to Enterprise. Moving the deckchairs won't stop the boat from sinking but it might give it a bit more stability to keep afloat a while longer.

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