Public Policy

May 18, 2017

Taoiseach Enda Kenny resigns – what now?


Enda Kenny stepped down as leader of the Fine Gael Party and Ireland’s Taoiseach yesterday.  He will remain on as a caretaker Taoiseach until the new party leader and Taoiseach is elected.  Kenny gave his Executive until 2 June for all votes to be cast and counted so that talks can begin with Fianna Fáil and the Independent Alliance, to ensure continued support for the Fine Gael-led Government.  Parliamentary Party members will have 65% of votes to cast, with ordinary Fine Gael members making up 25% and 10% allocated for councillors.  As such, the outcome at Parliamentary Party level is the one to watch.

Fine Gael have 11 seats at Cabinet and while some commentators are predicting 7 changes, that seems quite extensive and it is possible that the number will be smaller.  Obviously Enda Kenny will no longer be at Cabinet and it is presumed that Michael Noonan (Finance) will also go.  The other most likely to be removed from Ministerial duties are Frances Fitzgerald (Justice), Mary Mitchell-O’Connor (Enterprise) and quite possibly Charlie Flanagan (Foreign Affairs and Trade).    These are all ‘old guard’ and are unlikely to survive a Cabinet reshuffle.  Richard Bruton (Education) and Michael Creed (Agriculture, Food & the Marine) are also possible casualties, if indeed 7 posts are to go.

In terms of the Independents at Cabinet, they are unlikely to be moved as this would require a complete new round of negotiations with the Independent Alliance which we do not believe would be the priority for the new Taoiseach.  Some of the names in contention for promotion to Cabinet are Junior Ministers Dara Murphy (EU Affairs, Digital Single Market & Data Protection) and Patrick O’Donovan (Tourism and Sport), as well as TDs Kate O’Connell (Dublin Bay South), Peter Burke (Longford/Westmeath) and Maria Bailey (Dún Laoighaire) although the list of potential candidates is long and will be predicated on the constituency from which the new Taoiseach hails.

In terms of the two current candidates for Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar (Social Protection) and Simon Coveney (Housing, Planning & Local Government) – Minister Varadkar is ahead in the polls but as most parliamentary party members have not yet declared, the polls should not be relied upon at this time. Varadkar is the most publicly popular of the two. There is also always the possibility of another candidate which, depending on that individual’s constituency, could also skew the outcome.  The final step in this process will be a vote by all members of Dáil Eireann to approve the nomination.  Whoever the new leader will be, he will have to move quickly to ensure that the Independents, who currently support the Government, stay in line and vote for him as Taoiseach.

There is little doubt that a new Taoiseach and partially new Cabinet will affect priorities at the highest political level in Ireland and the next three weeks will see a go-slow in terms of the work of Dáil Eireann.  If you want to discuss further, please feel free to give us a call.