A strong team
I was clear in my support for Richard Bruton when he challenged Enda Kenny for the leadership of the party. But whatever my opinion of his capabilities, for him and the others on his side on the front bench to challenge the party leader without much planning or seemingly any communication with backbench TDs was foolhardy. They easily left themselves open to be bested by the workings of Enda, Phil Hogan, Paul Kehoe and others, and from this perspective, Enda Kenny deservedly came out ahead on the day.
Enda Kenny has come out stronger after the heave, as he showed himself to have Machiavellian capabilities that had not before been attributed to him. Whatever else, no longer will there be a perception of mutterings and the possibility of a heave overshadowing his leadership in the run-up to the election. Of course many of those leading the challenge said criticized Kenny in ways that might seem awkward now, but that is no more than could be expected in the heat of an election contest.
The new front bench is promising. Given the circumstances of the challenge, it was to be expected that Richard Bruton would not return to Finance, but he will be a very capable and experienced voice in Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, a position he held as a Minister during the Rainbow Government. Equally, Michael Noonan in Finance will be a strong performer, hard on the facts, and he won’t hold back any punches. Seán Barrett, Minister for Defence and the Marine, will be an asset in Foreign Affairs, and is one of our older heavyweights.
At the outset, I wrote that it was important that whatever the result of the challenge, it was important that the new front bench wouldn’t foment any divisions by being composed primarily of one camp or another. Previous party leaders have made that mistake, including Noonan, who left Enda Kenny off the front bench after beating him in the contest to succeed John Bruton. Enda has wisely avoided such a clear statement, while using it as an opportunity to evaluate the performance of all of the front bench to date. While we will wait till the autumn to see how the front bench performs in each of their portfolios, this has gone well. With Billy Timmins having made clear his intentions to step aside, I was glad to see my other constituency TD Andrew Doyle get a position. The one surprise, though it had been speculated on, is James Reilly’s promotion to Deputy Leader. I would have felt Phil Hogan a more natural choice for that position.
|Deputy Leader and Health||James Reilly|
|Enterprise, Jobs and Economic Planning||Richard Bruton|
|Foreign Affairs||Sean Barrett|
|Communications and Natural Resources||Leo Varadkar|
|Environment, Heritage and Local Government||Phil Hogan|
|Justice and Law Reform||Alan Shatter|
|Education and Skills||Fergus O’Dowd|
|Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs||Frank Feighan|
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Food||Andrew Doyle|
|Social Protection||Michael Ring|
|Tourism, Culture and Sport||Jimmy Deenihan|
|Innovation and Research||Deirdre Clune|
|Small Business||John Perry|
|Older Citizens||Catherine Byrne|
|Chief Whip||Paul Kehoe|