Galway looks likely to lose voice at the Cabinet table


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway looks likely to lose voice at the Cabinet table Galway looks likely to lose voice at the Cabinet table

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Galway could be left without a voice at the Cabinet table from December when the job of An Taoiseach rotates.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is set to hand over the reins to Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar before Christmas, midway through their five-year Government programme.

A reshuffle of the Cabinet and junior ministers is expected, as both men try to ‘freshen up’ their respective teams.

Currently, Galway City and County is without a senior minister. We have one ‘super junior’ minister, Hildegarde Naughton, who sits at Cabinet but does not have a vote.

The other two non-voting members of Cabinet are the Chief Whip, Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers, and the Green Party senator Pippa Hackett.

The Chief Whip’s job is tied to that of the Taoiseach. So when Leo takes over, Fine Gael will take that position and Fianna Fáil will take the ‘super junior’ role.

That’s a problem for Hildegarde. She could be appointed Chief Whip, if Leo really wanted to keep her at the Cabinet table. But that’s unlikely. Hildegarde is many things but she is not a ‘wheeler and dealer’ or a schmoozer who can cajole backbenchers into voting for the Government in unpopular and uncomfortable votes.

No, Leo will plump for a greater ally of his in that role. Meath TD Damien English is already being touted as a shoo-in.

That means for Hildegarde to remain at Cabinet, she’ll have to be promoted to a senior ministry. And while she may be capable and well-able for one, it is unlikely Leo is going to demote someone in order to elevate someone who didn’t even support him in the leadership contest.

If she were to be promoted it would come at the expense of Simon Coveney, Pascal Donohoe, Heather Humphreys, Simon Harris, or Helen McEntee. Is Leo really going to risk pissing off one of those leadership contenders to reward Hildegarde? Not a hope.

Gender and geography will be factors too, and Hildegarde ticks those boxes but the best the Galway West TD can hope for is that she will be offered a ‘better’ junior minister role, albeit without sitting at Cabinet.

Micheál Martin is in a similar bind to Leo. When a leader’s party and popularity is flying high in the polls, they can make whatever changes they like.

But low poll ratings have weakened both men and they’re unlikely to want to demote too many people who will become disgruntled and launch a leadership challenge from the backbenches.

Fianna Fáil Galway East TD, Anne Rabbitte, is a junior minister at the Department of Health.

Her recent very public conversion from anti-abortion to more pro-choice than the pro-choice wing of her party was seen by some as a cynical careerist manoeuvre.

It’s unlikely to have been enough to persuade Micheál to promote her to the ‘super junior’ with-a-seat-at-cabinet-role that Hildegarde is expected to vacate. Nor will it give the Portumna powerhouse the ‘full Merc’ that she so craves, especially with Fianna Fáil women such as Niamh Smyth in Cavan and Jennifer Murnane O’Connor in Carlow/Kilkenny both pressing for promotion.

If Rabbitte survives at all, she may remain a junior minister, but be moved from the Department of Health, where she’s been a thorn in the side of officials who don’t rate her.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the October 14 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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