What are the prospects for Meath's TDs in the Cabinet shake-up?

What are the prospects for Meath's TDs in the Cabinet shake-up?

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been elected Taoiseach by the 33rd Dáil and will later sit down with his new partners in Government - Leo Varadkar and Eamon Martin - to carve up the seats at the Cabinet table.

Staking a claim for a role in that cabinet and possibly a promotion from an already high profile portfolio is Meath East's Helen McEntee, the outgoing Minister for European Affairs.

Such an appointment might provide for a little bit of initial awkwardness with the new boss. Four months ago Minister McEntee took aim at the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin following his comments that she was not centrally involved in Brexit negotiations.

“The last thing he and his party negotiated with the EU was Ireland's IMF/bailout after they wrecked the economy,” she said on Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast.

Mr Martin said Fine Gael “overplayed” their role in Brexit negotiations and specifically took issue with Ms McEntee’s role.

“Take Helen McEntee for a second, Helen McEntee had no experience going into the job. She was mental health first."

Deputy Martin said Minister McEntee did an “okay” job during Brexit but was not “directly involved in the negotiations”.

Deputy McEntee asked how Mr Martin would know how much involvement she had during Brexit talks.

“He’s had zero involvement in the process nor has he travelled the length and breadth of the EU with me,” she tweeted.

Many commentators now believe Helen McEntee, having kept a very steady hand on the tiller through the minefield of Brexit negotoiations and developments is seen as being in line for a full cabinet role.

Simon Coveney, Paschal Donohoe, Simon Harris, Heather Humphreys are expected to join Leo Varadkar at this unprecendeted cabinet table with Ms McEntee - first elected to Dail Eireann in 2013 - strongly tipped to take that sixth place. Mr Varadkar has told colleagues he will strike a blow for equality with the sixth Fine Gael position destined to go to a woman.

The experience of Helen McEntee in Europe is valued and at the very least she seems likely to retain her portfolio.

Could she even take on the brief held by her former constituency colleague, Regina Doherty and take the helm at the Department of Social Protection?

Internal FG speculation suggests Ms McEntee could be up against Deputy Hildegard Naughton for a full Cabinet position, with the other taking a super junior slot.

On the Fianna Fail side, another intriguing possibility is the role of Thomas Byrne, also from Meath East and seen as a very capable pair of hands and ‘go-to’ Fianna Fáil media performer. The education spokesperson could get his hands on that senior brief or at the very least take on a Super Junior role.

A solicitor by trade, Byrne has served the Meath East constituency since 2016, and previously from 2007 to 2011.

The trouble for Byrne is the trouble for McEntee. The optics of two senior cabinet roles being held by politicians from the same constituency may not sit well with party leaders. Time will tell.

Outgoing Minister for Social Protection and Employment Affairs Regina Doherty lost her seat in the General Election back in February but stayed at the helm of her Department through the coronavirus crisis that saw hundreds of thousands of workers placed on Covid-19 payments.

Outgoing Minster for Housing and Urban Affairs Damien English and TD for Meath West is now likely to slip back onto the back benches.

More from this Topic