Belfast Telegraph

Shocks as Taoiseach shuffles pack

Enda Kenny has unveiled a number of shock Cabinet posts after being officially sworn in as the new Taoiseach.

The Fine Gael leader revealed Labour's Brendan Howlin will take on the newly-created role of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister.

Mr Howlin, a veteran parliamentarian with past ministerial experience, will be charged with inflicting crushing austerity measures and axing 25,000 public jobs the coalition government signed up to over the next two years.

The post was created with the splitting of the finance portfolio into two, with Fine Gael's Michael Noonan taking on the mantle of Finance Minister, with responsibility for budgets and taxes.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore becomes Tanaiste and was handed the new beefed-up Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio.

His party's deputy leader and finance spokeswoman Joan Burton - an outspoken critic of the previous Fianna Fail/Green administration's economic direction - was widely tipped to take the public expenditure and reform post.

But instead she has been appointed to what some will see as a lower ranking Cabinet position as Social Protection Minister, although she will take control of one of the largest budgets in the Cabinet.

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter was assigned the newly amalgamated role of Justice, Equality and Defence Minister. The subsuming of the defence brief into the justice portfolio will be seen as a downgrading of both departments and spark fears of possible lay-offs under the public sector reform plan.

Eyebrows were also raised that only two women made it onto the top table, including Ms Burton and the newly-elevated full Cabinet post of Minister for Children, handed to Fine Gael's experienced Frances Fitzgerald.

Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar - at 32, the youngest government minister - was selected as Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister, a merger of a number of separate departments.

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