A new Minister for Housing will not be appointed until after the Budget, it has been revealed.
The vacancy came about following Deputy Willie Penrose’s decision to quit his post as a super junior minister in light of the government’s plans to close the army barracks in Mullingar, in his constituency of Longford/Westmeath.
The race to replace Mr Penrose as Minister for Housing – a decision that will be made by Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore – is believed to be a three-horse contest between Meath’s Dominic Hannigan, party whip Emmet Stagg and Dublin Central TD Joe Costello.
Meanwhile, his vacant cabinet seat is likely to go to one of Labour’s remaining junior ministers Alan Kelly, Kathleen Lynch or Sean Sherlock.
No decision will be made between now and the Budget on December 6 with Mr Gilmore reported to be concerned about the unsettling impact a new personality could have around the cabinet table.
While Cork South Central TD Ciaran Lynch would be a firm favourite for the housing portfolio among the party faithful, given that he was the party’s spokesman on the issue during the last Dail, he is not in contention because of geography.
Outsiders for the post include Dáil novices Derek Nolan (Galway East), Aodhan O Riordain (Dublin North Central) and Ciara Conway (Waterford) but indications are that it will be one from deputies Hannigan, Staff and Costello.
The move to hold off a replacement for Mr Penrose has brought criticism from Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis though, who said it was an attempt by the cabinet to keep disgruntled Labour backbenchers in line until after the budget.