Now it seems the reshuffle might throw up another novelty; that the Green leader could stand down from cabinet and allow Ciarán Cuffe take his place. While this may seem admirable in that no minister gets too comfortable (except Éamon Ryan) it would have to shorten the odds on an election this year.
Ministers usually take a year if not more to get on top of their brief, so changing minister will ensure a period of inactivity in Environment – hardly something the Greens want. And Ryan will be in cabinet with someone who has less experinece of cabinet, making it more difficult to get their way in disputes that make it there. It will also give the impresison that the Greens are obsessed with giving everyone in the party a decent job (except presumably the amusingly erratic Paul Gogarty).
But more significantly, how will the leader of the party manage the party in government if he’s not in cabinet where the decisions are ultimately made? Who will meet with Cowen before cabinet meetings to agree the two parties’ positions? Would Ryan become the leader in government, and then allow Gormley act as a Dan Boyle/ Michael McDowell figure criticising from the sidelines? Cowen and Gormley seem to have a business-like working relationship; would this change if the more prickly Cuffe were in cabinet?
Perhaps this internal crisis is manufactured to make it more likely that the Taoiseach will give in to Green demands for a second junior minister. Cowen is likely to prefer than than having Gormley replaced by Cuffe. But I doubt the Greens are that manipulative.