Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has named Mayo TD Dara Calleary as the party's deputy leader and policy director in a reshuffle announced this afternoon.

Barry Cowen has been appointed Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, while Darragh O'Brien becomes the party's spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Niall Collins is the new spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade with Billy Kelleher given the task of Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister.

Stephen Donnelly is the new health spokesperson and Lisa Chambers has been appointed to the Brexit role.

Dublin West TD Jack Chambers is the only new face on the frontbench after he was appointed defence spokesperson.


Mícheál Lehane

This was an unexpected reshuffle. Those who were moved were only give a few hours' notice.

The calls from the party leader asking for a meeting were made sometime after 8am this morning.

By 11am Dara Calleary was the big winner, getting the post of deputy leader.

Popular in the parliamentary party and among the ordinary members, it's an appointment that will be largely welcomed in Fianna Fáil.

The Mayo TD also has a different view to his party leader on the question of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

That shows in clear terms that the party accommodates different views on the matter.

What's less obvious is the second part of Mr Calleary's new title; that of policy director.

Some in the party view this as shorthand for the task of getting the election manifesto finalised.

And that leads to the conclusion that today's changes were done with an eye to a General Election taking place this year.

Some in Fianna Fáil believe this could even happen soon after the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment takes place on 25 May.

The moving of Darragh O'Brien to mark the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is viewed as an effort to intensify the pressure on the Government on this issue.

Ditto the change of job for Stephen Donnelly, who now goes toe to toe with his fellow Wicklow constituency rival, Health Minister Simon Harris.

Lisa Chambers' new role as Brexit spokesperson will also boost her profile and solidify her position as a key party figure going into an election.

It's interesting too that while Micheál Martin was reshuffling his party in Leinster House, the Taoiseach was being asked in the committee rooms if there were any talks under way to extend the Confidence and Supply Agreement. 

The answer was a simple no. 

You could with good reason speculate that after today's events it will remain that way.