A powerful new economic planning and enterprise ministry is likely to be the centrepiece of Brian Cowen's cabinet reshuffle to be unveiled this week.
With ministerial departures expected to be limited to Willie O'Dea and Martin Cullen, the focus will be on a redrawing of government departments rather than widespread personnel changes. Central to this will be the break-up of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
No final decisions have been made but informed sources said it was "virtually certain" that a new Department of Economic Planning and Enterprise would be established.
As well as being responsible for medium and long-term economic planning to help avoid recent boom/bust cycles, the new department would oversee 'enterprise', including innovation, the knowledge and green economies and possibly research, including fourth-level education.
The 'employment' section of the current department is tipped to move to a new department along the lines of the UK's Work and Pensions, offering a 'one-stop shop' for job seekers. Current social affairs minister Mary Hanafin is expected to head up this new department.
The configuration will also see equality being moved from Justice and a merger of the existing departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Arts, Sports and Tourism. Defence's position as a stand-alone department is also being examined.
The two ministers seen as being most vulnerable in the reshuffle – Eamon Ó Cuív and Brendan Smith – are expected to remain in cabinet.
Mary Coughlan will remain as Tánaiste but is likely to move sideways, possibly to a new Department of Trade and Tourism.
Clare's Tony Killeen and chief whip Pat Carey are seen as the two likely replacements at cabinet for O'Dea and Cullen. However, Conor Lenihan or Dara Calleary could be options if Cowen looks to give more bite to his cabinet. John Curran could replace Carey as chief whip.
The other key issue to be sorted out this weekend is whether the Green Party will be given a second junior ministry to get the party off the hook created by an internal party agreement in 2007 to rotate its ministers.
Although the majority of the parliamentary party believe the rotation is impractical, and John Gormley is expected to stay on as minister for environment, the Sunday Tribune understands that supporters of Ciaran Cuffe – who had been in line under the deal to take over at Environment – still want the deal to be honoured.
There are high hopes in the Greens that a compromise can be reached whereby the Taoiseach would agree to give a second junior ministry to the smaller party, which Cuffe would fill.
An extra Green junior position would go down badly with Fianna Fáil backbenchers but in order to safeguard the cohesiveness of the government, Cowen may have to give in.
The Taoiseach is expected to press ahead with the reshuffle on Tuesday despite the absence of the President, who will be in Turkey on an official visit – a Presidential Commission can perform the President's duties in this regard.