Tuesday 17 October 2017

Martin looking to Seanad for gender balance on frontbench

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin last night signalled he will appoint successful female Seanad candidates to try to balance his all-male frontbench team.

All 20 male TDs yesterday secured frontbench jobs in the party, which has been reduced from 78 seats to just 20 seats.

The party now has no female TDs, leaving Mr Martin to go outside the Dail to the Seanad if he is to address the gender imbalance in the frontbench line-up.

It comes after high-profile female TDs such as Mary Hanafin, Mary Coughlan, Mary O'Rourke, Aine Brady and Margaret Conlon lost their seats in the General Election.

Dublin-based councillor Mary Fitzpatrick and former government adviser Averil Power feature on Mr Martin's list of preferred Seanad candidates.

They are tipped for frontbench portfolios and roles in helping rebuild the party if they can pull off Seanad seats in the coming weeks. Both previously featured in Mr Martin's frontbench election team.

Announcing the new line-up yesterday, Mr Martin said voters had made their choice when no female Fianna Fail TDs were elected but it was now up to party councillors to decide if they wanted female senators.

The imminent Seanad election, he said, was an opportunity to address the gender imbalance.

"The Seanad elections will give me further opportunity to appoint people for newer policy areas which aren't actually covered by governmental department ministries," Mr Martin said.

Under the new frontbench line-up, former junior minister John McGuinness has been nominated to chair the high-profile Public Accounts Committee.

The position normally goes to the main opposition party and is considered an important role because of its probing of all state spending.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's brother Barry will now mark Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

Promotion

New Dail TDs Robert Troy and Charlie McConalogue have also secured immediate promotion to the frontbench -- a move that can take several terms in other larger opposition parties.

Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has retained the finance portfolio -- leaving him to grill the new Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Mr Martin yesterday defended the appointment of Mr Lenihan, who was in charge during the banking and economic crisis.

"We need experience and we need also fresh perspectives in relation to all of the areas we are covering, in particular in finance," Mr Martin said.

"I think, in my view, it's important that someone who saw what was going on for the last two years has important insights and perspectives to offer on the current situation."

Irish Independent

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