Monday 24 October 2016

Every woman in Cabinet is there because of her ability, says Humphreys

Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys
Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys has hit out at any suggestion that her gender helped her get a position in Cabinet.

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Ms Humphreys was among four female Fine Gael TDs who made it into the new Cabinet, including first-timer Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who is the Minister For Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Some party backbenchers have privately expressed the view that the Taoiseach chose them on gender grounds rather than their ability.

Enda Kenny had promised that if re-elected to government, he would appoint a Cabinet made up of an equal number of men and women.

However, 10 senior ministries went to men and just five to women.

But Ms Humphreys (inset) denied there was a lack of experienced female TDs in the party.

"I wasn't a gender candidate the last time and this is my second appointment. I don't agree with that," she said, adding: "I think that Mary Mitchell O'Connor will be very capable in her brief."

Ms Humphreys, who has responsibility for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, said she was looking forward to the challenges in her vast portfolio. "I spent most of my life in business and it's not for the faint-hearted either," she told the Irish Independent.

Asked if she felt the Taoiseach struggled to find suitable women to live up to his pre-election promise on gender equality, Ms Humphreys said: "There's not a lack of qualified women - but I think the Taoiseach has appointed four Fine Gael women to Cabinet plus Katherine Zappone.

"We are in a situation where the Taoiseach had to work in two different groupings of Independents, and in those two groupings there wasn't one woman," she said.

"That's the highest number of women that have ever sat at the Cabinet table. And I would expect that he'll appoint more women when the junior ministers are appointed.

"Any woman that gets appointed to a job wants to be selected on her ability to do the job. That's very important but there are very capable women there."

Mr Kenny promoted Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to Tánaiste, while Meath East TD Regina Doherty is the new Government Chief Whip.

The Attorney General Márie Whelan also retained her position.

Mr Kenny is also expected to promote a number of women to the junior ministerial ranks later this weekend, including Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Helen McEntee.

Ms Humphreys said that she had "no ideas" when it came to who should be the next leader of Fine Gael.

"That question hasn't arisen so I'm not going to answer it until it does arise.

"The Taoiseach has done very well in getting the Government together. It has been a long process," she added.

Irish Independent

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