Saturday 24 June 2017

Merry-go-round of junior ministers must be retuned to ensure greater cabinet harmony

Alex White. Photo: Collins
Alex White. Photo: Collins
Sara Burke

Sara Burke

THE absence of any real achievement by the vast majority of junior ministers must call into question the very necessity of all junior ministerial posts. They have no power to make decisions or allocate money and are really just there to champion a specific aspect of a government department that is perceived to need public and political attention. Let's use health as a test case of junior ministerial usefulness.

Kathleen Lynch was reappointed as the junior minister with responsibility for primary and social care. This means she keeps her previous responsibilities for mental health, disability and older people as well as getting the additional charge for primary care, previously held by Alex White, pictured right. Her equality remit was passed on to Aodhan O Riordain in the justice department.

Both White and Lynch were touted as front runners for promotion to the cabinet table, yet only White got there. A relative newcomer to political life, White was elected to South Dublin County Council in 2004 and to the Daíl in 2011. He willingly filled the embarrassing vacancy as the junior health minister with responsibility for Primary Care when Roisin Shortall resigned on a position of principle, in September 2012. One of Shortall's reasons for resignation was that she was unable to deliver key government commitments as she was consistently undermined by her senior minister, James Reilly.

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