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Government branded as an 'absolute dumpster fire' after mini-reshuffle

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The Government's first weeks in office were branded as an "absolute dumpster fire" as Taoiseach Micheál Martin completed a mini-reshuffle after the sacking of agriculture minister Barry Cowen.

Fianna Fáil's deputy leader Dara Calleary - who had been disappointed not to be selected for a senior role little over two weeks ago - was promoted to replace Mr Cowen.

The absence of a senior Cabinet member from the North-West was heavily criticised when Mr Martin's original team was appointed.

Mayo TD Mr Calleary's elevation means there is now a senior minister located west of the Shannon. He was replaced as Government Chief Whip by Junior Finance Minister Jack Chambers, who will also have responsibility for the Gaeltacht. Mr Chambers will now be among three TDs from Dublin West to sit at Cabinet as he joins constituency rivals Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman at the top table.

Last night he told the Irish Independent he looks forward to embracing the new role and the Irish language. He said: "I'm out of practice at present but I had a good level of Irish in the past. I am committed to improving and being an active speaker."

Laois-Offaly TD Seán Fleming was appointed as Minister of State with responsibility for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance.

The appointments came after a bruising Leaders' Questions session where Mr Martin had to defend his handling of the controversy resulting from the revelations about Mr Cowen's drink-driving incident.

Mr Martin said the Government is committed to supporting farmers and the food business and he said Mr Calleary will be "an effective minister" who will work hard to implement "ambitious commitments" for the sector.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald congratulated those appointed, but said: "Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the circumstances in which the vacancy arose in the first place." She claimed the controversy surrounding Mr Cowen's sacking "has unquestionably undermined public confidence in this new Government".

Labour leader Alan Kelly also wished the appointees well, particularly Mr Calleary. He said: "There is a bit of ground to make up now. This was in many ways a delayed appointment."

He said Mr Fleming was at times "forensic" in his role as PAC chairman and he hoped he would bring this approach in dealings with the insurance industry.

However, Mr Kelly also said the Government had "had an exceptionally poor start".

Rise TD Paul Murphy claimed: "I think what we have in this absolute dumpster fire of two and a half weeks of a Government is a clear display of the culture of Fianna Fáil. It is a party that is about power. It's not about ideology."

He criticised what he claimed had been the squabbling between backbench TDs over ministerial jobs.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said the elevation of "a further three wise men brings into sharp focus the long journey we have to go to gender equality".

Another Independent TD, Marian Harkin, said she was pleased there has been "a certain rebalancing" in the regional spread of ministers.

She said that on a personal level she felt for Mr Cowen and his family, adding "politics can be a brutal business".

Irish Independent