Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Power and success doesn't just come in a pinstripe suit' - scorned minister warns Varadkar

The recently demoted jobs minister, in a rousing speech to celebrate WXN Ireland's Most Powerful Women, said she was one of just seven in a Government of 34 ministers.
The recently demoted jobs minister, in a rousing speech to celebrate WXN Ireland's Most Powerful Women, said she was one of just seven in a Government of 34 ministers.
Mary Mitchell O’Connor

Dearbhail McDonald and Samantha McCaughren

Minister of State Mary Mitchell O'Connor launched a broadside at Taoiseach Leo Varadkar by insisting that the Government is "not leading by example" on the diversity cause.

The recently demoted jobs minister, in a rousing speech to celebrate WXN Ireland's Most Powerful Women, said she was one of just seven in a Government of 34 ministers.

"Only 18 women have served as ministers since the foundation of the State," said Ms O'Connor, who told a packed audience at Dublin's Intercontinental Hotel "power and success doesn't just come in a pinstripe suit".

In what will be seen as a sharp rebuke to new Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar, Ms Mitchell O'Connor said the Government was not leading the way on the issue.

Leo Varadkar TD and Fine Gael deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Leo Varadkar TD and Fine Gael deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor

"Today WXN called on our new Taoiseach to get behind the diversity cause and put Government resources and commitment into it.

"I am very conscious that the Government itself is not leading by example," she said.

"I am one of just seven women in a Government team of 34 ministers - just over 20pc. Only 18 women have served as ministers since the foundation of the State.

"Ireland is in 76th place in the world tables of women's representation in the lower or single house of national parliaments."

Her speech comes in the same week which has seen Mr Varadkar criticised for having just seven women at the Cabinet table and in junior minister roles.

This number is down on his predecessor Enda Kenny, who had eight women in minister roles.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his newly-appointed Cabinet at Áras an Uachtaráin – but the new Cabinet closely resembles the old one. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his newly-appointed Cabinet at Áras an Uachtaráin – but the new Cabinet closely resembles the old one. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

After Mr Varadkar became Taoiseach, he demoted Ms Mitchell O'Connor to a 'super junior' ministry at the Department of Education. He then axed junior health minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy from her position.

Criticism followed swiftly for the Taoiseach, who had swept into power promising "a Republic of opportunity" for all.

Former tánaiste Joan Burton said: "Our all-singing, all-dancing, star-struck Taoiseach went a step backwards."

Mr Varadkar came in for further criticism at the sixth annual WXN leadership summit, which celebrates the contribution made by women in business. The event recognises the 25 most powerful women in Irish business, with this year's recipients hailing from a diverse range of industries.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said that while some important steps have been taken in recent years, including the introduction of gender quotas, waiting for political parties to see the light and promote more women into parliamentary ranks "doesn't really work".

"The only thing quotas have going for them is that they work'," Ms O'Connor told the WXNTop25 awardees.

A cheer went up when Ms Mitchell O'Connor said it was great to celebrate "women who never give up".

The founder and CEO of the WXN Network, Sherri Stevens, also called Mr Varadkar to improve his approach to gender diversity when it comes to key appointments.

Writing in today's Irish Independent, she says: "Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright's oft-used description of a special place in hell for women who don't help others might also apply to gay leaders with multicultural backgrounds who consider pulling up the ladder behind them."

Rosaleen Burke, vice president of pharmaceutical giant Boston Scientific, said: "I'm fully convinced that there were plenty of qualified women for Cabinet roles that would have been more than capable."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section