Wednesday 21 August 2019

Profile: Rise from councillor to Cabinet in two years

Meteoric rise: Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Collins
Meteoric rise: Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The first day of counting in May's elections in many ways represented the pinnacle of Culture Minister Josepha Madigan's political career.

The referendum to cut divorce waiting times was on course to pass by a landslide.

The idea had been first put forward by Ms Madigan and she spearheaded efforts to reduce the four-year waiting time which she said caused more misery for families affected by divorce.

However, news of Maria Bailey's personal injury claim had broken just days earlier and her family's law firm Madigans Solicitors had represented her Fine Gael colleague. Ms Madigan found herself facing reporters' questions on the controversy at the RDS count centre. She refused to say if she had any role in advising Ms Bailey on the claim she took against the Dean Hotel after falling from a swing. Ms Madigan insisted she was bound by client-solicitor confidentiality.

It's a line she has stuck to in the weeks since, though it is now known that she advised Ms Bailey in the early stages of the claim. There has been intense pressure on Ms Madigan to outline precisely what advice she gave to her colleague on the now-dropped personal injury claim. And Ms Madigan faces the greatest crisis in her somewhat meteoric rise to the top table of Irish politics - from councillor to Cabinet minister in less than two years. The 49-year-old had a long career as a family law solicitor and has published one legal tome, 'Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Ireland', and a somewhat racier novel 'Negligent Behaviour'.

A mother of two, she was first elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2014. The Fine Gael politician courted controversy during that election campaign as one of her leaflets described plans for a South Dublin Traveller halting site as "a waste of valuable resources".

She later insisted she is not anti-Traveller and clarified the remarks saying the land was worth several million euro and the council was only proposing to house four families there.

Ms Madigan won election to the Dáil in 2016, unseating former justice minister Alan Shatter in the Dublin Rathdown constituency.

She supported Leo Varadkar during his 2017 bid for the Fine Gael leadership and was rewarded with a promotion to Cabinet later that year.

Her appointment as Culture Minister came amid the fallout from the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald as Tánaiste.

Ms Madigan is well-regarded by the Taoiseach who chose her to lead Fine Gael's campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment on abortion in 2018.

She found herself in hot water with the Catholic Church after she led prayers in her local parish when there was no priest available to say Mass. Ms Madigan's in hot water again, this time over an issue that threatens to overshadow and even jeopardise a promising political career.

Irish Independent

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