Monday 11 December 2017

Revealed: Who's who among the 15 new junior ministers of the 32nd Dail

Kenny under fire for 'boom-time' minister numbers

Enda Kenny with the full line-up of 15 new and three already appointed junior ministers. Photo:
Enda Kenny with the full line-up of 15 new and three already appointed junior ministers. Photo:

John Downing and Barry Lennon

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been heavily criticised for increasing the number of junior ministers from 15 to 18 - the second-highest number in the State's history.

Mr Kenny's team of junior ministers is second only to the 20 appointed by Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in June 2007 as the economic boom was nearing its end. It was cut back to 15 as the recession intensified in 2009, and the last government kept to that number in 2011.

Each junior minister is entitled to an extra €34,000 per year, on top of a TD's yearly salary of €87,000, along with additional staff and the right to hire two civilian drivers to drive the appointee's own car.

Labour leader Joan Burton, who was in Cabinet with Mr Kenny up to a fortnight ago, castigated the decision to increase numbers. "I find it remarkable that the number of Ministers of State appointed has increased from 15 to 18, and is fast approaching the record set by Bertie Ahern of 20," Ms Burton said.

"The State finances have certainly improved in the last two to three years, but have they really improved to the extent where we can afford the luxury of so many ministers? I don't think so."

Fianna Fáil also condemned the move. "The Taoiseach certainly seems keen to find a job for everyone in the Fine Gael parliamentary party," a spokesman said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams criticised the line-up, saying it reduced "the process of government formation to a farce".

All three opposition parties were also extremely critical of the failure to make proper provision for the arts within the enlarged team of junior ministers.

But the Taoiseach said the appointments showed that his Government was "putting a stronger emphasis on important policy areas, particularly on the Department of Health, to which four Ministers of State will be attached to work to deliver real improvements in this vital public service".

Government officials pointed to the number of younger and female TDs being handed promotions. Just two of the appointees, Eoghan Murphy and Catherine Byrne, are from Dublin, adding to the rural flavour of the entire 33-member ministerial team, of which just nine are Dublin-based.

Helen McEntee: Meath East. Photo: Tom Burke
Helen McEntee: Meath East. Photo: Tom Burke

Members of the 'Class of 2011' were handed new roles, including Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy, Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan and Galway West deputy Seán Kyne.

Mr Murphy has been given the prestigious post of junior minister in charge of financial services. Patrick O'Donovan takes on the sought-after post of junior minister for sport, previously held by the Taoiseach's Mayo colleague, Michael Ring.

Sitting junior ministers Michael Ring, Damien English, Joe McHugh and Dara Murphy have all been kept on as junior ministers - but some of them have changed roles. Mr Ring takes on regional development, always an important issue on the western seaboard.

Mr English takes on housing and urban development, while Mr McHugh moves from Gaeltacht, a post for which he successfully re-learnt Irish, to take on overseas aid and the diaspora.

Joe McHugh: Donegal. Photo: Tom Burke
Joe McHugh: Donegal. Photo: Tom Burke

The Gaeltacht appointment goes to Seán Kyne, from Galway West, who has a good command of Irish.

As expected, Independent TDs who supported Enda Kenny in the vote for Taoiseach such as John Halligan and Seán Canney were handed positions in the junior ministerial ranks. Mr Halligan takes on training and skills, while Mr Canney is in charge of the Office of Public Works and flood relief.

It is expected that Mr Canney will cede this post to Athlone-based Independent, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran a year from now. The third Independent Alliance appointee, Finian McGrath, was announced with the senior appointees a fortnight ago.

Meath East deputy Helen McEntee and Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy take up roles in the Department of Health. Ms McEntee takes on mental health and older people and Ms Corcoran Kennedy will take charge of health promotion, while Dublin South Central TD Catherine Byrne is responsible for the national drugs strategy and communities.

Who's who among the 15 new junior ministers of the 32nd Dáil

Housing and urban renewal

Patrick O'Donovan: Limerick. Photo: Tom Burke
Patrick O'Donovan: Limerick. Photo: Tom Burke

Damien English (38)

Meath West (first elected 2002)

Family: Married to Laura Kelly. One son and three daughters.

Bucked a huge anti-Fine Gael trend with first Dáil win in June 2002. In July 2014 got his first promotion to Junior Minister for skills and research.

Forestry, Horticulture and Food

Andrew Doyle (55)

Wicklow (2007)

Family: Married to Ann Smith. Three sons, one daughter.

A life-long farmer, he was first elected to Wicklow County Council in 1999. Has contributed consistently to the Dáil agriculture committee.

Mental health and older people

Helen McEntee (29)

Meath East (2013)

Family: Single.

First elected in by-election in 2013 caused by the death of her father, Shane. Ms McEntee (RIGHT) worked with her father on constituency matters and when he was junior agriculture minister.

Equality, Immigration and Integration

David Stanton (59)

Cork East (1997)

Family: Mary Lehane. Four sons.

Was first elected in 1997 and every subsequent election. This is his first government post. A dedicated Dáil committee worker, his recent chairmanship of the Oireachtas justice and equality committee should help in his new job.

European Affairs and Data protection

Dara Murphy (46)

Cork North-Central (2011)

Family: Married to Tanya Murphy and has three daughters.

The Corkman keeps his junior ministry after successfully retaining his seat in the southern capital. The former Lord Mayor of Cork was a caterer before entering politics.

Tourism and Sport

Patrick O'Donovan (39)

Limerick (2011)

Family: Single.

Tourism and Sport is the first junior ministry Mr O'Donovan (left) has been appointed to. He helped manage the vote to also return running-mate Tom Neville in his constituency in the general election. He is a former president of Young Fine Gael.

Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources

Sean Kyne (41)

Galway West (2011)

Family: Married to Avril Horan

The new Minister retained a Dáil seat after his first general election saw him win by a margin of just 17 votes. The former Galway county councillor worked as an agri-environmental consultant before entering politics.

Employment and Small Business

Pat Breen (59)

Clare (2002)

Family: Married to Anne McInerney and has two sons.

The Clare TD gets his first junior ministry, having previously acted as the party's deputy spokesman on Foreign Affairs and enterprise in opposition. Before entering the Dáil, he had worked as an agricultural technician and was a Clare county councillor.

Economic Development

Michael Ring (62)

Mayo (1994)

Family: Married to Anne Fitzgerald with one son.

Enda Kenny's Mayo running-mate is moved from his junior ministry at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. He was first elected in a by-election after Fianna Fáil's Padraig Flynn became EU commissioner.

Diaspora and Overseas Development

Joe McHugh (44)

Donegal (2002)

Family: Married to Olwyn Enright. Two children.

Mr McHugh (left) takes over a new ministry this year having previously been Minister of State for Gaeltacht affairs. Before politics, the former school teacher taught in Letterkenny and also in Dubai where he set up the first GAA club there.

Communities and National Drugs Strategy

Catherine Byrne (60)

Dublin South Central (2007)

Family: Married to Joseph Byrne and has four daughters and one son.

The former Lord Mayor of Dublin was a leader of St Michael's gospel group for 15 years before entering the Dáil. She also played ladies soccer at the highest level and managed schoolboy teams in her constituency.

OPW and Flood Relief

Seán Canney (58)

Galway East (2016)

Family: Married to Geraldine. Three children.

A former county councillor, the Independent Alliance TD is a chartered surveyor and lecturer at GMIT. He secured a commitment to examine the expansion of the Western Rail corridor in government talks.

Training and Skills

John Halligan (61)

Waterford (2011)

Family: Partner and three children.

Mr Halligan twice ran for the Dáil as a Worker's Party candidate before becoming an Independent and taking a seat in 2011. A pledge to upgrade cardiac care at Waterford Hospital was his price for entering government.

Financial Services

Eoghan Murphy (34)

Dublin Bay South (2011)

Family: Single.

With a masters in International Relations, Murphy once worked at the United Nations. Tipped for a Cabinet post due to his participation in government talks, the junior finance portfolio is a nice consolation prize.

Health Promotion

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy (53)

Offaly (2011)

Family: Married to Seamus Kennedy. Two children.

Ms Corcoran Kennedy raised concern over the lack of women promoted by the Taoiseach in the last reshuffle of the junior ranks internally in Fine Gael.

She since publicly called for more women minsters and the former councillor has been rewarded this time around.

The rise in junior minister Numbers Over 40 Years

1977: Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch says "an increasingly complex world" needs 10 new junior ministers to help in government.

1980: Lynch's replacement, Charlie Haughey, increases the number to 15 in part to pay his political debts after a backbench coup.

1995: John Bruton's three-party Rainbow Coalition again raises the number from 15 to 17 to increase available jobs.

2007: Fianna Fáil's three-in-a-row Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, attempts to buy calm by increasing junior numbers again to 20.

2009: Worsening recession, and pressure from Green Party coalition colleagues, obliges Ahern's replacement, Brian Cowen, to cut numbers back to 15.

2016: Taoiseach Enda Kenny once more increases junior minister numbers to 18.

Irish Independent

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