Taoiseach Kenny's plan for senators to sit in Cabinet
MEMBERS of the Seanad could be handed Cabinet positions after the next general election, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Mr Kenny has pledged to radically change the manner in which ministerial posts are carved up as part Fine Gael's proposals for political reform.
If he is elected Taoiseach after the next election, Mr Kenny said he will give "serious consideration" to appointing "particular kinds of people" from the Seanad to Cabinet.
Mr Kenny cited a facility that gives a Taoiseach powers to hand out Cabinet posts to senators, last used by Garret FitzGerald in the early 1980s.
Dr FitzGerald was lauded for appointing former senator James Dooge as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Speaking during his annual Christmas briefing with reporters, Mr Kenny said he intends to appoint individuals to Cabinet based on ability.
He also said he intends to ensure that half the Cabinet is filled by women.
"I would like to think that we could have a situation based on merit, either way now, that you could have an equal number of men and women in that cabinet, seven of each," Mr Kenny said.
"But also to look at the question - giving serious situation in particular circumstances to the facility that exists in the Senate for the appointment of particular kinds of people who might do a particular job, as happened before in the time of Garrett FitzGerald.
"I'd give consideration to that," he added.
Last night, one senator in Mr Kenny's party welcomed the remarks. Senator Catherine Noone said that appointing a senator to Cabinet would provide a major boost to the Upper House.
"It would mean that the Taoiseach would have the entire parliamentary party to choose from when appointing the best people to portfolios.
"And it would be positive if he were to appoint a female senator based on merit, not only because it would mean having more women in key positions but also it would be positive for the Seanad," she said.
Mr Kenny's own decisions regarding ministerial and junior ministerial choices this year landed him in hot water with some of his backbench TDs.
Backbenchers such as Regina Doherty, Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Aine Collins were all tipped for promotion, but Mr Kenny instead chose to reward their male counterparts.
Mr Kenny did, however, pluck Heather Humphreys from the backbenches and appointed her to the Arts portfolio.
The Taoiseach has admitted that the Government has "much more to do" to promote women.
The Government has introduced a gender quota for the next general election whereby women will have to make up at least 30pc of all political parties' candidates if they are to avoid losing half their State funding.
The Irish Independent has previously reported that Fine Gael is struggling to find enough female candidates to meet the gender quota, with party strategists saying they need about 27 women on the party ticket.
There are concerns about the party's ability to locate female candidates in the right constituencies and without upsetting the balance of the tickets.