Thursday 22 November 2018

The new frontbench and their credentials

A TD for more than 20 years, he had previously made shapes at the leadership. He made it to the Dail in the first election he contested and has held four ministerial portfolios under Garret Fitzgerald in the mid-'80s and in the Rainbow Coalition.

A good storyteller with a keen sense of humour, he has a general all-round political ability that should stand him in good stead.

A weak spot in his armour was the insensitive handling of the Bridget McCole Hepatitis C case. He has admitted he made a mistake, said he was sorry and acknowledged that it had a considerable impact on him as a person.

Jim Mitchell

Undoubtedly one of the most popular figures in Fine Gael and with a national profile since his deft handling of the Dail DIRT inquiry.

Got a lot of kudos from the ordinary taxpayer when his all-party committee effectively forced the main banks and building societies to hand back £170m to the Revenue Commissioners.

A generous politician, he stood aside to leave the field clear for Declan Costello to take a Dail seat in the early '70s. Afterwards, he welcomed Austin Currie to his sprawling constituency.

Alan Dukes

Brings to the Agriculture portfolio a wealth of experience and ability. In debating terms alone he will be more than a match for Minister Joe Walsh.

Took over Fine Gael when FitzGerald stepped down. However, his technical and administrative ability did not counter his lack of political experience. He got the heave from the party in 1990.

Jim O'Keeffe

The West Cork solicitor has probably got the portfolio he would have longed for Foreign Affairs.

Against the Fianna Fail tide in 1977 he first won a Dail seat. He was a Minister of State in Foreign Affairs in the FitzGerald coalition and has been a regular contributor on that portfolio since then.

Jim Higgins

Higgins is a surprise choice, selected from among the three FG deputies in Mayo and preferred to leadership challenger Enda Kenny.

He used a term in the Seanad to create the foundation for a Dail seat, which he has held continuously since 1987.

One of the Gang of Four who mounted the abortive heave against John Bruton in '94 but his ability and drive ensured that he made a comeback as Government Whip from '95 to '97.

Charles Flanagan

Flanagan, another of that Gang of Four, is seen as one of the stronger of the group newly promoted. A solicitor, he has had a special role on Northern Ireland policy and garnered a lot of credit for how he handled it and the role of Chief Whip.

Gay Mitchell

A surprise choice for a front-bench post it had been generally reckoned that there would be only one of the Mitchell brothers in the first team.

One of the hardest-working among Dublin-based deputies, continually tracking his South Central beat.

In so controversial an area as Health, he seems set to have a lot of policy and personal arguments with the lilywhite Minister, Michael Martin.

Alan Shatter

A star performer in the Dail over a number of years, he will severely test John O'Donoghue in the controversial area of justice and law reform.

Frances Fitzgerald

A two-term Dail deputy, she gets another chance at front-bench rank partly because the main opposition party needs a greater profile in Dublin.

She represents the hotly contested Dublin South East, where she retained her seat after first being elected in 1992. A social worker who began her political career in the Women's Political Association.

Dinny McGinley

DINNY McGinley, out of the limelight in Front Bench terms for some time, has a brief that will suit him down to the ground.

His excellent Irish probably will mean that Arts & Gaeltacht Minister, Sile de Valera, will duck direct challenges from him in the Dail, leaving these to Minister of State, Eamon O Cuiv.

Brian Hayes

Hayes created a Dail seat for himself and Fine Gael in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght. A former officer of the party, he got his chance with a Seanad seat and took it with both hands.

Only 31, he is one of the young bloods in the Dail and Michael Noonan gives him his chance partly because of his Dublin base. He faces a tough challenge in tackling Minister Dermot Ahern.

Deirdre Clune

Deirdre Clune has been given a portfolio ideally suited to her. An engineer by profession, she has responsibility for environmental matters. As a housewife and mother of four, she knows more than a bit about prices and consumer problems.

She will have a tough battle in the Dail against Noel Dempsey, one of the most ambitious of Fianna Fail ministers.

Michael Creed

Ignored through the John Bruton era even though always successfully defending the Dail seat he first won in 1989.

He has got Spokesmanship before without making an impact. This may be his last chance to show what he is worth.

Olivia Mitchell

A surprise choice, but only because she is in the same Dublin South constituency as Alan Shatter.

A first-time Dail deputy, she has made quite a mark on a number of topics most notably the failure of Government policy to deal with traffic gridlock.

Gerry Reynolds

Follows in a family tradition from Sligo/Leitrim, succeeding his father and grandfather in the Dail.

Ignored during the Bruton era, he gets a chance now to head off the perceived challenge of western campaigner Marian Harkin.

Richard Bruton

Among the FG deputies who helped pioneer the concept of vote management.

A good debater, he will bring a lot of knowledge and ability to his role.

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