The appointment of the junior ministers has left plenty of talking points in political circles, with all the attention on the names left out
There were more refusals for a jig than you'd get at a céilí.
Jim O'Callaghan, Joe McHugh and John-Paul Phelan all turned down offers of roles in government in the junior ministerial jaunt. The appointments of the second string followed the bungled Cabinet selection, where the new government forgot to include the west of Ireland. Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have sought to compensate with several junior ministers down the Atlantic seaboard. Here are the topics to emerge:
Fianna Fáil dissidents have been holding out for a hero to stand up to Micheál Martin for years, with nobody coming along. Now Big Jim O'Callaghan appears to have stepped forth. The Dublin Bay South Senior Counsel and TD has turned down a gig as the junior minister for justice in charge of law reform saying his energy and abilities will be better used on the backbenches.
Notably, O'Callaghan believes the party needs strong voices outside government "to ensure that our party’s identity can be protected". The grapevine has caught fire as the Mr Big of the party in Dublin has marked his leader's card. The first shots of the next leadership battle have been fired. Danger here. O'Callaghan now looks set to hit the chicken 'n' chips circuit of party gatherings. Coincidentally, not taking the junior ministry also allows Big Jim to continue his work as a Senior Counsel in the courts.
After the rí rá and ruaille buaille around the Cabinet minister appointments, there was plenty of attention on who would be appointed from the west of Ireland to join Dara Calleary of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton. Fianna Fáil's Anne Rabbitte from Galway East finally got a call up, along with Fianna Fáil colleague Charlie McConalogue in Donegal and Niall Collins in Limerick County.
Fine Gael's Frank Feighan in Sligo-Leitrim, joined Fine Gael's Patrick O'Donovan in Limerick County. The stretch from Limerick to Letterkenny has the same number as ministers as the last time with seven. However, none of then hold full Cabinet portfolios as the last government had Michael Ring in Rural Affairs and Joe McHugh in Education.
How appropriate ‘Dunkirk’ is on the telly tonight. Like the troops left behind on the beaches, those Fianna Fáil Soldiers of Destiny who fought hard in the trenches for the last decade now find themselves abandoned to their fate. There were no jobs for the old guard of Éamon Ó Cuiv, Brendan Smith and Willie O'Dea. But likewise, Marc MacSharry, Michael Moynihan, Seán Fleming, Niamh Smyth and Seán Haughey are among the established names left out, while James Lawless, James Browne and Jackie Cahill had reason to fancy their chances.
Frank Feighan's political career appeared to be over after he endured a torrid time over the downgrading of Roscommon Hospital. After conceding his seat in Roscommon, he went back into the Seanad and then moved to the new constituency of Sligo-Leitrim, where his wife, Elaine, hails from and the couple now live with their two children. Feighan was the last of Enda Kenny's final frontbench from the days in opposition to be made a minister - a point he has made to his colleagues. He now gets his chance as Minister of State.
Leo Varadkar showed any remaining debts from his leadership campaign were long paid off last week and this week he has ditched several key supporters. Former Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell described those backing Varadkar as "choirboys that are singing for their supper". She didn't name anyone, in particular, but Eoghan Murphy, Brendan Griffin and John-Paul Phelan were surely in the pews, but are now all gone as ministers.
The Tánaiste has also sent a message to ministers that airtime does matter. Fine Gael had over 30 ministers in the last Dáil, yet all too often it fell to backbenchers Martin Heydon, Peter Burke and Colm Brophy to go out to bat for the party when there was trouble. All three are now junior ministers. New TDs will get the hint fast.
Dustin the Turkey offended Niall Horan fans on RTÉ Comic Relief by declaring: "We wanted Harry Styles! You're only getting a minute-and-a-half! I didn't realise people from Mullingar had teeth!" Not only do they have teeth in the Westmeath town, but they now have two junior ministers.
Fine Gael's Peter Burke is the Minister of State in the Department of Housing with responsibility for Planning and Local Government and Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy is the Minister of State in the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation. Mullingar now rivals Greystones with Cabinet ministers Stephen Donnelly and Simon Harris and Carrigaline with Michael McGrath and Simon Coveney.
Added to Super Junior Ministers, Hildegarde Naughton and Pippa Hackett, there were another three women appointed today: Fianna Fáil's Mary Butler and Anne Rabbitte and Fine Gael's Josepha Madigan. It means just five of the 20 junior ministers are women.
However, there was no place for Greens finance spokesperson Neasa Hourigan. The Green rebels immediately poured scorn on the move. Green councillor Lorna Bogue said it was "actually pretty sexist" that a finance position didn't go to the female finance spokesperson and was given to a man with a completely unrelated portfolio - a reference to Ossian Smyth becoming the junior at public expenditure. Cllr Bogue said she was very disappointed to see such "overt sexism" against women in politics from the Green Party - "for all our talk of equality".
With Fine Gael's Brendan Griffin discarded as a junior minister, Education Minister Norma Foley is the undisputed leader of the Kingdom. The Fianna Fáil TD declared to 'The Kerryman': "Well I'm a Minister from Kerry, and I was elected by the people of Kerry. I will always work to make sure the interests of Kerry and Tralee are heard at cabinet." Out the window goes the Government message about leading for all the people.
Meanwhile, in the minister's national role, the Department of Education published its health advice for schools, recommending a 1m social distance for pupils at both primary and post-primary. It's likely to mean not every pupil attending on every day. The minister might be better off hiding out in Tralee, away from angry parents across the country.