Mary Mitchell O’Connor 'was a tiny bit disappointed yesterday'

Mary Mitchell O’Connor admits she is disappointed at being demoted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The former jobs minister was the only one of Enda Kenny’s cabinet not to retain a full ministerial position and has been dropped to a minster of state with special responsibility for higher education.

However, the super-junior role means that she will still attend Cabinet each week.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor said: “I was a tiny bit disappointed yesterday — of course I was and it would be disingenuous of me to say that I wasn’t. But, you know, putting it into perspective with what’s going on and what happened in London, my job pales into insignificance.”

“But I am now delighted to be in education, to be in higher education,” she told RTÉ news.

Education Minister Richard Bruton, who was not moved from his department by Mr Varadkar, yesterday defended Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s appointment within his department by claiming that education is one of the areas that needs to be “beefed up”.

Mr Bruton said Mr Varadkar recognises education will have a “pivotal role” in shaping our future economy and pointed to the Taoiseach’s speech in the Dáil on Wednesday night.

“I think Mary Mitchell O’Connor will come to this with a great deal of skill, she has been in the enterprise portfolio so she will know acutely how important those skills needs will be to the growth of our economy.”

He added that he is happy to work with Ms Mitchell O’Connor and Independent Alliance TD John Halligan, who has already been a minister of state in the Department of Education.

Meanwhile, the new Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has set out her stall by claiming her main aim will be to ensure that money and supports are given to those who are most in need.

She added that she is now “relishing the opportunity and the challenge ahead”.

However, speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, she warned that there are still pockets in the country where there are high levels of unemployment despite the economic recovery: “I want to look at the social responsibility of people.”

Donegal TD, Joe McHugh, who has replaced Ms Doherty as Government Chief Whip, has hinted that he will change the system within the Dáil to ensure that all voices are heard in a proportionate way.

He said a “very, very honest conversation” now needs to take place within the Dáil and within the different Dáil groupings as to what has worked in the last year and what has not.

“One area the Taoiseach is very interested in is the area of proportionality and I’ve started that conversation this morning. I’ve had a number of meetings and want to reach out to my colleagues about the divide.”

Rural and Community Affairs Minister Michael Ring said funding for rural Ireland is badly needed and that he has received assurances that an additional budget would be allocated to this area.

“I expect that funding will be put in place because there are many many challenges in rural Ireland and funding is badly wanted,” he said.

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