Climbing the ladder: Meet the new Junior Ministers

1) Simon Harris

The big winner in the reshuffle, Simon Harris, 27, is used to people remarking on his age.

Last year he attacked the press for “fuelling anger against the Government” — as opposed to reflecting such anger — by lamenting that a journalist dared say that the youthful-looking TD should “go home and play with his Lego.”

The Wicklow deputy showed a thicker skin in the battle for the sprawling Ireland South constituency in the Euro elections after he denied a secret deal had been done with Enda Kenny which would see him land a junior ministerial post if he acted as a sweeper candidate to pick up votes in south Leinster.

But a hard-fought campaign saw him rise above the status of mere transfer fodder as he nearly took a seat after an energetic campaign.

In the plum role as Minister of State at Finance, and effectively the boss of the Office of Public Works, Mr Harris now has a lot more to play with than just Lego.

2) Dara Murphy

The other plum job up for grabs, Europe, went to the Cork North Central TD who was elected for the first time in 2011.

The 44-year-old former caterer now takes over a much-sought-after post which former incumbent Lucinda Creighton made high profile.

3) Damien English

The anti-Enda heaver has shown ultra loyalism to the Government since Mr Kenny became Taoiseach, and the Meath West TD, 36, has finally been allowed back into the fold after steadfastly defending the Coalition across the media.

His rise to the education and skills brief is one of the reasons Fine Gael have put forward for the failure of constituency stablemate Regina Doherty to get the nod.

None of the nine FG junior ministers are women, and only two of the 10 senior ones are.

4) Ann Phelan

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD nominated Joan Burton for the Labour leadership and was widely tipped to be rewarded with the newly-created rural affairs.

The 53-year-old is the only non-Dublin Labour TD to be brought into Labour’s ministerial team.

5) Aodhán O’Riordan

The newly-appointed Equalities Minister was prominent among the eight Labour TDs and senators who launched a botched coup attempt against Eamon Gilmore in the aftermath of Labour’s May election disaster.

Talked of as a future leader, the move is seen to give the former school principal, 37, a better chance of holding his Dublin Bay North seat at the next election.

6) Joe McHugh

The appointment of the Donegal North East TD to the junior role at the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Department raised eyebrows, as neither he, nor his boss Heather Humphreys are Irish speakers.

The 41-year-old, whose wife Olwyn Enright quit the Dáil at the last election to spend more time with their children, is well thought of in Fine Gael, and the Taoiseach hopes his elevation will help fight off an increasing Sinn Féin threat in the North West.

7) Kevin Humphreys

The Dublin South East Labour TD, 56, has been promoted to the newly-created junior post, Department of Social Protection.

The job is intended to allow Joan Burton more time to devote to her new roles as Tánaiste and Labour Party leader.

8) Paudie Coffey

The Waterford Fine Gael TD takes over from Fergus O’Dowd as Minister of State in the Department of Environment. The 45-year-old former ESB worker played hurling for Waterford, and his appointment finally gives the city a ministerial post in this Coalition.

9) Tom Hayes

The former chairperson of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, 62, has been representing Tipperary South since wining a by-election in 2001. Has special responsibility for food, forestry horticulture and food safety at the Agriculture Department.

10) Michael Ring

Enda Kenny’s 60-year old Mayo constituency colleague stays put at the junior post looking after tourism and sport issues.

11) Ged Nash

The Louth TD was given a “super junior” role at the Jobs and Enterprise Department last week after Labour failed to win its public battle to oust Richard Bruton from the top job there. The move means the 38-year-old, who has special responsibility for low pay and trade union issues, can attend Cabinet, but is not allowed to vote.

12) Kathleen Lynch

After failing to make the leap to Cabinet rank, the veteran Labour Cork North Central TD, 61, has her health role expanded to include primary care as well as mental health policy.

13) Sean Sherlock

After just scraping second place in the Labour deputy leadership contest, the Cork East TD, 41, is moved from the science and innovation role to the junior post at Foreign Affairs.

14) Paul Kehoe

The Wexford TD, 41, remains in his post as Fine Gael chief whip after his role as de facto Defence Minister ended when the department was given to Simon Coveney to run alongside Agriculture.

15) Jimmy Deenihan

The only Fine Gael minister to be sacked from the Cabinet in last week’s shake-up.

The Kerry-North-Limerick West TD, 61, was given the consolation prize of the junior post in the Taoiseach’s Department coupled with a role at Foreign Affairs dealing with issues related to the Irish abroad, such as the controversy surrounding illegal immigrants in the US.


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