Leo Varadkar faces backlash over junior ministerial reshuffle

Deeply disappointed Fine Gael TDs have questioned Leo Varadkar’s junior ministerial reshuffle as he faces a backlash over the lack of female appointments.

Mr Varadkar made just five new appointments to the junior ministerial ranks, while two were demoted and a number elevated to more prominent roles.

While it was always going to be difficult to satisfy all party TDs, especially those who backed Mr Varadkar in the leadership election race, some experienced deputies failed to get any job.

Government sources expect that those who failed to get a promotion are likely to be in line for a nomination to replace Oireachtas Committee chairmen who have been elevated in the junior reshuffle.

Kerry’s Brendan Griffin, Carlow Kilkenny’s John Paul Phelan, and Cork South West’s Jim Daly have all been made junior ministers, which leaves their chair committee positions open. Furthermore, Mr Varadkar held phone calls with some of the disappointed TDs yesterday, including with Louth’s Fergus O’Dowd and Cork North Central’s Dara Murphy in a bid to try and calm tempers.

Fergus O’Dowd warned the Taoiseach that the constituency of Louth would suffer and be neglected, while outgoing EU Affairs Minister Mr Murphy said his work on Brexit had gone unrewarded.

Another problem for Mr Varadkar, one which was seized on by the opposition, is the absence of women in the new line-up.

Sinn Féin noted that, out of the 34 senior and junior ministerial positions, just seven key posts have been given to women.

Labour senator Ivana Bacik also took a swipe at the Taoiseach over his decisions.

“For a man who has modelled himself on [Canadian prime minister] Trudeau and [French president] Macron, he has utterly failed in following their lead in promoting women in politics,” said Ms Bacik.

However, Mr Varadkar’s advisers pointed to the fact that Frances Fitzgerald retained the role of Tánaiste, that Regina Doherty was promoted to Social Protection Minister and that Mary Mitchell O’Connor retained a seat at Cabinet. Equally, Meath East’s Helen McEntee was one of the big winners in the junior ministerial reshuffle, getting the prestigious role of EU Affairs.

And while Dara Murphy and junior health minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy — both key supporters of leadership rival Simon Coveney — were dropped in the reshuffle, sources in the Taoiseach’s office pointed to the fact that three junior and senior ministers out of the five who supported Mr Coveney in the Fine Gael contest kept their posts. These included Cork East’s David Stanton in justice, Meath West’s Damien English in housing, and Simon Harris in health.

Mr Varadkar also overhauled some junior portfolios, created new ones, and removed others.

There will be a new junior rural affairs minister in the form of Galway West’s Sean Kyne, junior enterprise minister Pat Breen will get an expanded brief across several departments, and Limerick county’s Patrick O’Donovan will take responsibility for procurement and the merger of the department of finance and public expenditure.

Among the disappointed TDs will be Dublin Fingal’s Alan Farrell, Dublin North West’s Noel Rock, and Dublin Rathdown’s Josepha Madigan.


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