Micheál Martin overhauls Fianna Fáíl front bench

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has overhauled the party’s frontbench and promoted seven first-time TDs to his shadow cabinet.

The party leader said yesterday that the decision on who would be spokespeople for different areas had been “difficult”, as he unveiled Fianna Fáil’s shadow ministers for the new Dáil term.

A number of strong- performing TDs were left in their positions, but in the main, Mr Martin moved many deputies sideways into new roles while also bringing new ones up the ranks. There were also a number of notable names absent from the list of the new front bench.

Michael McGrath, Barry Cowen, Willie O’Dea, and Billy Kelleher were all left as spokespeople on finance, housing, social protection, and health respectively.

Elsewhere, Dara Calleary was moved from jobs to public expenditure, Charlie McConalogue transfers from education to agriculture, while Éamon Ó Cuív goes from the latter brief to the new regional development spokesperson position. Robert Troy goes from children to transport, while Timmy Dooley leaves the latter role for communications.

First-time TDs promoted to the front bench include Anne Rabbitte (children), Jim O’Callaghan (justice), Lisa Chambers (defence), and Niamh Smith (arts). Thomas Byrne and Darragh O’Brien, who both recently retook their seats after losing them in 2011, were given education and foreign affairs.

Elsewhere, newly-elected TDs who achieved spokespeople posts include John Lahart (Dublin), James Browne (mental health), and Margaret Murphy O’Mahoney (disability).

TD Brendan Smith was reappointed chairman of the party, although he was not returned as the spokesman on foreign affairs.

Mr Martin said: “In choosing this team, I have sought to blend experience and new energy, drawing on the diverse talents of our newly-enlarged Dáil party.”

The party leader also outlined why he had appointed certain spokespeople roles, following the Government’s own cabinet and department changes. “We believe that the Government is wrong in abolishing the role of minister for defence and in downgrading the prominence of the arts.

“For that reason I am appointing dedicated spokespeople to address both these portfolios. Given the crises unfolding in both areas, I am also appointing specific spokespeople on disability and mental health.”

Fianna Fáil also expects to appoint a number of its party members to the positions of chairpersons of committees. It is expected that the party could be granted the chairmanship of six of the committees that Taoiseach Enda Kenny is likely to announce in the coming weeks.

Such a move by Mr Martin would also appease any TDs who were not given frontbench roles yesterday. Leadership of the committees will be decided on a proportional basis under the D’Hont system, where each party gets a position according to the numbers of its TDs in the Dáil.


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