The Donegal North West TD, Joe McHugh has replaced the fluent speaker, Dinny McGinley who was one of three Fine Gael TDs demoted from the junior minister ranks to the back-benches as part of a reshuffle.
The Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West, Éamon Ó Cuív accused the Government of letting down the Gaeltacht communities with the appointment, and said having fluent Irish should be an absolute prerequisite for a minister with responsibility for the language.
The Taoiseach said he would be able to discuss issues with Mr Ó Cuív, with interviewers on TG4, or in any other forum around the country — after he takes the refresher course.
“I think it is an example… as I saw before in the House over the years… of somebody whose Irish might be a bit rusty getting back into action and bringing it up to standard,” he said. A total of eight TDs were promoted from the back benches, while five others were demoted as part of the shake-up of positions announced by the Taoiseach yesterday.
Galway will be left without any ministerial representation for the first time in more than two decades after Ciaran Cannon was removed from his position in the Department of Education. The Junior Health Minister, Kathleen Lynch, last night clarified that she would continue to hold responsibility for older people, despite some confusion after it was removed from her official title.
Following a reconfiguration of roles, she will now be the only junior minister in the Department of Health and will take on responsibility for primary care, which includes the task of reforming the medical card system and rolling out free GP care.
The Labour leader, Joan Burton, appointed three new junior ministers, while Sean Sherlock was moved to the Department of Foreign Affairs where he will have responsibility for the Overseas Aid budget.
Cork North-Central TD, Dara Murphy, will be promoted to the position of Minister for European Affairs. A number of Fine Gael TDs were publicly critical last night of the decision not to promote any of the party’s women TDs to the junior ministerial ranks.
Cork North West TD, Áine Collins, said that while those appointed deserved their positions, she would “love to have seen at least one woman promoted”.
The Labour Women group criticised Fine Gael, saying it was concerned that “the largest party in the country, did not see fit to promote any women.”
In a statement, the group said: “This sends out a regretful message to women who are already working in politics or thinking about getting involved.”