Parties move to increase geographical spread of ministers

Party leaders moved to address concerns on a lack of geographical and gender representation as they got ready to appoint 17 new Ministers of State, but some criticism has been levelled at the choices.
Parties move to increase geographical spread of ministers
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin: new cabinet seeks to address regional imbalances. Pic: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin: new cabinet seeks to address regional imbalances. Pic: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

Party leaders moved to address concerns on a lack of geographical and gender representation as they got ready to appoint 17 new Ministers of State, but some criticism has been levelled at the choices.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin's cabinet, announced on Saturday, features six women from 18 roles, with none of the senior ministers hailing from west of the River Shannon or the south east, leading to fierce criticism.

That imbalance on the western seaboard was redressed somewhat with the appointments of Fianna Fáil's Charlie McConalogue as Minister of State for Justice, Niall Collins as Minister of State for Education and Anne Rabbitte as Minister of State for Disabilities. The trio hail from Donegal, Limerick County and Galway East, respectively. For Fine Gael, Sligo Leitrim's Frank Feighan was appointed to the role of Minister of State for Drug Policy and Community Wellbeing. Fine Gael also retained Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan to his role Minister of State for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment.

However, Kerry TD and outgoing Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin would lose his job. The popular party figure was not given another junior role by Fine Gael leader and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.

The southern Kerry-native helped lead calls for Enda Kenny to stand aside as leader of Fine Gael in 2016, moves which sped up a leadership contest that eventually saw Leo Varadkar take over the party and become Taoiseach.

Mr Griffin tweeted to thank those with whom he had worked, saying it "had been an honour". Some within the party said that Griffin's demotion was "harsh" as he had been deemed to have performed well and represents a rural constituency.

Fianna Fáil's Mary Butler, from Waterford, was appointed Minister of State for Older People and Mental Health.

Across both larger parties, there was acknowledgement that regional TDs were represented, but some sources questioned the number of ministers appointed from Dublin. Five of the seventeen are from the capital. Others questioned why Fine Gael's selections featured just one woman - outgoing Culture Minister Josepha Madigan.

"It shows the work needed to get more women involved," one source said.

Green Party councillor in Cork City Lorna Bogue tweeted that her party's decision to give the junior finance role to Ossian Smyth rather than the party's previous finance spokesperson Neasa Hourigan was "pretty sexist".

"It's actually pretty sexist that a finance position didn't go to the female finance spokesperson and was given to a man with a completely unrelated portfolio. Very disappointed to see such overt sexism against women in politics from the Green Party - for all our talk of equality."

Mr Smyth was one of two Dublin TDs the Greens appointed, joining Dublin Joe O'Brien who will be Minister of State for Community Affairs. Carlow-Kilkenny's Malcolm Noonan will take on the Heritage role at the Department of Housing.

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