Heather Humphreys has formally assumed the duties of justice minister as Helen McEntee begins her six months maternity leave.
Ms McEntee, due her first child next month, attended her final Cabinet meeting on Tuesday before becoming a ‘Minister without Portfolio’.
In the history of the State, this is the first time that a sitting Cabinet minister will need to take maternity leave.
Speaking to reporters, Ms McEntee described the solution to allow her remain as a minister for the duration of her leave as a “sticking plaster” mechanism.
Recognising the significance of the circumstances of her leave, Ms McEntee said that she’s had a very positive response from the public since the announcement of her pregnancy.
Ms McEntee made it clear that a permanent solution to allowing female politicians have families is needed and hoped it is not too long in being arrived at.
“It’s really important that women see other women in roles and positions being able to take maternity leave, being able to return to their jobs and return to the positions that they were working in before.
“Most importantly, what I hope to see in the future is that this won’t just apply to me but that other ministers, TDs, senators, councillors, will be able to avail of maternity leave,” she said.
“This is very much a sticking plaster, it’s not a long-term measure.”
The Citizens' Assembly on Gender last weekend recommended that maternity leave be put in place for all elected representatives.
A final report from the assembly, due in June, will outline how this can be done.
“There’s a very clear commitment from Government on every level in Government to act on that as quickly as possible,” the Minister added.
When asked if she knows the sex of her baby, the Meath East TD said: “I don’t know. It’s a surprise.”
Ms McEntee will take six months fully paid maternity leave from today and will remain as Minister without Portfolio during that time.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government fully supports Ms McEntee’s desire to take maternity leave.
Ms Humphreys will assume the duties of minister of justice in addition to her current role.
Ms McEntee, as Minister without Portfolio, will continue to be bound by her Constitutional responsibilities as a member of the Government but will have no specific duties or responsibilities, or exercise any powers.
She will be able to access all Government papers, and be kept updated on ongoing work in respect of her former role and across Government.