ALEX WHITE’S elevation to the role of junior minister will leave Labour with a safe pair of hands in health, especially as the lawyer is viewed as one of Eamon Gilmore’s favourites.
The first-time Dublin TD, who grew up in Marino, north Dublin, carries the respect of both backbenchers and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Having practised as a barrister and specialised in employment law until now, he had been tipped as getting a ministerial position even when the Coalition was only being formed last year, after he gained a seat in Dublin South.
It was his second time contesting a general election, after being elected to Seanad Éireann in the previous term.
“It’s a case of the king is dead now, long live the king,” said a Labour source upon hearing of Mr White’s new role.
The 52-year-old also has experience working with the media, having produced the Gay Byrne radio show for four years and worked on other current affairs shows for RTÉ between 1984 and 1994.
Until now, he has held the position of chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and has been pitching to lead any inquiry into the banking crisis. He was also appointed as Labour’s lead representative on the Constitutional Convention.
However, he will no doubt be giving up both commitments when he becomes the minister overseeing primary care in the Department of Health.
Mr White is married to NUI Maynooth sociologist Mary Corcoran. The couple live in Knocklyon, south Dublin, and have a daughter and a son.
The position will raise Mr White’s profile, which is useful given that he is in a constituency with three Fine Gael TDs and faces a challenge keeping his seat in the next general election.
His constituency of Dublin South is being chopped from a five-seater to a three-seater, with some of its terrain moved into other constituencies. Mr White’s stronghold of Rathfarnham is due to go into Dublin South-West.
That could leave him in a struggle to hold his seat. He could opt to move constituencies, but in Dublin South-West there are already two sitting Labour TDs, Eamon Moloney and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.
Before entering the Oireachtas, Mr White was first elected to South Dublin County Council in 2004, for the Terenure/Rathfarnham electoral area.