Dara Calleary's career in tatters as he becomes second Agriculture Minister to quit in five weeks

Dara Calleary's career in tatters as he becomes second Agriculture Minister to quit in five weeks
Embattled Taoiseach Micheál Martin is on the lookout for a third agriculture minister after Dara Calleary's resignation. File Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

He was disappointed and hurt after he was overlooked when Taoiseach Micheál Martin initially named his cabinet.

Then he finally got his chance following the shock sacking of then agriculture minister Barry Cowen.

Now Dara Calleary is also gone, after just 37 days in the job. And embattled Taoiseach Micheál Martin is on the lookout for a third agriculture minister.

With pressure mounting last night after the Irish Examiner revealed Mr Calleary was among over 80 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society event on Wednesday, which appeared to breach public health guidelines, he apologised and said he should not have attended the event.

"I wish to apologise unreservedly to the public, from whom we are asking quite a lot at this difficult time. I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues," he said.

He also called the Taoiseach and the leaders of Fine Gael and the Green Party to apologise to them for the serious error of judgement. But it wasn’t enough to save him.

He had no option but to step down, possibly bringing an end to a political career that promised so much. 

Mr Calleary, the party's deputy leader had travelled a hard road with Fianna Fáil since his election in 2007. Well-liked and respected in the party, there was genuine disappointment when he was overlooked for a ministry.

He was named Government Chief Whip, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment. At the time, the massive Liverpool fan said that he took solace in the words of You'll Never Walk Alone.

"At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky, and I’m going to make sure there’s a golden sky for the west," he said.

Following the shock sacking of agriculture minister Barry Cowen (left) last month, Dara Calleary (right) is also gone now. File photo: Sasko Lazarov
Following the shock sacking of agriculture minister Barry Cowen (left) last month, Dara Calleary (right) is also gone now. File photo: Sasko Lazarov

Then Cowen was gone, and Dara got his opportunity. Party colleagues said he was up for the challenge.

"Dara is very sharp, he'll want to get to grips with the brief very quickly and thoroughly," said one party insider. 

Schooled in Ballina, Mr Calleary went on to secure a BA in business and politics from Trinity College, Dublin before returning to Mayo. 

The 47-year-old Ballina man has been involved in Fianna Fáil politics himself since 1997, but as the son and grandson of TDs, his DNA and that of his party are intertwined. 

He was elected to the Fianna Fáil National Executive in 1997, where he served until 2007 when he was elected on the eighth count in Mayo. 

For a year, he served as chairman of the party's youth wing, Ógra Fianna Fáil.

In 2009, he was appointed Minister of State for Labour Affairs and Public Service Transformation as the Fianna Fáil government crashed out of office. 

Mr Calleary's popularity in his home county saw him retain his seat on a dismal day for the party in 2011. 

He was elected as the only TD not from Fine Gael in the five-seat constituency anchored by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

In opposition, he was part of the party frontbench, first acting as spokesperson on justice, equality and defence until July 2012 and then as spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation.

Now after just six weeks in a position he craved, his political career is in tatters.

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