New three-party Cabinet faces huge and immediate issues

Mark Brennock, our Director of Public Affairs, looks at the daunting challenges facing the new Ministers in the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Party Coalition and profiles each of them.

 

After months of political stasis, the new Taoiseach is keen to give an impression of a dynamic and fast-moving Government. The new Cabinet met on Saturday, many Ministers met their new senior officials yesterday (Sunday), and the Cabinet meets again today (Monday). The impression is of urgency and speed.

To portray an image of a new, fresh government after all this time, it is also not surprising that the three party leaders have gone for some unexpected appointments. So, the Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach has promoted first time Kerry TD Norma Foley to Education, and a man who divides opinion in the party, Stephen Donnelly, to Health. Mr Martin has disappointed one of his closest colleagues Dara Calleary by “only” making him a Minister of State, and also left out party heavyweight Jim O’Callaghan.

The Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has moved junior Minister Helen McEntee into the most sensitive job of Justice. He had a series of rapid meetings on Saturday with Richard Bruton, Michael Creed, Charlie Flanagan, Joe McHugh and Josepha Madigan to tell them that they were no longer Ministers. Eamon Ryan overlooked his TDs to appoint Senator Pippa Hackett as a junior minister.

The new Government now seeks to work towards medium term goals while dealing with an immediate crisis. The Covid 19 pandemic provides a continuing public health crisis, as the experts watch nervously to see what effect the easing of restrictions will have. The Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Jobs must immediately work together to finalise and implement business recovery programmes. A “July stimulus” is planned. July starts this week.

The medium-term ambition looks equally daunting. The new Government has pledged commitment to affordable housing and to universal healthcare. It will borrow heavily while seeking to ensure the budget deficit does not go out of control. It faces record unemployment, a desire to cut Covid 19 payments to workers and subsidies to employers. Then there are the ongoing Brexit talks and hugely ambitious emissions reduction targets.

The leaders of the two main parties need to get over their well-known poor relationship. In that regard the relationship between the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will be crucial. Both are pragmatic people with fewer populist instincts than average. As tensions arise between the parties and individual Ministers, the good relationship between the two people who control the national finances will be very important.

Here we give an initial assessment of the Ministers in the Cabinet just appointed, and the three “super-junior” ministers. The full shape of the Government will emerge in the coming days as up to 17 further Ministers of State are appointed to various departments.


 

Jump to Profile

Mícheál Martin, Taoiseach
Leo Varadkar, Tanaiste, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Eamon Ryan, Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport
Paschal Donohoe, Minster for Finance
Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence
Barry Cowen, Minister for Agriculture and Marine
Simon Harris, Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands
Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice
Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration
Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Health
Norma Foley, Minister for Education
Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Dara Calleary, Government Chief Whip
Pippa Hackett, Minister of State in Dept of Agriculture responsible for Land Use and Biodiversity
Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State in Dept of Transport responsible for International and Road Travel and Logistics

 


 

Mícheál Martin

Taoiseach

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Cork South-Central

Who he is

A politician for almost all his adult life, he has led his party through nine difficult Opposition years to get to this place. He has an agreed two and a half years as Taoiseach, and after that there must be a serious question mark over whether he continues to lead his party.

He turns 60 on August 1st next, and was first elected to the Dáil aged 28 in 1989. From Turners Cross in Cork, he obtaining a BA and later am MA in Political History from UCC. He was a secondary school teacher before becoming a full-time politician. He was Lord Mayor of Cork between 1992-1993.

He spent 14 unbroken years in Cabinet from 1997 to 2011, serving as Minister for Education, for Health, for Enterprise Trade and Employment and for Foreign Affairs. He can point to various achievements such as the introduction of special needs assistants in schools, the introduction of a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace, making Ireland the first country to do so, and the establishment of the HSE.

In January 2011 Martin was elected as leader of Fianna Fáil following the resignation of Brian Cowen. The party performed poorly in the General Election that took place almost immediately afterwards. In 2016 the party entered into a confidence-and-supply deal with a Fine Gael-led minority government supported by Independents. He has managed the difficult feat of bringing his party through that period to a position where they will lead the first ever coalition with Fine Gael, before handing leadership over to that party in December 2022.

Challenges

  • His number one challenge is political: He needs to build a sense of cohesion and mission among three parties, many of whose members are unenthusiastic about this particular government combination
  • In particular, he needs to develop a h4 working relationship with the Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, setting aside the severe tetchiness which has existed between them personally for some years
  • The pandemic: As restrictions are eased, the new Government faces the possibility of a second wave of infection and the need for very difficult political decisions in that event
  • Economic and business recovery. The economy and individual businesses have suffered severe damage. The devising of fiscal and business stimuli over the coming months is a major challenge and essential to building approval for the government

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Leo Varadkar

Tanaiste, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Dublin West

Who he is

Taoiseach from 2017 to this weekend, the timing of the recent General Election may well have been unfortunate for him. He earned great kudos for the handling of the long Brexit process, and for handling of the pandemic. The election, however, took places in the gap between these two events.

He has three years as Taoiseach and a further six years in Cabinet behind him, and is still only 41. He is due to become Taoiseach again at the end of December 2022. But politics is uncertain. In the meantime, he has taken on a senior economic portfolio which gives him a key role in handling the recovery from Covid 19 and the positioning of Ireland to deal with the final shape of Brexit.

From Castleknock in West Dublin, he qualified as a doctor before going into politics. He was elected to Fingal County Council in 2004 at the age of 25. He was first elected to the Dáil in 2007. When his party entered government in 2011 Varadkar became Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport and in 2014 he became Minister for Health. In 2016 he was appointed Minister for Social Protection, seen as something of a demotion after he had agitated to get out of Health.

But when he became Fine Gael leader in June 2017, he also became Ireland’s youngest-ever Taoiseach. He won that election even though Simon Coveney won the vote among party members. Party TDs and Senators preferred Varadkar because of a belief that he would be more likely to bring electoral success. They may not be so sure now.

During his relatively short time as Taoiseach he led the country through the Brexit and Covid-19 crises, as well taking leadership of campaigns in a number of socially progressive referendums.

Challenges

  • Devising detailed business support programmes as part of national recovery from Covid 19
  • As Minister for Jobs, contributing to the reduction of record levels of unemployment
  • And politically, managing relationships between the Government parties to ensure it remains stable, and that it remains in place when his return to the Taoiseach’s role is expected to happen.

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Eamon Ryan

Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport

Party

Green Party

Constituency

Dublin Bay South

Who he is

The caricature of Ryan is of a soft-spoken soft-focussed Green politician, prone to occasional eccentric flourishes about the benefits of growing lettuce during a pandemic. The reality is that he a very experienced politician, a former Minister in a very challenging brief, a man who brought his Party back from the dead and finally who led a diverse party to negotiate and then h4ly support a Programme for Government deal with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Over the coming months the leadership challenge to him from his deputy leader Catherine Martin is likely to play out, and he is expected to win.

From Dundrum in Dublin, he is a UCD Commerce graduate and subsequently managed the University’s Marketing Development Programme. He then founded Irish Cycling Safaris, a cycling tourism company, earning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and was the founding chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign.

He was co-opted on to Dublin City Council in 1998 and was elected to it the following year. He was first elected to the Dáil in 2002 for the Dublin South constituency.

Following the 2007 General Election, the Green Party entered government with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats and Ryan was appointed Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. During his tenure he implemented significant measures to further the country’s use of renewable energy sources and oversaw the completion of the National Broadband Scheme.

The Green Party withdrew from government in January 2011. All six Green Party TDs including Ryan lose their seats in the General Election the following month. He was appointed Leader of the Green Party in May of the same year. He chose to remain in politics, rebuilding his party, getting himself and Catherine Martin elected in 2016, and coming back with 12 TDs earlier this year.

Challenges

  • The standout objective of the Green Party in these negotiations was to achieve an annual emissions reduction of 7%. It is clear already that this is a target to be worked towards. As Minister for Climate Action, Ryan will be responsible for driving that change, while also managing public and party perceptions if and when it proves difficult to reach that target quickly.
  • The other big Green objective is a “fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland”. More cycling and water, better public transport, and decarbonisation of the national car fleet are core objectives.

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Paschal Donohoe

Minster for Finance

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Dublin Central

Who he is

Donohoe now becomes an even more pivotal Government figure following the division of his old Department into Finance (which Donohoe retains) and Public Expenditure and Reform (which goes to Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath). These two roles are two halves of the central governmental role of managing the national finances. How these two men, and their two departments, relate to each other is crucial to ensure the government remains stable.

The good news is that both are calm, measured people with high regard for each other and a good relationship.

Paschal Donohoe (45) has been Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure since 2017, having previously held the positions of Public Expenditure alone, Tourism and Transport and European Affairs. From Phibsborough in Dublin, Paschal Donohoe he studied Politics and Economics at Trinity College Dublin. He was elected to Dublin City Council in 2004 and to the Dáil in 2007.

During his tenure as Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform he has presided over difficult Budgets in the face of the challenge posed by Brexit. He is an avid reader, interested in ideas, and keen to engage with those outside the political bubble on political issues.

Challenges

  • The handling of the national finances in the context of the fiscal catastrophe imposed by the Covid 19 pandemic is the single biggest challenge facing the Government
  • Newly appointed Ministers are fresh from the campaign trail where they made various political proposals, many of which would cost a lot of money. While Michael McGrath’s half of the financial side of government – public expenditure – is directly responsible for this, Donohoe’s responsibility for the tax regime will be crucial.

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Michael McGrath

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Party

Fianna Fáil

Who he is

Like his constituency colleague Mícheál Martin, Michael McGrath has had a long and patient wait in Opposition as spokesperson on finance for nine years.

In that role he earned criticism from within his party which may now turn out to be a strength for the government. He was always reluctant to take on the “rottweiler” style of political opposition by attacking the government at every opportunity. Instead he took a measured approach, supporting elements of government worth supporting in his view, and being and considered in how he expressed criticism. At Oireachtas Committees his performance was striking for its courtesy towards those treated by others as hostile witnesses. Many in the party felt that this denied Fianna Fáil the prospect of much press coverage, which they believe was ceded to noisier opposition spokespersons.

However now, the good relationship between him in Public Expenditure and Paschal Donohoe in Finance is seen as providing a crucial “glue” in the new administration. This is all the more so when the relationship between their respective party leaders has been characterised by many personalised and disparaging remarks.

From Passage West in Cork, Michael McGrath studied Commerce at University College Cork and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG. He worked in the public and private sectors before entering politics, including roles at Cork’s Red FM radio station and UCC. He was first elected to the Dáil in 2007.

Challenges

  • The management of competing demands for public spending from new ministers who made various expensive proposals during the election campaign and need to be seen to deliver on them
  • In particular, devising and overseeing the major financial stimuli being offered to businesses as the Government works to support business recovery
  • More broadly, managing the relationships between Ministers from the three parties

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Simon Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Cork South-Central

Who he is

He and Paschal Donohoe are the two most powerful figures in Fine Gael apart from the party leader. When he ran against Leo Varadkar for the leadership in 2017, Coveney win the vote among party members, but lost out because of the higher weighting given to parliamentary party votes.

He has been a star government performer, handling the lengthy Brexit process, and the associated tensions with Westminster and Northern Ireland politicians with assuredness. He is from a very prosperous Cork business family. He has a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Land Management from The Royal Agriculture College, Gloucestershire. He also studied at University College Cork and Gurteen Agricultural College, County Tipperary.

He has been a career politician, being first elected to the Dáil in a 1998 by-election caused by the death of his father, the late Hugh Coveney. He also served for three years as an MEP, being elected to the European Parliament in 2004. He has been Minister for Agriculture and Defence, and for Housing, Planning and Local Government before his current role. His portfolio has been varied somewhat this time: He was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade during the last Government, and is now Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Challenges

  • The UK Government’s uncertain engagement with the EU over the terms of Brexit continue, and Coveney will have to both manage that negotiation process and its aftermath on behalf of the Government
  • As the final version of Brexit takes shape, Ireland will have to negotiate its path through a realignment of alliances within the EU, including in particular choosing its position as between northern and southern EU states
  • The Foreign Affairs portfolio could produce inter-party conflict within the Coalition with many Green Party TDs urging Government support for restrictions on imports from Israeli-occupied territories on the West Bank, a move Coveney has h4ly resisted. Now that Ireland has secured a two-year term on the UN Security Council, other issues of tension with the Green Party concerning how Ireland votes with the Green Party could arise

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Barry Cowen

Minister for Agriculture and Marine

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Laois/Offaly

Who he is

Another key member of Mícháel Martin’s core team, Cowen was a key figure in negotiating the confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael in 2016. He is from Clara in Offaly and an auctioneer and valuer before entering politics. He was first elected to the Dáil, succeeding his brother the former Taoiseach Brian, who in turn had succeeded his father Bernard (Ber).

He has a robust and combative style. As an opposition TD he has held roles as Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Social Protection; Environment & Local Government; and most recently on Public Expenditure & Reform.

Challenges

  • The agriculture portfolio contains major flashpoint issues between the Green Party and the two larger parties in the Coalition. The Programme for Government contains vague language in relation to some of these, such as control of emissions, and the detail will have to be finalised under Cowen’s watch
  • The continued development and promotion of “added-value” agricultural products is a central national business objective and will be a priority
  • The final terms of Brexit may have a major impact on the orientation of Ireland’s agriculture exports.

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Simon Harris

Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Wicklow

Who he is

Once it became clear that Fianna Fáil was taking the Health portfolio, Harris had to move from the post he has held for four years. Before the pandemic, he was seen as vulnerable to being dropped. However, his high-profile public role in explaining and reassuring around Covid 19 seems to have saved him. He has ended up in a new portfolio, originally proposed by Fianna Fáil, splitting responsibility for Higher Education from Education generally.

Still only 33, Simon Harris began his political career aged 21 as an assistant to Frances Fitzgerald when she was a Senator in 2008. In 2009 he was elected to Wicklow County Council and Greystones Town Council. He was first elected as a TD in 2011 and was the youngest member of the Dáil at the time. In 2014 aged 27 he was appointed Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Public Procurement & International Banking and in 2016 he was appointed Minister for Health.

There, he has been at the centre of major national controversies and debates, as the Minister for Health always is. There was the cervical check controversy, the annual trolley crises, and the apparent lack of a fixed long-term government policy on how to fund the heath service. Because successive governments have failed to adopt a convincing healthcare policy and then to pursue it, the post is therefore seen as the most difficult job in politics, and to escape it from it without a severely damaged political reputation is seen as a major political success.

Challenges

  • The Programme for Government has promised “a long-term sustainable funding model” for higher education. It did not describe that model, and it will be for the new Minister to devise and then pursue a process for introducing such a model.
  • The higher education sector is facing a particular funding crisis right now, because of the absence of the large number of overseas students in Irish colleges due to Covid 129. Such students typically pay very high fees and are an essential part of the current funding model.
  • He must negotiate the competing demands for funding from on the one hand the high-level universities, and on the other the providers of further education throughout the country outside the “elite” university context

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Heather Humphreys

Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Cavan-Monaghan

Who she is

Relatively unknown when appointed to Cabinet in 2014, she is one of Fine Gael’s most experienced Ministers now. She was Minister for Arts and Heritage from 2014-2017, and was appointed Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation in 2017. Once it became clear that Leo Varadkar wanted that job, she had to be moved.

Aged 57 she is from a farming background in Drum in Monaghan. Prior to entering politics she worked as a manager at Cootehill Credit Union. She was co-opted onto Monaghan County Council in 2003 and first elected to the Dáil in 2011.

As Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs from 2014 she was responsible for leading the 1916 Centenary commemorations. As Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation since 2017 she was very involved in Government preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Challenges

  • The inevitable winding down of the Covid 19 payments and the temporary wage subsidy will be a major and immediate challenge. Individuals and businesses will continue to seek financial support as the pandemic continues
  • The controversial proposed increase in the State pension age to 67 has been deferred for just a year. It will loom large as a political issue in Heather Humphreys time.
  • There is a commitment to introduce a “universal basic income” system in the lifetime of the government. The Department of Social Protection will be central to consideration of this

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Catherine Martin

Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht

Party

Green Party

Constituency

Dublin Rathdown

Who she is

Her political approach to this government remains unknown. She opposed going into talks but led the negotiating team and urged a Yes vote to the deal. In the course of the last few months she announced a challenge to Eamon Ryan’s position as party leader. Now she and Ryan begin working together as members of the Cabinet.

She joined the Green Party in 2007 and was appointed Deputy Leader in 2011. That year the Green Party lost all its seats in 2011 but she and Ryan were both elected in 2016, thus beginning the revival of the party’s fortunes.

From Carickmacross in Monaghan, Catherine Martin studied at NUI Maynooth before becoming an English and Music teacher. In 2014 she was elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, representing the Dundrum area.

Her husband, Francis Noel Duffy was elected as a Green Party TD in the Dublin South-West constituency in 2020. Her brother Vincent P Martin is a Green Party member of Kildare County Council and has just been appointed to the Seanad as a Taoiseach’s nominee.

Challenges

  • The Programme for Government promises a commission on the future of media, better funding for public service broadcasting and reform of defamation laws. The media itself will take a keen interest in this and she can expect substantial scrutiny of progress on these issues
  • Most of the sectors within her portfolio – tourism, arts, culture, sport – have been severely damaged by the Covid 19 pandemic and will require imaginative politically-led supports

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Helen McEntee

Minister for Justice

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Meath East

Who she is

From Castletown in Meath, the 34-year-old has had four years’ experience as a junior minister, and now finds herself promoted to one of the most challenging jobs in Government. Those who deal with her say she is clear, h4 and calm with huge ability. As Minister of State for European Affairs since 2017 she has had a significant role in detailed Brexit-related negotiations, as well as in publicly representing the Government ‘s position.

She studied Law, Politics & Economics at Dublin City University and later obtained a Masters degree in Journalism and Communications from Griffith College. Before entering politics McEntee worked at the Department of Agriculture. She was first elected to the Dáil via byelection in 2013 following the death of her father, Shane McEntee.

She was Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People in 2016 before becoming Minister of State for European Affairs in 2017.

Challenges

  • She must continue to drive Garda reform, including implementation of the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing. This element of the Justice role always produces unexpected and difficult political issues
  • The Programme for Government also promises major courts and prison reform. Again, these are matters which regularly provoke political controversy.

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Roderic O’Gorman

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration

Party

Green Party

Constituency

Dublin West

Who he is

Aged 37, O’Gorman is a first time TD and has little national profile but this is likely to change quickly. He has lectured in Government and Law in DCU and specialises in EU and planning law. He is party chairman and very well liked across his party.

From Mulhuddart in Dublin, he obtained his law degree at TCD, a Masters in Law at the London School of Economics and a PhD relating to EU Law at Trinity College in 2011. He has a big interest in and broad knowledge of political policy and was central to the Green Party negotiating team. He is a member of the University’s Brexit Institute.

Having joined the Young Greens during his time at Trinity College, he was elected to Fingal County Council in 2014 and again in 2019. He was first elected to the Dáil in February 2020 after running unsuccessfully in 2016. Having been at the forefront of the party’s campaigns on the same-sex marriage (2015) and repeal of the Eighth Amendment (2018) referendums, he is the Green Party’s Spokesperson on Justice & Equality.

O’Gorman has served on the Boards of Management of five schools and is a member of the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB.

Challenges

  • Childcare remains one of those perennial unresolved issues in Irish life, with providers saying they struggle to run viable businesses, while issues of quality and standards are raised regularly by parents and in media. The “big idea” in the Programme for Government is Childcare Ireland, to work on the expansion of high-quality childcare. The success of this will be critical to the success of the Minister
  • The Programme for Government has committed to ending the Direct Provision system of housing asylum seekers, at the insistence of the Green Party. Responsibility for this has been transferred from the Department of Justice to Mr O’Gorman, as Minister for Integration.
  • Must act on commitment in the Programme to legislate to reflect Ireland’s recent ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

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Stephen Donnelly

Minister for Health

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Wicklow

Who he is

Elected to the Dáil as an independent in 2011, having earned a profile as an economic commentator in the wake of the economic crash. He joined the new Social Democrats on their foundation in 2015, becoming co-leader with Roisin Shortall and Catherine Murphy. However, the three found working together difficult, and he left the party just over a year later. A few months after that he joined Fianna Fáil. He was initially Fianna Fáil spokesman n Brexit before becoming health spokesperson in March 2018.

Prior to his involvement in politics he qualified as an engineer from UCD and worked and studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also has a postgraduate degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He worked for a period with McKinsey economic consultants before running for office in 2011.

Challenges

  • Both the Government and Donnelly personally have a h4 commitment to the agreed al-party policy on health, Sláintecare. He needs now to see can he secure both the funding and political commitment require to separate public and private hospital care as promised.
  • While he is at it, he has a promise of “universal healthcare” to deliver
  • The Covid 19 pandemic will require management for a lengthy period. Political judgement and difficult public health decisions will be required
  • Cost overruns in relation to the National Children’s Hospital project remain a huge issue, and the Department also faces pressure to find funds for other major infrastructure projects such as the new National Maternity Hospital planned for the St Vincent’s Hospital campus.
  • And of course, the “routine” problems in the department of health in relation to the capacity of the health system, shortage of medical staff etc.

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Norma Foley

Minister for Education

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Kerry

Who she is

She is a first time TD, and her elevation to Cabinet rank is seen as a surprise. She has considerable local political experience having been a member of Kerry County Council for 26 years before her election to the Dáil. She is a secondary school teacher by profession. Her father Denis Foley was a TD for Kerry in the past. He resigned from the party in 2000 when it emerged that he had held an offshore Ansbacher account to avoid tax.

Challenges

  • The handling of the reopening of schools is an immediate issue on her desk
  • There will also be consideration given to the State exams in 2021, as it is currently not possible to predict whether social distancing guidelines will still be required then and if so, how the exams should take place.

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Darragh O’Brien

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Dublin Fingal

Who he is

First elected to the Dáil in 2007, he lost his seat in 2011 in that catastrophic election for his party, but regained it in 2016. He worked before as an insurance company executive.

In recent years he has been party spokesman on housing and therefor a high-profile and robust critic of the last government on one of its weak areas. Having been spokesman on housing, he now gets to take up the role of Minister at a time when the shortage and cost of housing remains one of the biggest political issues.

Challenges

  • The Programme for Government makes major commitments on making housing affordable, and the new government will be judged on whether it can make good on these.

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Dara Calleary

Government Chief Whip

Party

Fianna Fáil

Constituency

Mayo

Who he is

His appointment as Fianna Fáil deputy leader in 2018 marked him out as one of Mícháel Martin’s key inner circle figures. At the same time, he was made the party’s Director of Policy Development. In the recent protracted government-formation negotiations he was a key member of the party’s negotiating team. He was therefore tipped by all as a guaranteed Minister.

So his appointment as Chief Whip is a great surprise. This is of course a key role. But while he sits at Cabinet, he is not a full Minister. The rationale behind this, and a couple of other surprise appointments, may become clearer in coming days.

Calleary is one of those politicians with an easy grasp of policy. He engages frequently with those willing to make a policy case to him, not always agreeing, but always listening with interest. From Ballina, he studied Business and Politics at Trinity College Dublin and worked for a period with Chambers Ireland.

He was elected to the Dáil in 2007, aged 34. His father and grandfather had served as Fianna Fáil Mayo TDs before him. He served as a junior minister from 2009 to 2011.

Challenges

  • He is the key Government figure in the allocation of parliamentary time to legislation and debates, at a time when many Ministers will be pushing to prioritise key legislation from their own Departments
  • He is responsible for ensuring Government TDs attend votes and follow the party line
  • Informally, the Chief Whip acts as a “trouble-shooter”, seeking to avoid and resolve disputes between party leadership and backbenchers, and between government and opposition parties

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Pippa Hackett

Minister of State in Dept of Agriculture responsible for Land Use and Biodiversity

Party

Green Party

Constituency

From Laois/Offaly but as a Senator is not elected by a geographic constituency

Who she is

Another surprise appointment, she was elected to the Seanad on the Agricultural panel in a by-election late last year and was re-elected in the recent Seanad. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the recent Dáil election for Laois/Offaly. She lives on a farm in Co Offaly, is a graduate in Equine Science and has a PhD in Sports Biomechanics. She is included here because she is one of three “super junior” Ministers, who attends Cabinet but does not have a vote.

The area of agriculture is one of considerable tension between the two larger government parties and the Green Party. Her appointment signals that while the agriculture portfolio remains with a Fianna Fáil Minister Barry Cowen, there will also be a Green presence within that department and, the party hopes, a Green influence.

Challenges

  • To put a Green Party stance on policy in the area of agriculture
  • At the same time to try to show rural voters that their concern that the Green Party will damage rural life and the rural economy is unfounded

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Hildegarde Naughton

Minister of State in Dept of Transport responsible for International and Road Travel and Logistics

Party

Fine Gael

Constituency

Galway West

Who she is

She has been a TD since 2016 and before that was a schoolteacher. Her appointment as a “super junior” Minister of State mirrors that of Pippa Hackett. Transport is politically sensitive and so this puts a Fine Gael TD in as a junior minister in a department run by a Green Minister, in the same way as Pippa Hackett is in a sensitive department run by a Fianna Fáil Minister.

Challenges

  • To develop a good working relationship with Eamon Ryan that ensures that the green Party in this agenda can be delivered, while spending on what Fine Gael would see as necessary road projects is protected.