New Minister for Arts has ‘little experience’ in field

Fact department avoided elimination a saving grace as piano-playing Humphreys takes role

Heather Humphreys (right) has been named as Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht during her first term in the Dáil. Photograph: Merrion Street/Government Information Service.

Heather Humphreys (right) has been named as Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht during her first term in the Dáil. Photograph: Merrion Street/Government Information Service.

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 16:11

The Cabinet reshuffle has seen a relative unknown parachuted into the Arts portfolio. Heather Humphreys has been named as Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht during her first term in the Dáil as a TD for the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan.

Her predecessor Jimmy Deenihan was seen as a relatively safe pair of hands, but little by way of strong policy and leadership came from his administration.

The tempestuous start to the much-vaunted Limerick City of Culture initiative may have contributed to his demotion. He will now take up a role as a junior minister in the Department of the Taoiseach with a focus on the Diaspora.

Ms Humphreys comes to the role with a pragmatic reputation, albeit with little arts experience (she does, however, play the piano). A former manager of Cootehill Credit Union and mayor of Monaghan, she has strong farming background.

While Ms Humphreys appointment was met with puzzlement by many, the saving grace here is that there’s a department to run at all.

In the build up to the reshuffle, arts has been viewed as a junior ministry and there were rumours that it was to be dismantled altogether, and slung under education.

Arts is not and has never been a priority for this Coalition. In recent years, the department has trundled on with the business of instigating successive swingeing cuts, and the Government has been happy to let senior civil servants exercise their influence over the arts.

This leaves the field wide open for Ms Humphreys to bring guidance, leadership and, perhaps most crucially, effective policy to the job.

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