Kenny likely to appoint Minister next week

Sat, Feb 2, 2013, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is likely to appoint a new minister of state for agriculture next week. He has waited to appoint a successor to the late Shane McEntee as a mark of respect until after the month’s mind ceremonies.

Mr Kenny is under pressure to make a decision because of the exceptional workload in the department where a very senior official is on sick leave and the department does not currently have a deputy secretary general.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, who also has responsibility for food and fisheries, has no other Minister of State. He is in the middle of CAP reform talks, where agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of the total EU budget, and also has the burden of the horse meat controversy.

Damien English (34) in Meath West is the frontrunner for the ministry. One source said “it will be very hard to take it out of Meath”.

Mr English is a TD in a largely rural constituency and is regularly sent out to defend Government decisions. He vocally backed the losing side in the heave against Mr Kenny in 2010, which could affect his chances.

Chairman of the Oireachtas agriculture committee and Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle (52) is also seen as a strong contender. An experienced farmer and well-regarded TD with a detailed knowledge of agriculture, he is in a constituency without a Minister.