Big promotion for youngest TD to top junior post

Harris appointed as Minister of State for Finance in place of Brian Hayes

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny  and Tanaiste Joan Burton  with new Ministers of State on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton with new Ministers of State on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Simon Harris, the youngest TD in the Dáil, has been appointed to the top junior ministerial position in the second phase of the Government reshuffle.

Wicklow TD Mr Harris (27) was appointed as Minister of State for Finance in place of Brian Hayes, who was elected to the European Parliament.

The important post of Minister of State for European Affairs went to another first-time Fine Gael TD, Dara Murphy from Cork North Central.

The other Fine Gael TDs to get promotion to the junior Ministerial ranks were Waterford TD Paudie Coffey, who was appointed to the Department of the Environment and Donegal TD Joe McHugh, who takes over at the Gaeltacht.

Fergus O’Dowd, Ciarán Cannon and Dinny McGinley were dropped to make way.

On the Labour side, Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys has been promoted to the newly created junior post in the Department of Social Protection, Carlow-Kilkenny TD Ann Phelan has responsibility for Rural Affairs and Dublin Bay North TD Aodhán O’Riordáin has been appointed as junior Minister at Justice.

There was criticism of the reshuffle from Irish language groups and Fianna Fáil on the basis that neither Minister at the Department of the Gaeltacht spoke fluent Irish.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív said he was shocked. “There is no question that Minister Joe McHugh is a person of talent, decency and integrity, but I am genuinely shocked and very disappointed that the Taoiseach has handed responsibility for protection and promotion of our language to someone who is unable to carry out his duties through the medium of Irish.”

He said Fine Gael and Labour’s disregard for Irish language policy had now been conclusively proven by the reshuffle with neither senior nor junior Minster able to conduct official business in Irish.

Sinn Féin spokesman Trevor Ó Clochartaigh congratulated Heather Humphreys and Joe McHugh on their appointments but stressed that their first priority must be to ensure no further cuts were made to the language and Gaeltacht elements of the department’s brief.

“The Irish language and Gaeltacht budgets have had a disproportionate amount of cuts under this FG and Labour Coalition,” Mr Ó Clochartaigh said. “That was on top of cuts imposed even during the boom years.”

WHO GOES WHERE: NEW MINISTERS OF STATE

Dara Murphy

Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs with Responsibility for European Affairs and Data Protection

Murphy is a first-time TD for Cork North Central. There was some surprise that he landed a post that is probably as important as some of the Cabinet positions but it reflects the impact he has made in a little over three years in the Dáil.

The 44-year-old has been an able defender of Government policy. His promotion is clearly a reward for his loyalty but is also designed to shore up the Fine Gael vote on the north side of Cork city. A father of three, he owned a catering business before entering politics.

Joe McHugh

Minister of State at the Departments of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with Responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources The Fine Gael TD for Donegal North East and former teacher has taken over the Gaeltacht Affairs brief from fellow Donegal man Dinny McGinley. It is a case of generational change with the 69-year-old McGinley making way for the 43-year-old McHugh.

McHugh has been chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. His is married to former Fine Gael frontbencher Olwyn Enright and they have two children.

Paudie Coffey

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment with Responsibility for Housing, Planning and Co-ordination of the Construction 2020 Strategy The Waterford man is another first-time TD, although he served a term in the Seanad before making it to the Dáil at the last general election. His senior Minister at the Department of the Environment Alan Kelly is another first-time TD.