Kenny storing up a host of women trouble

Despite a FG push for gender quotas, the absence of women in its line-up is striking

Minister for the Arts  Heather Humphreys: Enda Kenny can point to the elevation last week of the  Cavan-Monaghan TD   but ambitious, capable women in the Fine Gael ranks can understandably feel aggrieved

Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys: Enda Kenny can point to the elevation last week of the Cavan-Monaghan TD but ambitious, capable women in the Fine Gael ranks can understandably feel aggrieved

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:02

While Fine Gael’s introduction of gender quotas on election tickets – with 30 per cent of candidates now required to be women – is laudable, the absence of any women from the party’s new line-up of junior ministers is striking.

While little noticed outside the political and media bubble, yesterday’s reshuffle has the potential to cause future trouble for Taoiseach Enda Kenny. To be blunt, he now has a women problem.

Kenny can point to the elevation last week of Cavan-Monaghan TD Heather Humphreys to Cabinet but ambitious, capable women in the Fine Gael ranks can understandably feel aggrieved.

Of nine positions in Kenny’s gift yesterday, not one went to a female. It would hardly be surprising if some women thinking of being part of that 30 per cent quota come the next election consequently have second thoughts.

The figures speak for themselves. Fine Gael has 10 senior ministers – two are women. It has nine Ministers of State – none a woman.

Those tipped for promotion included Meath East’s Regina Doherty and Dún Laoghaire’s Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, but both were overlooked.

Geography seems to have been Kenny’s primary concern in the reshuffle and the big winner was the young Wicklow TD Simon Harris (27), appointed to the prestigious position spanning both the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

A capable performer and a stars of the Public Accounts Committee, he will now be expected to bat for his senior Ministers, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, as effectively as his predecessor Brian Hayes, who is now in the European Parliament.

The appointment is partly payback for Harris stepping in at the last minute to take the third place on the Fine Gael Ireland South ticket in the European elections, after former IFA president John Bryan decided against running.

Kenny spread his junior ministers evenly across the country outside of Dublin, but the lack of any representatives from the capital is somewhat offset by the fact that five of the party’s senior Ministers are based in Dublin. While Frances Fitzgerald represents Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael lacks a minister on Dublin’s south side.

On the Labour side, Tánaiste Joan Burton followed through on her moves at senior level last week by sacking an older junior minister, Joe Costello, and promoting three of the 2011 intake. It is likely one of the main considerations in deciding who should get a junior post was their likelihood in holding on come election day in 2016, on what is expected to be a tough day for Labour.

With the retirement of Ruairí Quinn, hisconstituency colleague Kevin Humphreys will be expected to hold his seat in Dublin South East. His promotion to Minister of State for Social Protection should help, even though his elevation is also well earned after a number of years as an effective backbench TD.

Aodhán O’Ríordáin, who spans Justice and Heritage, also has a battle in the new five-seat Dublin Bay North constituency. It is understood this was a close call between O’Ríordáin and John Lyons, also facing a challenge in Dublin North West. Similarly, Ann Phelan’s promotion to Minister of State for Rural Economic Development will be with one eye to her holding the traditional Labour seat in Carlow-Kilkenny.

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