Miriam Lord: Taoiseach now faces wrath of the Angry Birds

Kenny overlooked his female TDs’ claims for junior ministries

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton greet Michael Ring  as he joins fellow ministers of State on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton greet Michael Ring as he joins fellow ministers of State on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

“Mickeys missing!” shouted Enda, trying to be helpful.

We scanned the ranks of the newly promoted Ministers of State arrayed on the steps in front of Government Buildings.

“Eh, no, don’t think they are, Taoiseach – if you get our drift . . . ” responded The Irish Times, bawdily going where no woman has gone in Fine Gael’s second ministerial string.

Not one female in the Taoiseach’s chosen batch of nine.

Then the apostrophe landed. Right, gotcha now. “Mickey’s missing.”

For he was talking about Michael Ring, who was supposed to be there for the family photo, but hadn’t landed yet.

But you can see how confusion might arise on the gender front. Thoughts turned to Margaret Thatcher’s famous remark when she promoted William Whitelaw: “Every prime minister needs a Willie.”

So where was Ringo, one of the few to retain his job as a junior minister?

“He doesn’t like the limelight,” suggested someone. That got a laugh.

Or perhaps he was still inside the building, with Enda’s backroom boys frantically trying to zip him into a dress.

As it turned out, Ring was stuck in traffic, on his way back from the RDS where he had just launched this year’s Dublin Horse Show.

Paul Kehoe, the Government Chief Whip phoned him for an update.

“Where is he now?” asked the Taoiseach.

“He’s at the lights. I think they’re the same lights he was at 10 minutes ago” said Paul.

Finally, Ringo arrived arms swinging as he barrelled through the courtyard giving thumbs up to the cameras before puffing to a stop at the foot of the steps.

The public might not care, but these jobs are a big deal on the Government side of the House. Among backbenchers, expectations of a call-up to the senior ranks are low. But it’s a far more open competition when it comes to picking the Ministers of State.

A lot of backbenchers have worked hard in the last couple of years in the hope of catching their leader’s eye.

Some embraced the thankless task of going out to bat on the airwaves for the Coalition after some of their dodgier decisions. Others championed issues in areas such as health and education, organising public meetings and producing discussion papers.

Yesterday, they hoped their efforts might be rewarded with “the half car” – a phrase denoting their reduced ministerial status.

When the announcement of the new appointments came around, there were quite a few disgruntled backbenchers wondering why they bothered.

Meanwhile, the five men who were dropped from the team – four Fine Gael and one Labour – put a brave face on their demotion.

On the Taoiseach’s side, Ciarán Cannon was fired, leaving Galway without any ministerial representation in the Dáil.

Fergus O’Dowd, who would have nursed hopes of a senior call-up, was asked to stand down. John Perry, whose financial problems caused a spot of bother recently, was not an unexpected casualty, and Dinny McGinley, approaching his 70th birthday, accepted his fate and said he’d had a good innings.

Dinny was spokesman for the Gaeltacht, and his Irish is perfect. His replacement, fellow Donegalman Joe McHugh, hasn’t much Irish.

Not that this bothered the Taoiseach, who needs to keep a half car in Donegal to counteract Sinn Féin.

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