Only three out of 19 new Ministers of State are women

Women’s groups criticise Taoiseach over ‘new Cabinet, same old gender imbalance’

Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, one of two ministers of state who were sacked to accommodate the changes, said she found Mr Varadkar’s comments on merit to be “very offensive”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, one of two ministers of state who were sacked to accommodate the changes, said she found Mr Varadkar’s comments on merit to be “very offensive”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has faced negative reaction for choosing only three female Deputies among his team of 19 Ministers of State.

The minimalistic nature of the changes, as well as Mr Varadkar’s decision to increase the number of posts to close to the maximum allowable number, were also criticised.

Yesterday in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar announced 13 Fine Gael Ministers of State to serve in his Government, five of whom were new appointments. Only two ministers of state, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy and Dara Murphy, were sacked to accommodate the changes, which also involved the increase in the overall number of junior Ministers from 18 to 19.

It is now only one short of the record number of 20 Ministers of State in the Fianna Fáil-Green government of Bertie Ahern in 2007.

Made on merit

Mr Varadkar insisted all appointments had been made on merit. He had made a decision not to consider any TD first elected in 2016, which effectively precluded promotion for any woman TD.

Opposition parties, women’s group and the demoted minister, Ms Corcoran-Kennedy, expressed disapproval of the list of second-tier Ministers, which, they charged, had disimproved the gender balance in Government.

Ms Corcoran-Kennedy said she found his comments on merit to be “very offensive”.  

“From a gender perspective, it’s very hard to see the numbers [of women] declining in terms of the Cabinet,” she said. She and Mr Murphy had supported Simon Coveney in the Fine Gael leadership contest.

Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council said she was disappointed. “New Cabinet, same old gender imbalance,” she said.

Strong supporters

The five backbench TDs promoted were strong supporters of Mr Varadkar in advance of the leadership contest. They are John Paul Phelan, Carlow-Kilkenny, who becomes Minister of State for Housing; Brendan Griffin, Kerry (Sport and Tourism); Jim Daly, Cork South-West (Older People and Mental Health); Michael Darcy, Wexford (Financial Services and Insurance); and Ciarán Cannon, Galway East (the Diaspora and International Development).

In all, six of the 34 Ministers in the Government are women.

Mr Varadkar also confirmed he will not prioritise legislation to bring the salary of new “super-junior” Minister Mary O’Mitchell O’Connor in line with her three counterparts in Cabinet. In effect, he has deferred a pay increase for her indefinitely.