Coveney appointed Tánaiste, Heather Humphreys moves to business

First-time TD Josepha Madigan elevated to arts, culture and the Gaeltacht

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Ministers  Heather Humphreys and Josepha Madigan at Government Buildings on Wednesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Ministers Heather Humphreys and Josepha Madigan at Government Buildings on Wednesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a number of minor changes to the Cabinet yesterday including the appointment of Simon Coveney as Tánaiste.

Mr Varadkar was forced to adjust the line-up of his Cabinet following the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald as Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Ms Fitzgerald announced her decision to stand aside after a week of intense political pressure centred on her knowledge of attempts to undermine Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Coveney, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs, will replace her as Tánaiste, while Heather Humphreys will move to the Department of Business.

Dublin Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan will replace Ms Humphreys in the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

The appointment of Ms Madigan, who is a first-time TD, caused some irritation among a small number of Ministers of State, who had expected promotion.

New committee

Mr Varadkar also confirmed he will also establish a new Cabinet committee – Committee G – to deal with justice and equality matters and Ms Madigan will be on that committee.

Making the announcement, the Taoiseach said Mr Coveney’s elevation will enhance his role in the Brexit negotiations ahead of the crucial European Union summit next month.

It would also be easier for Mr Coveney to co-ordinate the work of other departments with respect of Brexit, Mr Varadkar added.

Ms Humphreys would be the first Minister for Business to be from outside the Dublin region and also from a Border county, he said.

“This is particularly relevant in the context of Brexit and also the Government’s commitment to bring more jobs, and good jobs, to all regions of Ireland, especially rural Ireland. Heather’s experience as a Minister and also her background in banking and finance makes her very suited to this role.

“Minister Madigan will build on the work of Minister Humphreys in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and will drive forward the Government’s agenda for arts, culture and heritage, including the Creative Ireland programme, an ambitious 10-year capital plan for the arts and multi-annual increases in funding for culture and heritage.”

Criticised

Ms Madigan’s appointment was criticised by Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who raised previous comments Ms Madigan had made about Travellers.

In 2014, as a local councillor, she released a newsletter stating building Traveller accommodation on a number of sites in south Dublin would be “a waste of valuable resources” given the worth of the land.

Ms Madigan said the comments were not anti-Traveller and had been taken out of context by her political opponents.

She said: “I have a very good relationship with the Traveller community. I have nothing to apologise for in terms of my position. I am all for inclusivity and for equality in every aspect of society.”

Mr Coveney’s appointment was widely welcomed in the Fine Gael parliamentary party. He had run against Mr Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership contest and had received a significant level of support from the membership.

He was defeated but was appointed deputy leader of the party.

The three appointments were ratified by the Dáil and were later given their seals of office by President Michael D Higgins.