Dara Calleary ‘angry and disappointed’ at not making Minister

New chief whip says he had ‘private and incredibly painful’ conversation with Taoiseach Micheál Martin

New Government Chief Whip Dara Calleary said he had “a private and incredibly painful” conversation with new Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

New Government Chief Whip Dara Calleary said he had “a private and incredibly painful” conversation with new Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


New chief whip Dara Calleary has admitted he was angry and disappointed at not being appointed a full Minister in the new Cabinet.

Speaking on Mid West Radio, Mr Calleary said the weekend had not gone as he had expected.

When asked what new Taoiseach Micheál Martin had said to him, he replied he was not going to reveal what had been “a private and incredibly painful” conversation.

“I understand from media I was the last person [to meet with Mr Martin], what he said to me was the chief whip’s role is going to be incredibly difficult in a three-party government, and he had identified me as the person with the skills to do that, to work with the three parties to ensure we implement the Programme for Government and that he was particularly confident that I would be able to do that,” Mr Calleary said.

“We had a lengthy discussion about that particularly focused on me taking this job – there weren’t any other jobs on the table offered to me. So it’s really academic whether I was last in or first in.

“We had a very difficult conversation. I told him I was disappointed. I had hoped to lead a department, it had always been my ambition, and it remains my ambition today. It will happen, it will absolutely happen.

“But I am going to take on the job I have been given, and I will be sitting at the Cabinet table. The chief whip has often been called the gate keeper of Cabinet and I will be that gate keeper, and I will be a gatekeeper for the west.”

Mr Calleary, who represents Mayo, said he will be a voice for the west at the Cabinet table “and I will be a voice that will not be quiet”.

The Mayo TD said he was disappointed today and that he knew there was anger in the constituency. “But I will work 24/7 to reassure and return the support I’ve gotten from people.

“I will work within Cabinet to deliver for Mayo and for the west. I will be judged at the end of this Cabinet.

“I will be around that table, and I will be strong, loud and constructive, working with other Ministers around that table. They’re not going to forget that the west exists. As chief whip I will be in their ear on a daily basis.”

Mr Calleary said that the Programme for Government has huge ambition for the regions and that he had written those ambitions into the document. “I’m going to ensure they’re delivered. I have a voice and that voice will be heard.”

The anger of constituents will drive him on to work even harder, he said. As a Liverpool fan he said he was reminded of the lyrics of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

“At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky, and I’m going to make sure there’s a golden sky for the west,” he added.

“I hear the anger, I understand the anger, and I was that angry person yesterday. I’m going to dust it down and make the most of this. I’m using that concern and anger for me to fuel me to drive me on.”

Meanwhile, new Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Barry Cowen has defended the lack of Cabinet places in the west and northwest.

“It’s always a great challenge to get a geographical spread across the Ministries, but ultimately this is a national government. I’m Minister for Agriculture and the Marine, not for the midlands, but for the whole country,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Cowen said the Government will build on “the already strong environmental credentials” that the Irish agriculture sector has held over the last number of years.

“I think the best way in which this Government can move in relation to agriculture and the marine, the best future is aligning its production systems with consumer sentiment and environmental ambition, investment in technology and innovation that improves economic and environmental efficiency, and that is the path that we would hope to pave for this sector,” he said.

There was unity among the three parties in recognising the huge contribution that is made by agriculture and its impact on the economy, Mr Cowen said, adding it was imperative the country’s strong environmental credentials be recognised.

Building blocks needed to be put in place to improve efficiencies, to improve environmental efficiency but not to the detriment of the industry, the Minister added.

“I as Minister in this Government need to maintain and continue to drive the ambition within the sector. My ambition is matched by the ambition that is contained in the programme for government –- today I will be meeting my counterparts throughout Europe, and we’ll be making that point to the Commission and to other member States.”

The Minister was asked about the health of his brother, former taoiseach Brian Cowen and his reaction to the Cabinet appointment. “My brother, no more than anybody else’s brother, was hugely proud and delighted to see my appointment.

“It is particularly poignant for him, but he continues to make progress. He is very much involved with me in my career; he helped and assisted me even through his illness. He’s making a steady recovery thankfully and hopes to be home with us in the coming weeks and months and we look forward to that.”