Helen McEntee gives birth to baby boy, a first for a serving Cabinet Minister

TD stood aside as Minister for Justice but remains a member of Government

Helen McEntee  pictured before going on maternity leave. Photograph: Tom Honan

Helen McEntee pictured before going on maternity leave. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Helen McEntee has become the first serving Cabinet Minister to give birth while in office.

Ms McEntee temporarily stepped aside on Tuesday as Minister for Justice to take maternity leave, but remains a member of Government, albeit serving as a Cabinet Minister without portfolio during the duration of her leave.

She gave birth to a baby boy, weighing 7lbs 8oz, in the Rotunda Hospital on Wednesday night, first reported by LMFM Radio on Thursday morning. A name for the newborn has not yet been revealed.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar offered his congratulations in the Dáil, saying Ms McEntee and her husband Paul Hickey “have made history”.

“When it comes to equality and diversity it is often said that people need to see it before they know they can be it,” he said. “I hope that young women and girls will see today that in Ireland one can hold high office, take maternity leave, raise a family and be supported to do so.

“I accept we have more work to do in this area, but it is a positive day and history is being made today by the McEntee and Hickey family.”

Heather Humphreys will serve as Minister for Social Protection, Rural and Community Development, as well as Minister for Justice during the period of Ms McEntee’s maternity leave, while Ministers of State Hildegarde Naughton and James Browne will be assigned responsibility for civil and criminal justice, and law reform and immigration respectively.

On Tuesday, Ms McEntee said arrangements for her maternity leave are a “sticking plaster” until a more permanent solution is found.

Her maternity leave is being facilitated by a complicated arrangement necessitated due to caps on the number of ministers a government can have.

“It’s really important women see other women in roles and positions being able to take maternity leave, being able to return to their jobs and the positions they were working in before,” Ms McEntee said.

“This [arrangement] is very much a sticking plaster, it’s not a long-term measure that we hope to put in place,” she said, adding that the Citizens’ Assembly had been asked to consider the issue and that the Government was committed to addressing it.

‘Role model’

After news of the birth broke, Ms McEntee’s Government colleagues posted well-wishes on their Twitter accounts.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Congratulations @HMcEntee and Paul on the birth of your wonderful baby boy. A time of great joy for you all. Enjoy! Wishing you every happiness, always.”

Ms Humphreys said: “It’s a good job we had the handover a few days early! So delighted for @HMcEntee. A fantastic role model for young women. Helen might be the first serving Cabinet Minister to have a baby but she certainly won’t be the last!”

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris also wished the Minister well, saying: “Great news! Congratulations to my friend and colleague @HMcEntee and Paul on the birth of their baby son.”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said: “Congratulations to @HMcEntee and Paul on their new arrival! I’m delighted Helen is able to take the time to be with her baby in the months ahead. Another glass ceiling smashed.”

Catherine Martin, Green Party TD and Minister for Tourism, also wished Ms McEntee well, as did Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State for Disabilities.

Ms Rabbitte said: “Congratulations @HMcEntee, such a wonderful role model for young women and the first serving Cabinet Minister to give birth in office. You are inspirational.”

Ms Naughton tweeted: “Huge congratulations to @HMcEntee and Paul on the birth of their baby boy. Wonderful news!”

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, also wished the couple well, saying: “Wonderful news about the birth of @HMcEntee’s son. Congratulations to Helen and Paul.”

Thomas Byrne, who is a Fianna Fáil TD in Ms McEntee’s constituency of East Meath, also congratulated the new mother: “Congratulations to @HMcEntee and Paul on the birth of her baby boy!”

Ministers and TDs in the Dáil also offered their congratulations, including Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler who wished her colleague happiness and said “we have broken the glass ceiling”.

Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly offered her congratulations and called it an “historic day” and Sinn Féin enterprise spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly wished the couple and their baby “all the luck in the world”, adding that “we have work to do” to address the “sticking plaster” measures that had been put in place to facilitate Ms McEntee’s maternity leave. “But this is a very good and historic day.”

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said it was “powerful proof that young women watching can have high office and still be supported in having a baby”. But she hoped the Government would commit to a plan to introduce the “necessary permanent arrangements to support women in politics from councillor to Cabinet, and to put some real ambition around it”. She said it would be ideal to see this completed before Ms McEntee returns from her maternity leave.

Political responsibilities

Ms Humphreys will lead political responsibilty for the Department of Justice, in particular matters on security and policing, and will sign commencement orders and statutory instruments, as well as bringing judicial appointments to Cabinet.

Ms Naughton, who already attends Cabinet as a super-junior minister, will have lead responsibility for matters relating to modernisation of the courts, legal system and judiciary, the prisons system, economic crime and corruption, domestic-, sexual- and gender-based violence, and reducing legal costs and the cost of insurance. She will also cover non-judicial appointments and annual reports from agencies and bodies in the criminal justice sector, and legislation relating to criminal justice.

Mr Browne will look after the transposition of European Union directives, reform of gambling, rural safety, chairing the anti-social behaviour forum and oversight of the youth justice strategy. He will bring to Cabinet annual reports and legislation from the civil justice sector.