Humphreys critical of younger FG TDs calling for leadership debate

Minister for the Arts says there is no reason why Government will not last for three years

Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys: “I was very clear from the start that the [1916 Rising] celebrations would be inclusive and respectful.” Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins

Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys: “I was very clear from the start that the [1916 Rising] celebrations would be inclusive and respectful.” Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins

 

One of the Taoiseach’s strongest supporters in Cabinet, Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys, believes younger internal critics of his leadership are promoting a minority and unrepresentative agenda.

In a strong put-down of backbench TDs who have called for a debate on a leadership succession process, or are seen as preparing the ground for future leadership contenders Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney, Ms Humphreys dismissed prospects of any internal heaves against Enda Kenny in the foreseeable future.

In an interview, she said Mr Kenny enjoyed the support of a strong majority of the parliamentary party and was doing a good job. She indicated there would not be a leadership change for some time to come. She downplayed the impact on the wider parliamentary party of critics, who have called for a debate on when the Taoiseach is stepping down.

“There are always going to be young guns. They appear in every organisation. I believe Enda Kenny has the support of the parliamentary party and he is doing a good job,” she said. Ms Humphreys said the Taoiseach had defied expectations of what he could achieve and would continue to do so. “He has formed a Government against the odds. People said it would not happen. He works very hard. There are no airs and graces about him. He gets on with his job, is tough and keeps his Ministers on his toes.”

Dismissing any early election, Ms Humphreys contended that the Government had now “bedded down”. “People expect us to get on with the job of running the country,” she said, saying there was no reason why the Government would not last for at least three years.

She said that when she began planning for the 2016 commemorations, there were concerns from the public that things could go terribly wrong and that the 1916 Rising centenary would be dominated by particular parties or groups. “I was very clear from the start that the celebrations would be inclusive and respectful. The benchmark that I carried through the entire year was I wanted children and the arts to be at the centre of it. The arts allow people to express themselves. It was important that the arts would form a very important part of the commemoration,” she said.

Ms Humphreys’s appointment to the portfolio, according to Government sources at the time, was partly actuated by her own Protestant background, which could make the celebrations wider and more inclusive. On that issue she has said: “I wanted to hear all the narratives; 1916 and the Rising was there, it was a huge event in our history.”

Part of her ministerial brief includes responsibility for bogs. Her recent decision to dedesignate raised bogs was received by some as her pandering to turf cutters and to rural alliance TDs. She claimed her decision to dedesignate 46 bogs would actually benefit and protect bogland, because 25 new bog areas were included. Even though 61 bogs were now protected (down from 75), the area protected was greater than before, she argued.