Leo Varadkar’s junior Ministers: who’s in and who’s out
Profiles of the 13 Fine Gael Ministers of State named on Tuesday
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his Ministers of State at Government Buildings. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
John Paul Phelan: Local Government and Electoral Reform (Housing)
The same age as the Taoiseach at 38, the Carlow-Kilkenny TD is one of his strongest supporters and had half-expected to be promoted to Chief Whip. It did not happen and he has tempered his disappointment with a plum role in charge of local government and electoral reform. A barrister, Phelan was first elected to the Dáil in 2011, having been a Senator for almost a decade.
Jim Daly: Older People and Mental Health (Health)
A former schoolteacher from Clonakilty in Cork South West, Daly (44) was an early Varadkar supporter despite his geographical proximity to Simon Coveney. He was one of the first to put pressure on Enda Kenny to resign. He is smart , hard-working (he was a good chair of the children’s committee) and unafraid to put himself in the line of fire on current affairs programmes, not always emerging unscathed.
Ciaran Cannon: Diaspora and International Development (Foreign Affairs)
Cannon is the surprise package of the second-tier. Now 51, his route to this role is circuitous. In 2007, when a Progressive Democrats councillor, he was a taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad. He later became leader of the beleaguered party before its dissolution in 2009. He was appointed a Minister of State by Enda Kenny (for training and skills) in 2011 but dropped in 2014. His big strengths are in policy formation.He does a fundraising cycle to Lourdes every year.
Michael Darcy: Financial Service and Insurance ( Finance and Public Expenditure)
Another unashamed Varadkar supporter, the Wexford TD (47) wins reward for his loyalty. The son of a TD, he was first elected to the Dáil in 2007 but lost his seat in 2011. That thwarted any pitch for ministry in 2016, given that constituency colleague Paul Kehoe was already in situ. The finance brief reflects the trust Varadkar has in him.
Brendan Griffin: Tourism and Sport (Transport Tourism and Sport)
The popular Kerryman (35) was another TD who was a thorn in Enda Kenny’s side from 2016 on and his calls for him to “name a date” became habitual. From a narrow constituency perspective he will be thrilled to get tourism and sport. He will need to work on building a better relationship with the senior Minister, Shane Ross, than with Patrick O’Donovan (they didn’t speak). Griffin has also written a few children’s novels, which The Irish Times can confirm, are very readable.
Pat Breen: Employment and Small Business; and Data Protection (Department of Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise)
The Clare TD (60) was first elected in 2002 and is from one of the few rural constituencies where Fine Gael retained two seats. He continues being the junior Minister for small business and employment, and is also taking on a data protection role. The Coveney camp initially thought he was a supporter but he backed Varadkar, thus removing any doubt about his position. A solid if unspectacular performer.
Andrew Doyle: Food, Forestry and Horticulture (Agriculture)
Another veteran and another who stays in the same role. The Wicklow TD (56) was first elected to the Dáil in 2007 and is a specialist on agriculture. Before becoming the junior in agriculture, he was the chair of the all-party committee in that area. He is a steady unassuming operator with a reputation for getting work done.
Catherine Byrne: Drugs Strategy and Health Promotion (Health)
The 60 year old from Dublin South Central was a bit of a revelation as minister for drugs strategy. Seen by critics as very traditional Fine Gael law and order, she has been received as forward-looking and adaptable. She retains her old role and also takes on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy’s old brief, which will put her in charge of the controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which has been lobbied to death. A fantastic singer too, by all accounts.
David Stanton: Equality and Immigration (Justice)
It was thought that all four Coveney supporters in the second-tier would get the chop but two have survived. Stanton (60) is a very low-key operator but has been very impressive in whatever role he has played. In the last Dáil, the Cork East TD was chair of the Justice Committee and produced some quality reports. Since being promoted he has published a number of comprehensive strategies on immigration, Travellers’ rights and gender equality.
Damian English: Housing and Urban Renewal (Housing)
English (39) was Coveney’s campaign manager. Only 24 when he was elected in 2002, the fast-talking Meath West TD has matured into a popular and effective politician. His easy-going style belies an energy and steeliness – he is often sent out to bat for the Government on unpalatable topics.
Seán Kyne: Community, Natural Resources and Digital Strategy (Rural Affairs, and Communications)
, formerly Minister of State for Gaeltacht
The Galway West TD (42) is not the most voluble of TDs but has been a successful minister for the Gaeltacht and restored a lot of credibility to the role. He was rendered speechless with disappointment last week when he learned Joe McHugh had got that job. He will take some consolation from his new role. Another early Varadkar supporter.
Patrick O’Donovan: Public Procurement, e-Government Finance and Public Expenditure, formerly Minister of State for Tourism and Sport
Another contemporary of Varadkar’s, the 38-year-old Limerick TD was happy in his former ministry of sports and tourism despite poor relations with the senior Minister, Shane Ross. He came forward with a quota system to encourage women in sport which was great until Ross shut it down. He changes to a new and senior role, which he will be well able for. Can be negative though in his disposition.
Helen McEntee: EU Affairs (Taoiseach), formerly Minister of State for Older People
There was some surprise when the Meath East TD (31) became a Minister of State in 2016, having been elected in 2013. This is a big promotion for her and involves increased responsibilities. Dara Murphy was never going to survive but was highly regarded for putting in the hard yards on Brexit. McEntee will now form a new team with senior Minister Simon Coveney for the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. This will be a big test for her and will be a telling test of whether or not she has the potential for future promotion.
Making up the 19 ministers in the junior ranks are the four super junior Ministers who had already been confirmed last week including Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Finian McGrath, Paul Keogh and Joe McHugh.
Two Independent Alliance Ministers in the junior ranks, John Halligan and Kevin Boxer Moran, remain unchanged.