Michael Creed delighted at being chosen to be Minister

Cork TD not dwelling on why he was passed over for promotion after 2010 heave against Kenny

Just after he was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1989, Michael Creed (52) was asked how he would like to be remembered when he left politics.

“Whether I’ll be in a position myself at some stage to exert more pressure than just as a single deputy, that all depends on what happens down the road, so how would I like to be remembered is very difficult; I just hope I’ll acquit myself to the best of my ability,” he said.

That Creed has ability has never been in doubt – his performances as Fine Gael spokesman on agriculture from 2007 to 2010 were well regarded, as was his support for Fianna Fáil's food strategy – but that he would ever get a chance to show that ability in office has been less clear.

While much of the focus on Enda Kenny's newly appointed Cabinet has been on the so-called prodigal sons, ex-Fine Gael members Denis Naughten and Shane Ross, the return of the son of former Fine Gael TD Donal Creed to Kenny's inner circle as Minister for Agriculture has perhaps been no less surprising.

One of a group of rebels who backed Richard Bruton's unsuccessful heave against Kenny's leadership in 2010, Creed appeared to pay a greater price than other rebels such as fellow Cork man Simon Coveney who was given a senior ministry when Kenny became Taoiseach a year later.

Certainly, Creed appeared to be in the Irish political equivalent of Siberia when Kenny went canvassing in Creed's constituency of Cork North-West in 2011. Back then it was his first-time running mate, Áine Collins from Millstreet, who benefited from Kenny's bonhomie on the campaign trail.

Frozen out

Indeed, during one visit to

Ballincollig

, arguably more Creed country than Collins country, it was notable how Creed was being moved to the margins as Kenny and Collins pressed the flesh and posed for photographs. The man from

Macroom

was being frozen out and very obviously so.

Creed himself doesn’t know why he failed to make it to cabinet back in 2011 and doesn’t appear anxious to dwell on.

However, one seasoned Fine Gael member and keen student of the party from the constituency offered an interesting take on Creed’s ostracisation by Kenny.

"Enda was very friendly with Michael's father, Donal when they served together and we wondered did Enda take Michael's decision to back Richard Bruton personally because of that friendship, because Enda very quickly forgave others like Simon Coveney who also backed Bruton."

Whatever about Creed not making Kenny's cabinet in 2011, it is fair to say that the Macroom man harboured hopes of rehabilitation and promotion in the 2014 cabinet reshuffle. But he was again rebuffed, as more recent Dáil entrants such as Dara Murphy were promoted.

It was perhaps that 2014 reshuffle that led Creed, by his own admission, to insulate himself against hope of ministerial appointment. It also makes him conscious that while he has been fortunate this time, many of his colleagues are feeling the disappointment he did in the past.

“I was genuinely surprised to be appointed a minister. I didn’t allow myself to believe some of the print and broadcast speculation on the matter because I have been that soldier so many times when I was marched to the top of the hill by the media only to be marched back down again,” he says.

“I am truly honoured and obviously very pleased that the Taoiseach asked me to serve. I am very humbled by the honour and I am also very conscious of the fact that whilst my invitation to serve was at the Taoiseach’s behest, my approval to serve was at the Dáil’s behest.

“And I intend to work very hard to maintain that approval of all my Dáil colleagues across all political parties and work very diligently with them in the interests of an industry that offers enormous potential for this country.”

Growing up on a farm at Codrum in Macroom, Creed is more than familiar with the challenges facing those involved in agriculture. While that will stand to him in his role as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, he is also an astute politician who learned much from his father’s time as a TD.

Serious challenges

“The portfolio is vast and if you look at all the commodities in the agri-sector, they are all in various degrees of turmoil and price falls. Some have fallen further and have remained falling longer than was anticipated, particularly in the dairy sector so there are real serious challenges,” he says.

Married to Sinéad with three children Ruth (10), Odhran (8) and Darragh (5), Creed says his father, who was a minister of state in the 1980s and who is now 91, was "ecstatic" at his appointment. He echoes his father's sensibly understated approach when the subject of his five-year exile is broached.

“To be honest with you, I moved on from that a long time ago. It tends to be my philosophy not to dwell on the past: it’s just not in my nature. To use a sporting analogy when you play a game, leave it on the pitch and walk away and when that game finished in 2010, I moved on,” he says.

A successful director of elections for Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune in Ireland South in the 2014 European Parliament elections, Creed is reluctant to see that or geographic factors in Cork North-West, where Fianna Fáil took two seats in the election, as contributing to his promotion.

"I had a fantastic team and really enjoyed that campaign where we got Deirdre Clune elected to join Seán Kelly in Strasbourg, but there were Cabinet reshuffles after that when I didn't feature so I don't know what factors came into play this time," he says.

“In terms of why some people are promoted, there’s geography, gender, ability, long service - a myriad of factors and I’m sure if anybody sat down to pick a cabinet that’s representative of all the people and all of the regions, there is a lot of stuff to be taken into account.

“I would like to think I have shown a maturity of years in terms of parliamentary contributions – a lot of it out of the glare of the media eye – in committees and in parliamentary party meetings to maintain my own credibility and my standing. Is that what has borne fruit now? I don’t know.

“I’m in politics since 1985 and in the Dáil since 1989 – less five years when I lost my seat in 2002 – but I always harboured an ambition to serve at a higher level, so when the call came I was just delighted after 30 years to be an overnight success and be asked to serve in this capacity.”