Ministers – too much of a good thing?


Sir, – Can anyone seriously doubt that, if there were not an explicit constitutional limit of 15 on the maximum number of members of the Government, we might today have a Government of up to 30 full Ministers?

Over the past 22 years, the Constitution has been circumvented by creating extra paid so-called super-junior Ministers of State with a right to sit at the Cabinet but not to vote, whose constant presence, one suspects, is largely superfluous to the efficient expedition of business round the Cabinet table.

The Chief Whip was long the only Minister of State who sat at the Cabinet table for essential practical reasons.

It is very regrettable that the paring back of the numbers of Ministers of State in 2009 by Brian Cowen from 20 to 15 during the economic crisis has now been comprehensively and quite unnecessarily reversed.

Whereas in most democratic countries the number of government backbenchers well exceeds the number of ministerial office holders, and used to be the case here in the past, we now have a ridiculous position where out of roughly 58 TDs that make up the Government’s support base 34 or nearly 60 per cent are Ministers or Ministers of State, whose numbers are now back up to 19.

This is not a criticism of one taoiseach, but of a trend that has been going on for some time and has been resumed following a short interruption, and that requires robust political leadership and public insistence to put a halt to, hopefully no later than the next time a government is formed. – Yours, etc,