30th government

Despite a pledge by Enda Kenny, no increase in the number of female ministers

Campaigners have criticised the appointments, and called for progress in the selection of junior ministers.


THE CABINET OF the 30th government of Ireland has been announced, and it contains the same number of female senior ministers as the outgoing one, despite the current Dáil having the most women in history, and despite commitments made by the Taoiseach before the election.

The campaigning group Women for Election has criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for “failing to meet his commitment” to bring about a 50-50 gender balance in the new government.

  • Frances Fitzgerald will become the fourth female Tánaiste, after Joan Burton, Mary Coughlan and Mary Harney, and keeps her role as Justice Minister.
  • Heather Humphreys is Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.
  • Newly elected Independent TD Katherine Zappone replaces James Reilly as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
  • And Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor replaces Richard Bruton as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

As Attorney General, Máire Whelan does sit at cabinet, but is not a government minister.

That’s four out of 15 ministerial posts that have gone to women, or just short of 27%.

That’s the same percentage as the outgoing government, where Joan Burton, Jan O’Sullivan, Frances Fitzgerald and Heather Humphreys took up senior positions.

This evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also announced that Meath East TD Regina Doherty would be the Government Chief Whip, a crucial and influential figure in Irish parliamentary politics.


It remains to be seen what the gender breakdown of junior ministers will be, but there has been criticism this evening from the group Women for Election, which campaigns for gender equality in politics.

In a statement, the group’s Director of Operations Suzanne Collins said:

An Taoiseach said, as late as last December, that if he had the opportunity to appoint a cabinet that it ‘will be 50:50 on merit, of men and women.’ This would have sent a powerful message, reflective of the gender balance of the population of the country.
It would have ensured that women’s voices were at the centre of policy and political decisions over the course of the next Dáil.

That refers to Enda Kenny’s pledge, as reported by the Irish Times, that, “If I have the opportunity on the next occasion to appoint a cabinet, it will be a 50:50 on merit, of men and women.”

Collins added:

After an unprecedented election for female representation, the Taoiseach’s failure to meet his commitment on a 50:50 cabinet only increases the urgency of promoting female TDs in other key roles.

There are 35 female TDs in the Dáil, the highest number and highest proportion in Irish history, and an increase of 40% from the 2011 general election.

It should be noted that the proportion of senior ministers who are women is 27%, higher than the 22% of TDs who are women.

Under the Constitution, the Taoiseach is allowed to appoint up to two Senators as ministers, but this is extremely rare in Irish history.

Louise Glennon from the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), said:

With women appointed to four Cabinet positions, this number remains the same as the number appointed in 2011, and means at 27% of cabinet seats, we have yet to breach the critical mass of 30%.
NWCI is disappointed that following the election in which the gender quota has ensured a historic number of women elected to the Dail, this number is not higher…

Read: We now have more female TDs than ever before – but do we really have gender quotas to thank?>

Read: Who’s in? Who’s out? These are your new ministers>

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