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Helen McEntee returns as Justice Minister today after six months maternity leave

McEntee gave birth to a boy in April, becoming the first woman to have a baby while serving in Cabinet.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Nov 2021

HELEN MCENTEE HAS returned as Minister of Justice today after six months maternity leave.

McEntee gave birth to a boy in April, becoming the first woman to have a baby while serving in Cabinet.

In a video message posted on Instagram on Monday, the Meath East TD said she had “mixed emotions”, but was “really looking forward to getting back to work”.

I’ll be in the constituency today and obviously up to the department later on in the week.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys took over the role as Minister for Justice – in addition to her own portfolio – while McEntee was away. Hildegard Naughten, the super junior minister, also took on some justice duties as well as her existing junior responsibilities.

Due to public office holders not being entitled to maternity leave, previous politicians who have become mothers have claimed sick leave when they take time off to have and look after their newborn baby.

The Taoiseach said earlier this year said the current legal framework is “based on completely outdated assumptions and attitudes in this area”.

The government has said it will legislate to make the changes needed as regards maternity leave for those holding office.

The Taoiseach said there is an absolute requirement for permanent reform in this area to ensure full equality for all public representatives and the need to introduce maternity and paternity leave for councillors, Senators, TDs, and Ministers.

Before taking maternity leave, McEntee said: “Just as girls of my generation looked to the strong women who came before us for inspiration and guidance, those of us in politics now have a responsibility to make it easier for today’s girls to fulfil those dreams and ambitions.”

Speaking ahead of McEntee’s return, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar expressed his thanks to Minister Humphreys for stepping into the role for the last six months. Humphreys and Varadkar said they are both delighted to have McEntee back from this week.

Varadkar said the Fine Gael side of government has been short-staffed recently, with McEntee on maternity leave, Further Education Minister Simon Harris off on paternity leave for a period and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney being abroad on State business frequently.

“It will be good to have the full team back next week,” said Varadkar, who said he is looking forward to getting a lot of work done between now and Christmas.

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