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Two counties have had fewer visits from Government Ministers than one Dublin hotel in 2015

Not all parish pumps are created equal, according to a new analysis by TheJournal.ie.

Kennedy's visit Ireland Source: Niall Carson/PA

IF YOU’VE SEEN a Government minister in the flesh over the last six months, the chances are you were in their constituency, or somewhere on the southside of Dublin.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis by TheJournal.ie of the government’s own official schedule of ministerial “public engagements” in 2015.

Over the last six months, for example, there were just two events involving government Ministers that happened in the counties of Offaly and Leitrim.

That’s the same number as took place in the popular southside Dublin restaurant Fallon & Byrne.

Since January, there were more official visits by government Ministers to the Merrion Hotel in Dublin (five), than Roscommon and Laois combined (four).

In all, 54% of the 703 public engagements by Ministers and Ministers of State took place in Dublin, and 75% of those were in south Dublin.

The capital makes a convenient spot for photocalls and policy launches, of course, but TheJournal.ie‘s analysis has found there were more events in even-numbered Dublin postcodes than Ulster, Connacht, and the rest of Leinster, combined.

And throughout the rest of the country, 44% of the events attended by a Minister, took place in or next to that Minister’s own constituency.

This analysis is based on the government’s own official list of engagements by ministers in their ministerial capacity.

That means these events and activities are, in theory, conducted on behalf of the entire country, and paid for by taxpayers.

engagements

The list doesn’t include meetings and openings by Ministers in their capacity as local TDs, which are organised and paid for by political parties, and it doesn’t include foreign visits.

For security reasons, the government does not publish a list of engagements for the Taoiseach or Minister for Justice.

In response to queries from TheJournal.ie, the Government Press Office objected to this article’s use of the official weekly schedule of ministerial engagements – which is issued by the Government Press Office – as its basis.

In a statement, they called it “a document that does not represent a complete picture of Ministers’ engagements.”

TheJournal.ie invited every government department to check that list, and respond if there were any variations, cancellations or additions.

Only Minister of State Joe McHugh did that, and provided an updated list of his public engagements, which was fully integrated into our analysis.

You can comb through that, along with the rest of the Ministerial schedule since January, below, but here are some of the highlights of what we found.

Homebodies 

Blue Star programme - Dublin Minister of State Dara Murphy, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny Source: Niall Carson/PA

Cork North Central TD Dara Murphy is the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for European Affairs and Data Protection, and as such, regularly represents Ireland at conferences and meetings in the EU.

His public engagements back home, however, have skewed towards one county – Cork.

Some 9 out of the 20 events Murphy has attended since January (45%) have taken place in his own backyard.

On one occasion in May, the Minister with responsibility for European Affairs attended the Ballincollig Community School Awards in Cork, but not an event with the Croatian Ambassador on the same day.

TheJournal.ie asked the Government Press Office to explain how Ministers’ public appearances are scheduled and decided on, and the role of geography and ministerial briefs in that process.

They responded that it was a “false premise that Ministerial engagements are or should be arranged on a geographic basis,” and that the location of events is decided by those inviting ministers to them.

In a statement, the press office added that “many Ministerial engagements derive from their portfolio responsibilities.”

The Ring of Mayo

Reviews of Tourism Policies Minister of State Michael Ring Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

One of the busiest and most-travelled members of the government this year is Michael Ring.

According to the government’s list, the Minister of State with Responsibility for Tourism and Sport has attended 83 events in 16 counties, as well as one foray over the border for the Irish Open in Co Down.

However, there is one county that appears again and again on his list of engagements – Mayo, the constituency he shares with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Ring has visited his home turf 28 times in an official capacity over the last six months – 34% of all his public appearances – including 11 events in his home town of Westport.

Sport and tourism are national concerns, and so any one county should, in theory, have a 1 in 26 chance of being the location of an event, but that probability rises to 1 in 3 for Mayo, when it comes to Mayo TD Michael Ring.

TheJournal.ie asked the Minister to account for that pattern, but did not receive a response.

Also in the North-West, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources, Donegal-East TD Joe McHugh has been busy since January.

He’s attended 86 events in 12 counties, but 24 of them have occurred in Donegal.

There’s a significant Gaeltacht region in Donegal, of course, but there were only four visits (comprising 19 events) to the Kerry, Cork, Connemara, Meath and Waterford Gaeltacht areas combined.

Competition in Cork

Labour Party Think Ins Labour TDs from the Rebel County, Kathleen Lynch and Seán Sherlock. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

After Dublin, Cork is by far the county most visited by government Ministers.

Cork South-Central TD and Agriculture and Defence Minister Simon Coveney has had 62 engagements in nine different counties since January.

And 27% of those have been in his home county, including events like the Evening Echo Ladies Sports Star Awards at the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to Fine Gael, however, with Labour’s Cork East TD Seán Sherlock attending 10 events in the Rebel County, out of a total of 28, which is 36%.

The Minister of State with Responsibility for Overseas Development Aid, Trade Promotion, and North-South Cooperation was at three events in his home town of Mallow, including the I WISH conference on women in science and technology.

His Labour party colleague and Minister of State in the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch, had four of her 16 engagements in her home county of Cork.

Three of those had to do with her specific ministerial brief of mental health and disability, as can be seen in the full list, below.

Staying in the South for a moment, Kerry North-West Limerick TD Jimmy Deenihan has visited just two counties so far in 2015 – Dublin and Kerry.

Aside from his trips abroad, the Minister of State for the Diaspora has conducted five of his 17 public engagements (29%) in the Kingdom.

He was due to attend the Listowel Food Fair on Thursday, but instead travelled to Berkeley, California, to give support to those involved in this week’s tragic balcony collapse.

Keepin’ it Countrywide

10th Annual Our World Irish Aid Awards Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan speaking at the Irish Aid Awards in Dublin on Wednesday. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

There were quite a few Government ministers whose public engagements were far more strictly related to their national role and specific portfolio.

One cabinet member without a single official visit to his own constituency was, perhaps appropriately, Ireland’s chief national representative, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Aside from his many trips abroad, the Laois-Offaly TD kept his 33 ministerial engagements to Dublin, Belfast and Armagh (the latter for North-South Ministerial Council meetings).

Similarly, Health Minister Leo Varadkar only had two ministerial engagements in his constituency of Dublin West (out of a total of 20).

They were visits to Connolly Hospital and St Francis Hospice, both in Blanchardstown.

Labour’s Dublin South TD Alex White only paid one visit to the constituency, out of 28, in his capacity as Minister for Communications.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys travelled to six different counties in Ireland, for 30 official engagements, only three of which were in her constituency of Cavan-Monaghan.

And Simon Harris, Minister of State for International Banking, the Office of Public Works, and Public Procurement, visited seven counties for 25 events, only two of them in his backyard of Wicklow.

He is also the only government minister to visit Leitrim so far this year.

Scroll down to read the list of Ministers’ official engagements in full, or click here.

http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2015/06/government-ministers-official-engagements-january-june-2015.pdf

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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