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'There will be disappointments': Martin responds to perceived 'snub' of deputy leader in Cabinet selection

Dara Calleary said that it was a setback not to be asked to head up a Department, but added that he is going to “get back on the horse”.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that he had a “limited choice” when appointing people to Cabinet, and said that he looked at suitability to the role when making his decision.

Meanwhile his Deputy Leader Dara Calleary told RTÉ that he wasn’t expecting to be offered the role of Chief Whip, but that he will “run with that ball”, and “get back on the horse”.

Speaking to reporters today after a post-Cabinet briefing held by the three party leaders, Martin addressed criticisms from within his party and from the general public about his “snub” of deputy Fianna Fáil leader Dara Calleary in assigning government portfolios.

Ahead of the Cabinet appointments on Saturday, it had been assumed that Calleary would be appointed to a senior role such as Justice Minister; he was instead appointed as Chief Whip, in charge of ensuring government TDs are in the Dáil chamber to take part in crucial votes, among other tasks. He will still be present at Cabinet meetings.

Speaking to MidWest Radio earlier today, Calleary said: “We had a very difficult conversation and I told him I was disappointed. I had hoped to lead a department. That’s always been my ambition and I can tell you that it’s still my ambition and it will happen, it will absolutely happen.”

In response, Martin said: “We’ve a limited choice each party leader has a limited number to appoint, calls have to be made in terms of the portfolios in particular.”

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have six senior positions at Cabinet, including the positions of Taoiseach and Tánaiste, while the Green Party has three.

“It’s very difficult, and I think there are a number of people who will be disappointed that they didn’t make the Cabinet table,” Martin said.

It’s very difficult for the individuals involved, I understand that.

When pointed out that his Deputy Leader didn’t get appointed to head up a Department while other Fianna Fáil TDs did, Martin said: “I don’t look at it that way at all.”

You take for example Michael McGrath in Public Expenditure…  I’m not interested in pay, it’s the suitability to the position.

“The Chief Whip is a very important position, it’s at the Cabinet table.”

It’s difficult…. It’s done on a range of criteria and calls have to be made… Unfortunately when a Cabinet is appointed, there will be disappointments.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening, Dara Calleary said that Martin “asked me to do the job as Chief Whip because he felt I have the skills to keep a three-party government together to deliver what is an ambitious programme for government”.

He admitted that the offer “wasn’t what I was expecting,”, and he wasn’t given much time to think about the offer. He added that he still has an ambition to lead a government Department in the future: “I will hopefully get to do that some day.”

[Micheál Martin's] analysis was that I have the skills to be Chief Whip, I’m going to take that ball, I’m going to run with that ball. I’ve had lots of contacts from former occupants of that office today, and lots of advice, which I will take on board.

“I’ve absolutely been bowled over by the support from people in the past few hours and days, and I intend to channel that support in terms of delivery and in terms of work around the Cabinet table [where] I’m privileged to be. 

“I’m incredibly spurred on by the support I’ve gotten in the past 48 hours, I cannot express that enough.

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“I’ve been very proud to be a member of Fianna Fáil, I’m very proud to play a part in our return to government – I’m very grateful for the honour to represent the people of Mayo in Dáil Éireann – and I’ve just been very heartened by their disappointed for me but also for the region.

I’m in politics to deliver, I’ve been given the opportunity to deliver nationally, now sitting around the table.
It’s what you do with setback, it’s what you do when things don’t go your way: do you decide to go in under it? Or do you decide to dust yourself down and get back on the horse? Well I’m getting back on the horse. I have a huge opportunity which many of my colleagues would love to have.

Social Protection, Rural Affairs and the Islands Minister Heather Humphreys said of the appointments:

“I know Hildegarde and I know Dara and both of them won’t hold back in terms of making their voices heard. I don’t envy anyone having to make that decision.”

Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill also expressed her disappointment with Martin’s appointments – namely that that no one from Northern Ireland was among the Taoiseach’s nominees to the Seanad.

“It is disappointing that one of the first actions that this Government has taken has ignored the people of the North,” she said.

Martin has promised to visit the North in the next number of days, O’Neill added.

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