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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Paul Hosford/

Vincent Browne Appointing unqualified ministers is an airhead absurdity we inherited from the British

There is no wonder ministers make cock up after cock up, writes Vincent Browne for

FINIAN MCGRATH WAS appointed, 10 days ago, as a junior minister in the Department of Health, with responsibility for provisions for disabled people.

On an RTÉ radio interview today, he said on a number of occasions he was a cabinet minister, presumably on the grounds that he is permitted to attend cabinet meetings.

Claiming to be a cabinet member, of course, sounds better than acknowledging he is just a mere junior minister.

Straight after becoming junior minister in the Department of Health, he has given good reason for his immediate dismissal by seeking to undermine one of the few really successful health initiatives taken on health in the last two decades: the ban on smoking in public places.

But he is to be accorded the pardon appropriate to him, as should also be accorded to him on deciding to somersault on his “principled” stance in refusing to pay his water charges.

Finian McGrath doesn’t matter one way or another but he is a fine example of the absurdity of appointing people to offices for which they are not remotely qualified.

He gets into the ministerial compound because of a squalid little deal done by Fine Gael with independent TDs.

But just have a look at some of the other ministerial appointments.


What possible qualification does Mary Mitchell O’Connor have to be Minister for Jobs? She was one of the least impressive government backbenchers in the last Dáil. I can find just a handful of mentions of jobs during the five and a bit years she has been there.

The position of Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been central to government strategy on one of its priority areas, so why was she appointed?

Shane Ross did have some experience in his earlier life in directing traffic, but how does that brief apprenticeship qualify him to be Minister for Transport?

What does Simon Harris know about health and why wasn’t Leo Varadkar left there, since his two years’ experience in the role gave him some qualification for the position?

And, by the way, what does Leo know about social protection?

Denis Naughten is an able fellow – as are Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris – but what are his qualifications for the position of Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources?

Heather Humphreys has had some brief experience as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht but was struggling with the brief. Why then are rural affairs dumped in there?

Was this not a key issue for the independents or, because they have got the jobs, it doesn’t matter any more?


Michael Noonan has been retained in finance. Why?

Yes, the last government more or less resolved the fiscal crisis but what had he to do with the strategy that achieved this? That was the late Brian Lenihan strategy. Fine Gael promised in 2011 that it would seek to burn the bondholders but it never sought to do that and Noonan was the lead minister in that capitulation – aided and abetted of course by Enda Kenny.

Michael Noonan was also the Minister that pushed NAMA and IBRC into fire sales of assets then owned by the Irish people at enormous cost to this society.

Remember the controversy over Siteserv and IBRC in the course of which Michael Noonan announced that henceforth IBRC would be required to forward the minutes of its board meetings to the Department of Finance and then it was acknowledged that IBRC had been doing this all along but the Minister didn’t know about it?

Didn’t know about the financially momentous decisions being taken by the board of IBRC on the disposal of hugely valuable assets owned by the Irish people?

He was the cutie who, based in self-congratulation, came up with or at least trumpeted the “Keep the Recovery Going” slogan for the recent election and look what that did to Fine Gael.

Why is this fellow still around?

But aside from all this, the truth is that only rarely have any ministers appointed by successive governments had the requisite qualifications for the position.

It is an airhead absurdity we inherited from the British and we wonder why ministers make cock up after cock up.

We elect people to our parliament not to be ministers but to take policy decisions on the main issues in accordance with the commitments they give to the electorate.

TDs are not elected for their executive capacities and they should not be entrusted with them. That should be the role of professional managers appointed to execute the decisions taken by the Dáil.

Politics now is primarily about which crowd gets the ministerial jobs, not, primarily, about policy, although that is disguised in the blather that goes for political debate.

The Brits were not right about everything you know.

Vincent Browne: This is the worst possible outcome of the general election

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