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Here are 7 things you need to know about the junior minister reshuffle

Analysis: It’s no country for old men or young women but there’s a big promotion for one young man.

AFTER THE CABINET reshuffle last week Enda Kenny and Joan Burton shuffled their junior ministerial ranks today with promotions for some, demotions for others and a move sideways for one.

With less at stake when it comes to Minister of State positions there was a bit more movement than there was among the senior ministers last week.

Labour took the opportunity to promote some of those who were elected in the historic 2011 general election while Fine Gael did similar while also rewarding some old hands and dropping a few other older heads.

Here’s what we’ve learned from the last chapter of The Great 2014 Ministerial Reshuffle…

1. Enda fails to solve his women issues 

The Taoiseach’s ability to surprise us showed itself again today as he neglected to appoint any Fine Gael women to the junior ministerial ranks despite widespread expectations that at least one of Regina Doherty, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor or Aine Collins would get the nod. Despite being widely praised for appointing Heather Humphreys to the Arts ministry last week, Kenny will not be earning plaudits for ignoring females today.

It’s been noted by quite a few that the junior ministerial ranks overall lack female participation with only Labour’s Ann Phelan (rural affairs) and Kathleen Lynch, who remains in her post while also taking on Alex White’s primary care portfolio. With gender quotas in place for the next general election, this will do little to inspire women thinking about entering politics.

2. Fine Gael has a looming Dublin problem 

While Labour gave a nod to women and Dublin with the appointment of Kevin Humphreys, Aodhan Ó Riordáin and Ann Phelan, Fine Gael ignored both issues. We’ve touched on the women problem but Dublin is also increasingly an issue for the biggest party in the State. It did not fare well in the capital in the local and European elections where their council numbers fell dramatically and Brian Hayes just squeezed onto the plane for Brussels.

Appointing Labour’s Humphreys was always going to deny his constituency colleague in Dublin South East, Eoghan Murphy, a promotion. But what about Mary Mitchell-O’Connor in Dún Laoghaire which now unusually doesn’t have any government minister after Eamon Gilmore’s departure from Cabinet last week.

Fine Gael has no southside government ministers whereas it had three as recently as last year – Brian Hayes, Alan Shatter, and Lucinda Creighton. Could it live to regret this in 2016?

Promotions for a number of rural TDs may solve individual constituency issues like in Cork North Central (Dara Murphy) and Donegal North East (Joe McHugh) but Dublin has been ignored as has Galway where some had thought Fine Gael’s Seán Kyne was in with a shout of a promotion.

3. Joan rewards the class of 2011 

Last week the first-time TD for Louth Ged Nash got the nod to sit at Cabinet as a super junior minister. This week, Joan Burton kept to her commitment to reward the 2011 intake of Labour TDs by giving promotions to Kevin Humphreys, who joins her in the Department of Social Protection; Ann Phelan, who takes on rural affairs; and Aodhan Ó Riordáin who is a junior justice minister.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 14.54.10 Joan Burton was joined by her new junior minister Kevin Humphreys in the Dáil today.

The likes of Michael McCarthy, Ciara Conway, John Lyons and Arthur Spring can consider themselves unlucky but may yet get some of the vacant spots on the high-profile Public Accounts Committee as a reward for their efforts. 

4. Damien English gets his turn 

The Fine Gael TD for Meath West was considered by many to have been unlucky when he missed out on a junior ministry as Tom Hayes succeeded the late Shane McEntree at the Department of Agriculture last year.

But today English was handed a weighty role at the Department of Education, reward for his hard work over the years and not least in getting McEntee’s daughter, Helen, elected in Meath East last year.

5. No country for old men 

Labour dropped the veteran Joe Costello (69) as junior foreign affairs minister while Fine Gael dropped Dinny McGinley (69), John Perry (57) and Fergus O’Dowd (65).

The promotions of Fine Gael’s Simon Harris, Dara Murphy, Damien English, Paudie Coffey and Joe McHugh – all in their late 20s or early 40s – shows a clear desire to give youth – or what passes for youth in the Dáil – a chance.

The only other junior minister to be dropped, the youthful Ciaran Cannon (48), was unfortunate to lose his position in the education ministry and his departure is being lamented by some teachers:

6. Simon Harris continues his meteoric rise 

The Wicklow TD straddled two of the most important Oireachtas committees – PAC and Finance – and now finds himself in easily the most important junior minister job of all – Minister of State at the Department of Finance. It’s a huge brief which Brian Hayes relished before opting to become an MEP.

Harris wanted to be one too but missed out. This promotion is widely seen as his reward for playing his part in getting two Fine Gael MEPs elected in Ireland South. He’s the Dáil’s youngest deputy but will now have to show he’s one of its most capable in this demanding brief.

Vine: Michael Ring turned up late for the junior ministers photocall, blaming traffic on his way to Government Buildings from the RDS. 

7. Does anyone actually care?

If people were generally apathetic about the Cabinet reshuffle last week then they are unlikely to pay much, if any, attention to this bout of reshuffling. For those who inhabit the political bubble it is interesting to observe which backbenchers have got the nod and are clearly being earmarked for future Cabinet positions – if they become available.

But the general public won’t pay much attention to this unless they have a new minister in their constituency in which case that possibly benefits the TDs who got the nod today. But we won’t know for sure until the next election.

Confirmed: Harris is junior finance minister, Joe Costello sent to backbenches

Earlier: The junior minister reshuffle is happening right now, here’s what we know so far…

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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