This blog, I am hoping, will motivate me to write more. Since finishing my degree, I have spent the last month or so looking for a job. So in the meantime, I will write a weekly round-up of the week in politics. It will be mostly Irish centric but, not exclusively.
Monday the 29th marked the most significant step yet in exiting the lockdown as travel restrictions lift and many restaurants and pubs open their doors for the first time in 104 days.
It also saw Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party’s first week in Government together, the first points of order were divvying up who got what job. The top position of Taoiseach went to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. The outgoing Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael Leo Varadkar will now be the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan will be the Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport.
The other ministers are as follows:
Foreign Affairs and Defence: Simon Coveney (FG), Higher Education, Innovation and Science: Simon Harris (FG), Finance: Paschal Donohoe (FG), Public Expenditure and Reform: Michael McGrath (FF), Justice: Helen McEntee (FG), Education: Norma Foley, Health: Stephen Donnelly (FF), Children, Disabilities, Equality and Integration: Roderic O’Gorman (GP), Social Protection, Community, Rural Development and the Islands: Heather Humphreys (FG), Housing, Local Government and Heritage: Darragh O’Brien (FF), Agriculture and the Marine: Barry Cowen (FF), Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht: Catherine Martin (GP), Chief Whip: Dara Calleary(FF).
It was a tumultuous first week for Micheal Martin faced a double backlash within hours of his appointment for ignoring the country’s west coast in Cabinet and sidelining others tipped for ministerial posts. It emerged there are no senior ministers from any of the counties stretching from Malin Head in Donegal to the border of Kerry and Limerick. And there’s nothing for most of the South-east, with Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford all without representation too.
It was also reported that Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary objected to being appointed Government Chief Whip during a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin. More TD’s came out to express their disappointment at not getting ministerial roles, which highlights the fractiousness within the party’s when forming the 33rd Government.
Nine of the 15 new ministers – 11 men and just four women – come from the Greater Dublin area, two from Greystones in Wicklow and three from the one constituency in Cork.
As the junior ministers were announced on Wednesday things seemed to go from bad to worse. Dublin TD Jim O’Callaghan turned down a junior ministry.
Fianna Fáil Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan was disappointed not to have received a junior ministry, and was reported as saying that the Taoiseach had “insulted me and my community” by not appointing him a junior minister, adding that he was “very, very disappointed with him”.
Let’s not forget Sinn Féin
Opposition party Sinn Féin came under fire, excuse the pun, after attending the funeral of Bobby Storey in west Belfast. The Northern Executive’s guidance on funerals stipulates that a maximum of 30 people should attend a funeral, around 1,800 mourners gathered to pay their last respects.
The first minister and Democratic Unionist leader, Arlene Foster, has called on her coalition partner Michelle O’Neill, of Sinn Féin, to temporarily resign as deputy first minister over the controversy.
Another FF gaff
The story blighting SF at the start of the week eventually got taken over by the new Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Barry Cowen. It was reported Mr Cown served a three-month driving ban in 2016 after being found by gardaí to be drink-driving after attending the All-Ireland football final.
Mr Cowen has said he is “embarrassed” and “humiliated” over a driving ban he received for drink driving, and has described it as a “terribly stupid, stupid mistake” that he regrets. It is unclear how this because a story now, rather than four years ago.
Then another FF blunder struck when it was reported that Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher flew from a covid-19 hot zone to sit in the Convention Centre where the Dáil was sitting.