‘Geog­ra­phy over gen­der’ hits women in reshuf­fle

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Cabinet Reshuffle - Philip Ryan

FOR­MER Tanaiste Frances Fitzger­ald believes fe­male Cabi­net min­is­ters have to be “over-as­sertive” for male col­leagues to take no­tice.

In a new book Madam Politi­cian — The Women at the Ta­ble of Ir­ish Po­lit­i­cal Power, Fitzger­ald re­counts be­ing reg­u­larly over­looked by Cabi­net col­leagues.

“I have ex­pe­ri­enced again and again and again in Cabi­net and else­where of putting for­ward an idea [and] of hav­ing a man put for­ward the same idea and the ref­er­ence be­ing made back to the man, not me,” she told au­thor Martina Fitzger­ald.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar an­nounced four new min­is­te­rial ap­point­ments yes­ter­day. Fitzger­ald, who was forced to re­sign form Cabi­net last Novem­ber over the Garda whistle­blower scan­dal, was not one of those ap­point­ments.

Last Thurs­day, Jus­tice Peter Charleton found Fitzger­ald acted ap­pro­pri­ately in her han­dling of the af­fair over which she lost her job. She feels she has been vin­di­cated. How­ever, she was not among the four ap­point­ments made by the Taoiseach.

The emer­gency reshuf­fle fol­lowed the shock res­ig­na­tion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten. It was made in haste ahead of the up­com­ing con­fi­dence and sup­ply talks with Fianna Fail. The Taoiseach’s spokesper­son said Richard Bruton was ap­pointed Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter be­cause he was a solid pair of hands.

Joe McHugh from Done­gal was ap­pointed Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter. Sean Kyne re­placed McHugh as chief whip, while In­de­pen­dent TD Sean Can­ney was ap­pointed to a ju­nior min­istry. Can­ney and Kyne are both from Gal­way.

The spokesper­son said the three ap­point­ments were made with “re­gional bal­ance” in mind. You could call it geog­ra­phy over gen­der.

Yes­ter­day, Fitzger­ald told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent she “un­der­stands” and “re­spects” Varad­kar’s de­ci­sion and maybe she does.

The Taoiseach, how­ever, is acutely aware of ac­cu­sa­tions of misog­yny lev­elled against him. The thought was to the fore of his mind in the days lead­ing up to Fitzger­ald’s res­ig­na­tion.

He did not want to be seen as the young Taoiseach who sacked the most se­nior fe­male cabi­net min­is­ter dur­ing his first six months in of­fice.

Varad­kar came in for crit­i­cism when he was elected Taoiseach for not pro­mot­ing women. In fact, the only de­mo­tion he handed out was to Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who was rel­e­gated to a ju­nior min­istry, al­beit with Cabi­net ac­cess. He also sacked Mar­cella Cor­co­ran Kennedy.

In Madam Politi­cian, Mitchell O’Connor says she was struck by the lack of women in the meet­ings she would at­tend as min­is­ter. “Nearly ev­ery meet­ing that I go to there’s a ma­jor­ity of men in the room,” she says. The Taoiseach’s reshuf­fle won’t be chang­ing that.

The three fe­male TDs who backed Si­mon Coveney dur­ing the lead­er­ship con­test — Kate O’Con­nell, Hilde­garde Naughton and Maria Bai­ley — are still out in the cold. Mean­while, the Taoiseach is throw­ing his full sup­port be­hind Ju­nior Min­is­ter Pat Breen de­spite his ques­tion­able role in or­gan­is­ing the pri­vate din­ner which led to Mr Naugh­ten’s res­ig­na­tion.

But then Breen did show loy­alty to the Taoiseach dur­ing the lead­er­ship cam­paign. He also dealt Si­mon Coveney an em­bar­rass­ing blow by declar­ing for Varad­kar within hours of stand­ing with the Tanaiste in his na­tive Clare — one of those re­gions the Taoiseach likes. Fe­male TDs will again have to wait their turn in Varad­kar’s govern­ment.

POWER: Frances Fitzger­ald, women have to be as­sertive

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