Self-aware Humphreys ready to do the business
The move of Heather Humphreys to the Department of Business and Enterprise was not unexpected, given her constituency’s border proximity in the light of Brexit.
Ms Humphreys, 54, was born in the village of Drum, Co Monaghan, into the Presbyterian faith. Her family is steeped in the Orange Order, with her grandfather Robert James Stewart signing the Ulster Covenant opposing Home Rule in 1912.
Ms Humphreys was educated at St Aidan’s Comprehensive School in Cootehill, Co Cavan, before attending NUI Galway. She worked in various branches of Ulster Bank before being appointed manager of Cootehill Credit Union.
According to her biography: “Heather has being playing the piano since she was six. Her first job was in Butlins in Mosney (not as a red coat, but as a waitress).”
She and her husband Eric have two children and live on a farm. She was co-opted onto Monaghan County Council in succession to Seymour Crawford, following the ending of the dual mandate in 2003.
Elected in her own right in 2004 and again in 2009, Ms Humphreys was elected to the Dáil for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency in 2011, as part of Fine Gael recordbreaking performance.
She is the only Presbyterian member of the Oireachtas and was a surprise inclusion in Enda Kenny’s reshuffle in 2014 when she was appointed minister for arts, heritage and the gaeltacht.
She immediately became embroiled in controversy, though, when Fine Gael nominee John McNulty was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in advance of a Seanad byelection he was contesting for Fine Gael. He later resigned and withdrew from the byelection. The affair led many to question her appointment, but she has grown into ministerial life and oversaw the successful centenary commemoration of the 1916 Rising.
While not a natural media performer, she is self-aware of her limitations and plays to her strengths.
Her popularity within Fine Gael is considerable and her move to the Department of Business earned a broad welcome yesterday.
She aligned herself with Leo Varadkar early on in the leadership campaign and her position in Cabinet was never in threat. There was some talk she was in the running to be made Tánaiste.
Heather Humphreys: Move to Department of Business and Enterprise broadly welcomed.