Meet your new ministers: What you need to know about the first-time cabinet members

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced his ministerial appointments this evening

Meet your new ministers: What you need to know about the first-time cabinet members

MerrionStreet.ie

The waiting is over. Over two months after the election, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced his new cabinet.

In this new Fine Gael minority government, there is continuity in only a handful of ministries: Michael Noonan is keeping the finance portfolio, Frances Fitzgerald stays in justice, Charlie Flanagan retains foreign affairs and Heather Humphreys hold onto arts. 

Four other Fine Gael TDs have moved to new roles: Leo Varadkar (health to social protection), Simon Coveney (defence to housing), Paschal Donohoe (transport to public expenditure) and Richard Bruton (jobs to education).

Former chief whip Paul Kehoe, a long-standing ally of Kenny, will be Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Defence.

Independent TDs who backed Kenny's return to power have also been repaid for their loyalty: three have been given senior cabinet positions and one a super junior ministry.

With a number of first-time Fine Gael ministers also being appointed, there are plenty of new faces in the lineup. 

Who are they?

Minister for Health: Simon Harris

The now 29-year-old Fine Gael TD for Wicklow was the youngest deputy in the last Dáil. Regarded as a potential future leader of the party, Mr Harris was promoted to Minister of State at the Department of Finance in 2014.

He also sat on the Dáil Public Accounts Committee and the Oireachtas finance committee during the last government’s term.

The media-savvy TD was elected to Wicklow County Council in 2009 with the highest percentage vote of any councillor in the country.

He ran unsuccessfully as a Fine Gael candidate in the 2014 European Parliament election.

Minister for Agriculture: Michael Creed

Long-time Fine Gael TD Michael Creed was the party’s agriculture spokesperson until 2010, when he was dropped from the role after supporting Richard Bruton’s heave against Enda Kenny.

The 52-year-old was co-opted onto Cork County Council in 1987 and replaced his father, former minister of state Donal Creed, as TD in 1989. He has held the seat since, barring one term after the 2002 election, which he lost.

A qualified teacher, he has served in a number of positions on the party's frontbench and was previously the chair of the Dáil small business committee.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs: Katherine Zappone

The new Dublin South-West TD was nominated to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2011, becoming the first openly lesbian members of the Oireachtas.

She and her wife, Anne Louise Gilligan, were prominent campaigners in the marriage equality referendum last year. The couple had fought to have their marriage recognised by the state in a number of unsuccessful legal actions.

Today’s appointment makes her the fifth TD to be granted a ministry at the beginning of their first term.

Born and raised in the US, Ms Zappone moved to Ireland and co-founded what is now the An Cosán community education centre in Tallaght in the 1980s. The 62-year-old was previously CEO  of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Minister for Tranport: Shane Ross

The Dublin Rathdown TD was an independent senator for Trinity College Dublin from 1981 to 2011, when he was first elected to the Dáil.  

The 66-year-old is the figurehead and co-founder of the Independent Alliance political grouping, which remained locked in last-minute government talks with Fine Gael until this afternoon.

An outspoken member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, he also serves as the non-executive director of investment funds registered in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands. 

Mr Ross was formerly the business editor of the Sunday Independent and an Irish Times stock exchange correspondent. His vocal criticism of CIÉ and trade union Siptu could make for uncomfortable meetings in the near future.

Minister for Jobs and Enterprise: Mary Mitchell-O’Connor

Mary Mitchell O’Connor entered the Dáil in 2011 and clinched the third Dún Laoghaire seat in the last election.

The former school principal was a county councillor for the Progressive Democrats from 2004 until 2007, when she joined Fine Gael, and was re-elected to the Dún Laoghaire local authority in 2009.

She made headlines as a newly-elected TD when she inadvertently drove over the Leinster House plinth on her first day. 

An advocate for small businesses, she has served on a number of Oireachtas committees and been a key contributor to Fine Gael education policy.

Minister for Communications: Denis Naughten

Independent Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten left Fine Gael in 2011 over cuts to emergency services at Roscommon Hospital.

A scientist by profession, the 42-year-old was first elected to the Dáil in 1997. He held a number of positions on the Fine Gael frontbench until 2010, with portfolios including agriculture, transport and public enterprise.

He is the son of the late former Fine Gael TD and senator Liam Naughten, whose Seanad seat he filled at the age of 24.

Super Junior Minister with Responsibility for Disabilities: Finian McGrath

Mr McGrath, a key member of the Independent Alliance, has been an independent TD since 2002. He took the fifth and final seat in the competitive Dublin Bay North constituency in the last election, edging out former Labour minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

His super junior ministry will allow him to sit at cabinet table, but he will have no voting rights. 

A prominent campaigner on equality and disability issues, the 63-year-old was the principal of an inner-city primary school before entering national politics.

He supported the Fianna Fáil-led coalition formed in 2007 after agreeing a deal with then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, but withdrew his support for the government over spending cuts in the 2009 Budget.  

Chief Whip: Regina Doherty

Meath East TD Regina Doherty served on a number of Oireachtas committees in the outgoing government’s term and was appointed to the new Dáil committee on reform in March. She was a county councillor for two years before being elected to national office in 2011.

The 45-year-old, a former IT professional, is said to have been strongly critical of the lack of junior female ministers following the last reshuffle in 2014.

Ms Doherty was among the most vocal Fine Gael backbenchers in the last Dáil, particularly in relation to IRA sex abuse claims. In 2014, she provided gardaí with details of allegations that the IRA moved nine suspected abusers across the border to the Republic.

All photos: RollingNews.ie