The Minister for Justice has thanked the public for its support as she prepares to begin her maternity leave.
Helen McEntee will become the first serving minister to take maternity leave when she begins her six-month leave tomorrow.
The Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys will stand in as acting Justice Minister in her absence, with junior ministers James Browne and Hildegarde Naughton also taking on extra responsibilities.
Minister McEntee will remain a ‘Minister without Portfolio’ throughout her leave.
Speaking at her last public engagement this afternoon, she said she hopes it will one day become routine for politicians to avail of maternity leave.
“I have to say I have had nothing but positive responses from colleagues, from my community, constituents and from members of the public and I just want to thank everyone for that support.
“I think it is really important that women see other women in roles and positions being able to take maternity leave; being able to return to their jobs and return to the position they were in before.
“Obviously, most importantly, what I hope to see in the future is that this won’t just apply to me but that other ministers, other TDs, senators, counselors will be able to avail of maternity leave in a way that currently doesn’t exist.”
She said the manner in which her maternity leave was organised was “very much a sticking plaster” while new laws are drafted to allow for it in the future.
“It is not a long-term measure that we hope to put in place for whoever might come down the line,” she said.
She noted that the Citizens’ Assembly has been asked to make recommendations on what legislative or Constitutional changes may be required to ensure politicians are fully supported to take maternity leave moving forward
“There is a very commitment from Government at every level of Government to act on that as quickly as possible and to engage where necessary either with the Oireachtas or with members of the public if a Constitutional referendum is what’s required.
Minister Without Portfolio
As 'Minister Without Portfolio,' Minister McEntee will remain a member of the Government but will have no specific duties or responsibilities.
She will be unable to exercise any powers in relation to the Department of Justice; however, she will have the option of keeping in touch with Minister Humphreys as needed.
She will be able to access all government papers and be kept updated on ongoing work in respect of her department.
Minister McEntee is due to return to her role on November 1st.
With reporting from Kacey O'Rioodan and Jack Quann