Heather Humphreys has confirmed that she will be running two distinct departments in her role as Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands.
The Departments of Social Protection and Rural and Community Development previously reported to two ministers, Regina Doherty and Michael Ring.
Speaking to On the Record with Gavan Reilly this morning, Minister Humphreys said managing both departments would be “challenging” but insisted she was looking forward to getting started.
She said it will be her job to ensure that any coronavirus recovery is fair and inclusive.
“The ethos of my new department will be social inclusivity and ensuring that we prepare our country for economy recovery so that no person or no community, regardless of where they are, is left behind,” she said. “So that will my focus as I go into the department.”
One of the first decisions she will have to make is whether to extend the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
She said she expects most people to return to work in the coming weeks.
“Tomorrow Phase Three will commence which will mean the vast majority of businesses will be reopened,” she said.
“The remainder are due to open on July 20th and the PUP is due to continue until August 10th
“By that stage we will have a clearer picture in terms of the number of people who haven’t come back to work so we will review it at that point and then make a decision on the next steps.”
She said her main focus will be getting people back to work, something she said would “central to the promised July Stimulus Package.
“We will see where we are in August but I think there will be a lot of people going back to work on Monday because nearly everything is opened up at that stage,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Cavan Monaghan TD said she believes there is a “good geographical spread” – even though Taoiseach Micheál Martin failed to appoint any Cabinet ministers from Connacht, the south east or the north west.
Nine of the Cabinet ministers are from Dublin or the neighbouring counties of Meath and Wicklow, while three are from Cork.
Mayo TD Dara Calleary and Galway TD Hildegarde Naughton will both sit at the table but will not have ministerial votes.
“I think there is a good geographical spread actually,” said Minister Humphreys.
“The fact is that there are two senior people from the west who will sit at the Cabinet table.
“Hildegarde Naughten is from Galway and Dara Calleary is from Mayo. They are both excellent representatives and they will represent the rest and indeed the rest of the country very well at Cabinet.
“Hildegarde as you know has taken on a very important role in the department of transport and Dara, as the Chief Whip, holds one of the most important roles in Government.
“I have sat at Cabinet for the last number of years and once you are in the room, all voices are heard equally
“I know both of them and I know that they won’t hold back when it comes to making their views known and speaking up for issues in the west of Ireland.
“So, I don’t think there is any concern that there is not a good regional balance.”
You can listen back to the full interview here: