Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

16.56 15 Dec 2020


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Helen McEntee says she's 'absolutely determined' to get maternity leave in place for women in politics.

The Justice Minister said she's 'made it clear' she intends to take maternity leave herself next year, although she's still working through exactly how that will work.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Minister McEntee has become the first Cabinet minister in the history of the State to be pregnant while in office.

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She and her husband Paul Hickey are expecting their first child in May.

The announcement has led to a fresh debate around maternity leave for politicians, as councillors, TDs and senators currently aren't entitled to it.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has suggested she would be happy to 'pair' with Minister McEntee in Dáil votes if there's no time to get legislative changes in place before the minister's leave.

While the Government has committed to addressing the issue, Minister McEntee told The Hard Shoulder the specifics still need to be worked out.

She said: "I've made it clear I do want to take maternity leave - I think it should be something every woman should be entitled to, not just in politics.

"There isn't a set process for TDs, unfortunately, to take maternity leave - so it's something I'm still working through. As soon as I have an idea, I will be letting people know."

However, she stressed this isn't just a change that will impact her - and she hopes it's something that will encourage more women to get involved in politics.

She said: "This issue has come up a number of times, and unfortunately we've never made progress on it.

"I'm absolutely determined that whatever we put in place and whatever decision is taken... it will have a positive impact on so many young women who are getting into politics."

Return to normality

Today, the Government announced more details of its plan to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

Minister McEntee's baby is due in mid-May, and she said she's hopeful some sort of normality would resume by then.

She said: "I'd like to think come the summer we'll have started to roll [the vaccine] out... that things will have started to return to some sort of normality.

"It's very difficult to tell how this will happen. A lot of people have had a very difficult time: I've had friends who've had babies throughout this pandemic... it's been very difficult for them.

"For everybody, I really do hope we can start to look to next year and things can start to improve for everyone."

Main image: Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Picture by: Julien Behal/PA Wire/PA Images

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