Supporting Opinion

Naughton snub sees wait go on for Galway Minister

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When the next general election takes place early next year (if the Government lasts that long) it will be almost 15 years since County Galway has had a full Minister.

And yet, from the 1970s through to 2011, there was never a period longer than one Dáil term when there was not a Minister in Galway West. The most recent was Éamon Ó Cuív, who was Minister for Social Protection and, before that, the Gaeltacht.

Then there were all the Fianna Fáil and PD Ministers: Bobby Molloy, Máire Geoghegan Quinn; and Frank Fahey. In there too, was Michael D Higgin who was Minister for the Arts between 1992 and 1997.

For the last three decades, there have been plenty of junior ministers in Galway East – Paul Connaughton, Noel Treacy, Michael Kitt, Ciaran Cannon, Anne Rabbitte – but never a senior minister.

Given Galway’s population and geographic importance, 15 years is a long time for us not to have a senior Minister.

That all seemed about to be righted earlier this week when the word went around Leinster House that new Taoiseach Simon Harris would appoint Hildegarde Naughton to Cabinet. She was “a perfect fit” for Harris’ old portfolio of Higher and Further Education, one senior person in Fine Gael told me.

But it was not to be.

Naughton is the Government Chief Whip. As such, she is Fine Gael’s super junior, one of three Ministers of State who are entitled to sit at Cabinet meetings.

Between 2020 and 2023, she had been the ‘super junior’ for road safety, aviation and sustainable travel.

When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach, she could not retain that role as the Chief Whip job will always go to a TD from the Taoiseach’s party. And Fine Gael could not hold two super juniors.

Pictured: New Taoiseach Simon Harris flanked by Galway Senator Sean Kyne and Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. Photo: Andrew Downes, Xposure.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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