Taoiseach ‘proud’ of decision to pass junior Gaeltacht ministry to Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne

Harris indicates Chief Whip could have taken responsibility but is set to be busy with new duties in the area of special education

Taoiseach Simon Harris has said Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton could have become Minister of State for the Gaeltacht but was asked to take on significant extra responsibility with special education that would not have allowed her to do both roles.

Asked why Fine Gael had handed the role of Minister of State for the Gaeltacht back to Fianna Fáil when a series of ministerial appointments were made on Wednesday, Mr Harris replied that he was proud of the decision.

He said he had made no secret that he wanted to elevate the priority given to special education and bring that portfolio to Cabinet level. As Chief Whip, Ms Naughton sits at the Cabinet table.

In that context, and given the importance of the Irish language, he said it made absolute sense. The Minister of State in the parent Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Thomas Byrne, has taken on the Gaeltacht portfolio.


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“So this is about actually doing what is right by the country. And it is doing what is right in terms of the balance of work across the Government. Minister Byrne will be an excellent Minister in that regard.”

Government sources said this week that Fine Gael passed the ministry to Fianna Fáil because it was unable to find a candidate to take it who was proficient in Irish or willing to take on the role.

Asked about the decision in advance of the Fianna Fáil ardfheis, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he did not know if Fine Gael was unable to find a person with Irish. But he added it was a sensible decision and that Fianna Fáil was delighted that Mr Byrne, a fluent speaker, was taking on the role.

He said it made sense to have the ministry within the parent department. He said Mr Byrne was a really good advocate for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht regions and would be excellent in the role.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times