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Women TDs take prominent roles on Sinn Fein’s front bench

The party unveiled its new team on Thursday.

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald unveiled her new team at Leinster House in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald unveiled her new team at Leinster House in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald unveiled her new team at Leinster House in Dublin (Aine McMahon/PA)

Sinn Fein has promoted six female TDs to its front bench as the party gets set to lead the Opposition.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald unveiled the frontbench team which will shadow the Government in the new Dail on Thursday.

Ms McDonald said that TDs Pearse Doherty and Eoin O Broin would remain as the party’s spokesmen for finance and housing respectively.

TD Louise O’Reilly would become the party’s enterprise and employment spokeswoman, after previously holding the role of health spokeswoman.

Other female TDs to be given roles were Mairead Farrell (public expenditure and reform), Rose Conway-Walsh (higher education), Claire Kerrane (social protection), Kathleen Funchion (children) and Imelda Munster (media and tourism).

TD Padraig MacLochlainn is to be Sinn Fein’s chief whip. Other front bench spokesmen are Matt Carthy (agriculture), Donnchadh O Laoghaire (education), Darren O’Rourke (climate action), Martin Kenny (justice), John Brady (foreign affairs) and Aengus O Snodaigh (Gaeilge).

Ms McDonald said the party would “provide constructive and critical opposition to this Government. We will hold them to account, working with other parties in the opposition to do so”.

“We will hold the Government to account, bring forward solutions and continue championing the change that so many people want. I am very proud of our new frontbench team and the fact that we have strong representation from rural Ireland, as well as our cities,” she said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has insisted that the best people were chosen to become junior ministers, and added that there were no hard feelings between himself and TDs who were not promoted.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin defended the appointment of junior ministers, including Dara Calleary as chief whip.

He told RTE: “I need an experienced, able person who knows Dail Eireann to pull this together in terms of the legislative programme.”

He added: “In our case there was anticipation, maybe understandably from many people, to become a minister and unfortunately we did not have enough positions.”

Mr Martin had been expected to address the geographical imbalance after the Government was criticised for not appointing any senior ministers from a constituency in the west of Ireland.

While recently demoted ministers are usually given a junior minister role, there were more deputies seeking to be appointed than there were seats available so disappointment for some was inevitable.

Mr Varadkar said: “In terms of the appointments, as leader of Fine Gael, I had to go through 28 different TDs to come up with a final seven – you would usually have double the number.

“We had to take into account who the best people for the job would be – issues like geography and gender and so on. However, the overriding consideration was to pick the best people for the job.”

Former education minister Joe McHugh refused to take a junior position, while ex-housing minister Eoghan Murphy was not reappointed by Mr Varadkar.

Mr McHugh was offered his choice of a range of junior ministries but turned them down when it became clear he could not have a post in European affairs or tourism.

Mr Varadkar said: “Joe and I are good friends, we go back a long way. He was keen to have a bigger role but the role he wanted as minister for European affairs was not available – that had to go to someone in Fianna Fail.

“I would have liked him to have served as a minister of state again but he made his decision and I totally respect that.”

On Mr Murphy, the party leader said: “Eoghan had asked not to be considered for a ministry. I met Eoghan for a few drinks last night and we’re still very good friends and he is full of ideas and thoughts for the future.”

The 17 junior ministers, combined with the 15 Cabinet ministers and three “super junior” ministers, make the Government one of the largest in history.

PA