FRONT AND CENTRE The controversy surrouding the sacking of Barry Cowen has seen Mayo TD Dara Calleary promoted to the Government front bench just two weeks after he missed out on a senior cabinet portfolio. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin
Sacking of Barry Cowen sees Mayo TD get front bench Agricultural portfolio
The appointment of Dara Calleary as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine today (Wednesday) ‘makes some amends’ for his snubbing in the original senior ministries announced last month.
That’s according to Mayo’s longest serving Fianna Fáil councillor, Al McDonnell.
“It was an enforced change so I’m not sure the Taoiseach can come out of it with great credit but we have to be grateful for small mercies,” Cllr McDonnell told The Mayo News.
It was enforced after the sacking of Barry Cowen as agriculture minister last night over the ongoing controversy about his drink driving offence in 2016.
There had been considerable anger voiced of the lack of a senior cabinet minister west of the Shannon. This appointment has rectified that, albeit after a very early controversy for the new government.
Dara Calleary, Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Leader, had been expected to be one of the six Fianna Fáil senior cabinet ministers but he was overlooked last month and instead appointed as Government Chief Whip, a move which shocked many, including himself.
But following Cowen’s short stint at Agriculture, Calleary has been promoted. Al McDonnell is a farmer himself and says the appointment of Dara Calleary to agriculture is very beneficial to the region.
“I’m delighted for Dara personally and for Mayo and the west of Ireland. Agricultural activity is still a very prominent activity in Mayo and it is quite depressed at the moment and it is very important there is someone in that cabinet role who has an in-depth knowledge of the importance of agriculture to this region,” said Cllr McDonnell.
He said there was still ‘a great geographical imbalance’ in cabinet and was critical of both Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar for this.
He described the 47-year-old Ballina man as ‘affable, extremely approachable and, above all, extremely well informed’.
“He can speak on all issues eloquently and with authority and can represent us at any level, which he will have to do in this position as there will be a lot of engagement at European level with the new CAP and environmental schemes and I certainly hope he will have the best interests of farmers in the west of Ireland, together with all farmers in Ireland,” he said.
The 47-year-old Ballina man comes from a strong Fianna Fáil tradition. His late grandfather, Phelim Calleary, was a Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo North from 1952 to his retirement in 1969.
His late father, Seán, was a TD from 1973 to 1992 and served as minister of state in various governments.
Dara Calleary himself was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 2007 and has been elected at every election since. He was Minister of State for Labour Affairs from 2009-2011.
He’s a former Chairman of Ógra Fianna Fáil and prior to becoming a TD, worked with Chambers Ireland.