While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s choices for Cabinet were not radical or ground-breaking, one pleasing aspect for the people outside the big urban areas was the creation of a dedicated Ministry for Rural Affairs with Mayo TD Michael Ring taking charge of the new department.
The appointment of a full cabinet Minister for Rural Affairs was recommended in the much-touted first report of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA), chaired by Pat Spillane, back in April 2014, but this was duly ignored by Enda Kenny, appointing a junior minister instead, who failed to get re-elected in 2016.
Rural affairs were part of the varied brief of Minister Heather Humphreys in the current government and she got an Action Plan for Rural Development up and running. The first formal progress report on its 276 actions for delivery across government, State agencies and other bodies over the next three years is due for publication in July.
Also this week, we congratulate West Cork Fine Gael TD Jim Daly on his selection as Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People. Having somebody in the upper echelons of power in Leinster House can only be good for the area, which benefitted substantially when the late Joe Walsh of Fianna Fáil was Minister for Agriculture for a number of terms and also previously when Fine Gael’s Jim O’Keeffe was a Minister of State.
Jim Daly represents a new generation of ambitious young politicians and his backing of Leo Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race increased his chances of the promotion he got on Tuesday last. We wish him well in his new portfolio at the Department of Health, following in the footsteps of Helen McEntee, who was highly commended for her work there, and there’s still a lot more to do as the number of older people in our society continues to increase.