urban divide | 

Leo Varadkar faces backlash from rural TDs after promotion of Neale Richmond

One Fine Gael TD, speaking privately, said Mr Richmond’s appointment was an “incredible decision”

Neale Richmond has been promoted to junior minister in the Department of Enterprise. Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA© PA

Gabija GataveckaiteIndependent.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing a backlash from his TDs for neglecting rural Ireland in appointing Dublin-based TD Neale Richmond as junior minister in the Department of Enterprise.

Former minister Michael Ring hit out at the “Dublin brigade” and last night accused some Cabinet ministers of not being able to keep their seats in an election.

Another former minister, Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea, accused the Government of being too “urban-centred”, while Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said he agreed with the need for more ministers outside of Dublin.

One Fine Gael TD, speaking privately, said Mr Richmond’s appointment was an “incredible decision” adding that they were “completely shocked” by the Taoiseach giving the ministry to a Dublin TD with little experience.

It comes as opposition TDs are reluctant to call for Mr English to resign his Dáil seat for fear their own affairs are not in order.

Labour will today call for Mr English to make a Dáil statement explaining how he gave the wrong information on the planning application in 2008.

A Labour source said former minister Mr English had not answered any questions on the controversy and that he should make a full Dáil statement explaining what happened.

Meanwhile, Mr Ring pointed to the 2020 general election and said he was the only FG TD in the country to get more votes than Sinn Féin.

He said Fine Gael has gone “too Dublin” and said the only “saving grace” for the party is Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys.

“We’re supposed to be a broad base party. There’s enough ministers in Dublin now,” he said.

He said he “never put a foot wrong” in his time as a minister and said the party was “wrong” to drop him.

“I brought in two seats and some of the Cabinet ministers we have now could hardly get elected,” he said. “It’s time a rural TD stood up now and started taking on the establishment, the Dublin brigade.”

Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín said 40pc of senior ministers in Government are now from Dublin, with all TDs in Dublin Rathdown being ministers.

“Dublin has 12 ministers, senior and junior, yet there are 10 counties without a minister at all,” he said.

Mr Tóibín said 60pc of Connacht counties have “no minister at all” and there are no Cabinet ministers in Connacht.

“This has enormous consequences for the spatial development of our country. The people who make the decisions tend to make the decisions in favour of the place that they know.”

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said he “hears what he is saying” and said he is “disappointed” to have not gotten the role, despite making a pitch for it.

“I personally would have loved to have been appointed – Louth has huge issues in relation to employment, health issues as well – but it’s for the Taoiseach to make those appointments,” he said.

However, he said Mr Richmond is a person he holds in “high regard” who will be an “excellent minister”.

Former justice minister Charlie Flanagan paid tribute to Mr Richmond, saying he has been around Leinster House for a decade.

“These things are very difficult for leaders and it’s been a difficult week,” Mr Flanagan said.

“I would have tipped Neale for elevation, he is an ideal choice and will make a great minister.”

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said Mr Tóibín made “fair points” in his comments.

“The ministers are unevenly distributed,” he said.

“There are a lot of complaints that rural Ireland is left behind and too urban-centred. The Government is very focused on urban areas.”

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