Statement by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee
11 March, 2021
“There are still many barriers to women entering politics. One of those barriers is the lack of maternity and paternity leave for councillors, TDs, senators and ministers.
Women and men should know that having a family is not an impediment to a career in public life.
Just as many young girls as young boys want to succeed in politics.
Just as many girls as boys aspire to help our communities and our society by becoming public representatives and leaders.
But they do not see the equality of their dreams and ambitions matched in equality of representation.
Just as girls of my generation looked to the strong women who came before us for inspiration and guidance, those of us in politics now have a responsibility to make it easier for today’s girls to fulfil those dreams and ambitions.
I and my colleagues in Government are determined to change the current system for the next generation.
I welcome the fact that the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality is considering the question of maternity, paternity and other types of leave for public representatives.
The Assembly will produce its recommendations by the end of June.
I would particularly like to thank Minister Humphreys for agreeing to be Minister for Justice, as well as Minister of State Naughton for taking a significant proportion of work within the Department of Justice, during the period of my leave.
I am also extremely grateful to Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne for his help in assuming additional responsibilities in the Department of Justice during this period.
I recently published the Justice Plan 2021, a plan to build a justice system that works for everyone. Ministers Humphreys, Naughton and Browne will focus on ensuring the implementation of the Plan during my leave.
While I am very thankful to all my colleagues for their help and co-operation in accommodating me, it is clear that the lack of provision for maternity, paternity and other types of leave for those in public life is an issue that needs a long term solution.
I look forward to working with colleagues across politics to bring about these much needed changes.”
Notes for Editors
Minister Helen McEntee will step back from her position as Minister for Justice on April 30, 2021, in order to take a period of maternity leave.
On that date, the Taoiseach will assign Minister McEntee as Minister without Portfolio, which means the Minister will remain a member of the Government.
The Taoiseach will assign Minister Heather Humphreys to be Minister for Justice, in addition to her current responsibilities.
Minister McEntee, as Minister without Portfolio, will continue to be bound by her constitutional responsibilities as a Member of the Government.
While assigned as Minister without Portfolio, she will have no specific duties or responsibilities, or exercise any powers, in relation to the Department of Justice.
She will, however, in keeping with good practice during maternity leave, have the option of keeping in touch with Minister Humphreys on issues.
As Minister without Portfolio, Minister McEntee will be able to access all government papers, and be kept updated on ongoing work in respect of her former role and across government. However, the Minister without Portfolio would not commission work or take decisions in relation to the Department of Justice or the justice sector.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton will be temporarily assigned to the Department of Justice for the duration of Minster McEntee’s maternity leave and will be delegated responsibilities which will be proposed by Minister Humphreys and approved by government in the normal way.
Minister Naughton’s position as Minister of State for Justice will be in addition to her current position and responsibilities as a Minister of State attending Cabinet.
Minister Humphreys will also delegate additional responsibilities to James Browne, the current Minister of State for Law Reform in the Department of Justice.
Minister McEntee will be re-appointed Minister for Justice when her period of maternity leave ends on November 1st, 2021.
On that date, all functions temporarily delegated to the Ministers of State will return to Minister McEntee. The arrangement whereby Minister Naughton is temporarily assigned to the Department of Justice will stop.
By the end of June, the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality will produce proposals for a long term solution on maternity, paternity and other types of leave for public representatives.
The Government firmly believes that such reforms are crucial to increasing the participation of women in politics and will make it easier for women and girls to aspire to a career in politics and public life.
Ministerial responsibilities in the Department of Justice during Minister McEntee’s maternity leave
Minister Humphreys will have lead political responsibility for the Department of Justice, and in particular matters relating to security and policing. All commencement orders and statutory instruments will be submitted for approval and signature to Minister Humphreys, along with all security related matters.
Minister Humphreys will bring to Cabinet all proposed judicial appointments.
As Minister of State attending Cabinet, Minister Naughton will be appointed Minister of State for Justice, with responsibility for the courts and criminal justice legislation.
Minister Naughton will have responsibility for all proposed non-judicial appointments, along with annual reports from agencies and bodies in the criminal justice sector, and most legislation relating to the criminal justice sector, including responding to Private Members’ Bills. Minister Naughton will also be responsible for considering the recommendations of the Parole Board.
In addition to his previously agreed delegated functions, Minister Browne will temporarily take expanded responsibilities in relation to civil justice and immigration matters.
This will include annual reports from agencies and bodies in the civil justice sector, and most legislation relating to the civil justice sector, including responding to Private Member’s Bills.
All these temporary arrangements will cease on November 1st, 2021, when Minister McEntee returns from maternity leave.