A new Taoiseach was elected on Saturday and a range of new Ministers were appointed. Here’s all you need to know about them:
Micheál Martin – Taoiseach
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (59) is the poster boy for persistence. Thirty one years after he was first elected to the Dáil, 22 years after he was first mentioned as a future taoiseach and nine years after he became party leader he has finally reached the political pinnacle of Taoiseach.
He became party leader in 2011 just weeks before the general election when Fianna Fail lost 51 seats in the fall-out from the economic collapse. The five wilderness years were spent re-organising the party and its decimated cohort of TDs.
In 2016 Fianna Fáil had a mini-revival, regaining 23 seats and in the 2019 local elections won the most seats of any party. The four years since were spent building up a still volatile parliamentary party but Fianna Fáil suffered further losses in the 2020 election and dropped six seats, partially blamed on the party’s confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael.
The 2020 election had become do or die for Martin, whose Cork South-Central constituency will now be home to three Cabinet members – himself as Taoiseach, his party colleague Michael McGrath and former tánaiste Simon Coveney.
The first Cork Taoiseach for 41 years since Jack Lynch, he has been a TD since 1989, served on Fianna Fail’s front bench since 1995 and held four senior government portfolios during the party’s time in office – foreign affairs, health, education and enterprise.
Single-minded and driven with a huge work ethic, the pragmatic Martin can be sensitive to criticism. A good media performer he is however seen by some within the party as distant and colleagues are hoping that communications within the party will improve.
Health conscious and very proud of introducing the smoking ban in Ireland, he has pushed the Public Health (Alcohol) Act despite the reluctance of rural TDs within the party.
Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
After a terrible election result and what appeared initially to be a guaranteed trip across the Dáil to the opposition benches, Leo Varadkar’s fortunes have been transformed along with those of his party.
His calm and assured leadership performance through the coronavirus pandemic combined with a lengthy stalemate over coalition formation talks have resulted in Fine Gael soaring from losers to clear victors in the opinion polls and with Varadkar moving from spent political force back to key player.
Nobody has batted an eyelid at the fact that he will preside over the party’s abandonment of its Civil War stance after a century and move into a historic government coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.
Even less remarked on has been his demotion to Tánaiste for over two years as Fine Gael participates in the previously vilified notion of rotating taoiseach. But he also leads his party into an unprecedented third term in office.
A social agenda trailblazer, he is Ireland’s first openly gay minister, the State’s youngest taoiseach and is now Tánaiste. The son of an Irish mother and Indian father, his qualification as a doctor helped during the pandemic and assured him of good publicity when he decided to re-register as a medic and said he would do half a day a week on the helpline for people who suspected they had the Covid-19 virus.
Never one to shy away from a photo opportunity, the 41-year-old was also the first taoiseach to assiduously use social media to push his message and his carefully cultivated image. And he got into the much discussed habit during lockdown of quoting a variety of books, films and other media in his speeches.
He has also used his speeches to throw out provocative messages reflecting his economic views including his oft quoted controversial remark that Fine Gael should represent those who “get up early in the morning”.
He previously served as minister for social protection, for transport and for health and now moves into the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. But it remains to be seen if he will innovate rather than merely manage as he was perceived to have done in his previous portfolios.
Michael McGrath – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
When political heavy hitter Michael McGrath (43) became Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman, then minister for finance Michael Noonan pronounced that the accountant had a big future ahead of him in politics.
That future has finally arrived for the Cork South-Central TD who has been finance spokesman since 2011, when Fine Gael was in coalition with Labour and again when Fine Gael relied on Independents and Fianna Fáil’s confidence and supply arrangement.
First elected to the Dáil in 2007 he has retained his seat at each subsequent election. It has been a long road for the man who will finally take the helm at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
A constituency rival and colleague of his party leader he is seen as a potential successor, is well liked by his party colleagues and has a well-oiled constituency machine.
Originally from Passage West but now living in Carrigaline with his wife Sarah O’Brien and seven children, he secured a first-class honours commerce degree in UCC and qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG in Cork City.
A central member of the party’s negotiating team in the government formation talks, he is a low-key, calm and effective spokesman.
Stephen Donnelly – Minister for Health
The appointment of Stephen Donnelly to Cabinet makes it two Ministers for Health in a row for his Wicklow constituency taking the baton from Simon Harris. It is a job often seen as a political crucifixion for the holder.
Elected to the Dáil as an Independent on his first attempt in 2011, he went on to form the Social Democrats with Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy in 2015 and surged to a poll-topping performance in Wicklow in 2016.
Shortly afterwards however, he left the party following disagreements with his co-leaders.
In the Dáil he has since had a number of disagreements with the Social Democrats on the much lauded Sláintecare plan and all eyes will be keenly watching how he deals with the much debated health roadmap.
After a short second span as an Independent he joined Fianna Fáil in 2017. While party leader Micheál Martin saw his recruitment as a major coup, his arrival left many noses out of joint in Fianna Fáil. Those tensions and the move, appeared to dent his 2020 election chances but he was elected on the 15th count.
Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Another member of the Fianna Fail negotiating team to get a seat at the big table Darragh O’Brien (45) becomes Minister for Housing in the new three party Government.
Party spokesman on housing, planning and local government in the last Dáil, he was first elected to the Dáil in 2007. He lost out in the 2011 decimation of the party in the economic recession. He became one of 51 party TDs to be defeated at the hands of angry voters. He successfully ran for the Seanad that year on the Labour panel and became Seanad leader, keeping a place in the Oireachtas.
But his Dáil defeat had a salutary effect, resulting in him building up a strong constituency base with his brother as a local councillor. It may have contributed to local party tensions with Dublin Fingal colleague former senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee.
He went on to top the poll in Dublin Fingal in the 2016 general election.
Before entering politics he worked in the financial services sector for 15 years as an area manager with Life Assurance Company.
He was elected to Fingal County Council in 2004 before successfully contesting a Dáil seat in 2007.
He is married with a young family.
Barry Cowen, Minister for Agriculture and the Marine
The no-nonsense Fianna Fail spokesman on public expenditure and reform Barry Cowen (52) has been appointed Minister for Agriculture. The man who sealed the fate of the water charges in the 2016 government formation negotiations, was again a key member of the negotiating team this time round.
The 2016 talks led to the confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael but left Fianna Fail out of government. The intense five-weeks campaign in 2020 led to government and the reward of a seat at the top table for the Clara, Co Offaly native.
A brother of former taoiseach Brian Cowen he has been spokesman in a number of portfolios since his election to the Dáil in 2011.As well as spokesman on public expenditure and reform he also held the position of spokesman on environment and local government and on social protection.
A married father of four, he was first elected to Offaly county council in 1999, where he served until his election to the Dáil to the seat vacated by his brother.
A member of the Cowen family has represented Offaly in the Dáil continuously since 1977. His father Bernard Cowen was elected in 1969 but lost his seat in 1973. He regained it in 1977 and held it until his death in 1984.
Norma Foley, Minister for Education
Kerry TD Norma Foley, who nominated her party leader Micheál Martin to be Taoiseach has been appointed Minister for Education, five months after her election to the Dáil for the first time.
Martin is said to prefer TDs to have done at least a term on the backbenches but the new TD who is a teacher by profession, has shown herself to be an impressive performer and has been effective at the Covid-19 committee in the questioning of witnesses. Calm, courteous and well prepared, she has a great grasp of detail and the bigger picture.
The Tralee native took the fifth and final seat in the general election in Kerry, edging out her running mate and outgoing TD John Brassil.
It is her second run at the Dáil, having been on the Fianna Fáil ticket in the 2007 election, when she was selected over Brassil.
Since 2004, Foley has represented the people of Tralee Municipal District on Kerry County Council, topping the poll in last May’s local elections.
She has also served on Tralee Town Council, and held the position of mayor of Tralee on three occasions, most recently in 2017/2018. In 2018/2019 she served as mayor of Kerry.
She is the daughter of the late Denis Foley, who served as a TD for the constituency for 18 years, broken up by a three-year stint as a senator. He was named as the holder of an undisclosed offshore Ansbacher account.
She is married to fellow teacher Denis Maguire.
Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence
He may have lost his role as tánaiste but Simon Coveney (48) has retained the much coveted position of Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Greatly admired by departmental staff as probably the hardest working Minister in that portfolio, he has received much acclaim for his efforts in dealing with Brexit and is seen as the driving political force in Ireland securing its temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Loved by the party’s grassroots and accessible to TDs and Senators, he still retains ambitions to be party leader and is seen as likely to get there. A cautious and moderate politician, his tearaway teenage years when he was expelled from Clongowes school for drinking and partying, before being asked back – are at odds with his later serious image.
From Cork’s so-called merchant class and a keen rugby and sailing fan, he has a degree in agriculture and land management and was catapulted into the world of politics following the death of his father Hugh, a TD and former minister, in 1998.
He later successfully ran for the European Parliament in 2004 but returned to Ireland for the 2007 general election and he has successfully retained his seat since. He served as minister for agriculture for all five years of the Enda Kenny-led administration from 2011 later adding defence to his portfolio when Eamon Gilmore resigned as tánaiste.
From 2016 he spent just a year as minister for housing, when his pledge to end all emergency hotel and B&B accommodation backfired, before he moved to the hallowed halls of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Seen as open in his approach and meticulous in his work practices, he has risen solidly and steadily through the party’s ranks and his experience in Brexit talks paved the way for his central role in the government formation talks.
Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance
As soon as Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed he was putting his name forward as a unity candidate for the presidency of the Eurogroup, it was clear he was confident of returning to his office in Merrion Street.
Ever cautious and highly political he would have been slow to put his reputation on the line without some assurance of keeping his own job while he applied for the top spot in the influential club of finance ministers from countries that use the euro.
The deadline for that role came a day before the outcome of the vote on the programme for government.
He is highly popular within the party although less so after his poison chalice position as director of elections for both the Dáil and Seanad elections.
The electorate proved less than happy with the party’s budgetary and spending policies and Fine Gael lost 12 Dáil seats. It was also embarrassed by the failure to have any women elected to the Upper House.
Nine years a TD for Dublin Central, the 45-year-old has held the finance portfolio since 2017. He previously served as a minister of state and then as minister for transport.
A central member of the party’s leadership and key to the government formation talks he is viewed as culturally one of the more rounded Cabinet members with an interest in books, film and theatre.
The former sales manager with a multinational firm will need all his skills as a party persuader and negotiator to navigate the traumatic economic conditions facing the State while keeping faith with his wary Fianna Fáil and suspicious Green Party colleagues.
He will be happy to leave his one stated regret – not managing to control the costs of the new national children’s hospital – to Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath who takes up the re-divided Department of Public Expenditure and Reform portfolio.
He is married with two children and lives in Phibsborough, Dublin.
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands
One of the Ministers always seen as sure of keeping her seat at the cabinet table, Heather Humphreys fits the criteria for geography, gender and ability.
A border-county TD, she was the first woman elected to the Cavan-Monaghan constituency in 2011, when she took over from fellow Presbyterian Fine Gael colleague Seymour Crawford.
Now in her third Dáil term and one of three female TDs in the five-seat constituency, she is highly regarded within Fine Gael and viewed as capable and a safe pair of hands.
A first-term backbench TD when she was appointed to cabinet in 2011 as minister for arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht she won plaudits for her stewardship of the successful 1916 Rising centenary commemorations.
A loyal ally of former taoiseach Enda Kenny she was re-appointed to the portfolio by him in 2016 but was one of the first Ministers to declare her support for Leo Varadkar in the 2017 leadership contest.
He promoted her to the Business, Enterprise and Innovation portfolio in 2017 following the resignation of tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
A business background through her work with Ulster Bank and as manager of Cootehill Credit Union also helped secure her appointment. The coronavirus pandemic brought her biggest political challenge with the crisis facing thousands of businesses and leaving a 25 per cent unemployment rate. Grant and income support schemes, loans and other initiatives have helped cushion the initial blow.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will now have to deal with the fallout from a controversial High Court judgment striking out a sectoral employment order and ruling that she had acted outside her powers in making the order for the electoral industry.
Her career in finance, experience as minister for business and farming background in Co Monaghan, where she is married with two adult daughters, make her a good candidate for the rural development portfolio.
Elected for the first time in the 2011 general election, she lives in Aghabog, near Monaghan town, and her family is from the Cavan-Monaghan border area.
Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice
A reserved but smart politician Helen McEntee (33) from Castletown, Co Meath, has been a TD since 2013 when she won the byelection following the death of her father Shane McEntee.
Minister of state for European Affairs since 2017, the Meath East TD proved her mettle in the ever present and fraught Brexit crisis, leading the Government’s response on a number of related issues.
She has been described as Leo Varadkar’s “secret weapon” and is considered level-headed and a very good negotiator. Former president of the European Council Donald Tusk called her “diligent” and an “exceptional diplomat”. She is one of 10 vice-presidents of the European People’s Party, Fine Gael’s centre-right representative grouping in the EU.
Graduating from DCU in 2007 having studied law, politics and economics, she worked briefly in a Citibank subsidiary. She later completed a masters in journalism and communications and worked with her father in Leinster House, first in opposition and then when he was appointed minister of state.
A supporter of Varadkar’s from the start she has been by his side throughout the Brexit crisis and has a keen understanding of its intricacies and complexities.
Simon Harris, Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science
Despite his increased stature during the coronavirus pandemic as minister for health Simon Harris (33) became a focus of increasing speculation in recent days that he would be demoted from Cabinet.
In the fateful 2017 Fine Gael leadership campaign he took sides early on in favour of Simon Coveney as opposed to Leo Varadkar but held onto the health portfolio taoiseach Enda Kenny appointed him to in 2016.
Described as the “teenage” minister when first appointed to the hugely significant but poison chalice department, he has visibly aged in the past three months through the stresses of the Covid-19 crisis.
He remained a popular choice in his Wicklow constituency in the election despite concerns about a shortage of hospital beds, the spiralling cost of the new national children’s hospital and the recruitment and retention difficulties around healthcare staff.
Those issues disappeared during the pandemic with the unprecedented takeover of all private hospitals and the return home of emigrant doctors and nurses to assist with the crisis.
These problems have re-emerged but are no longer an issue for Harris as he moves on from the department described as a war zone.
A social media expert, he is one of the party’s top media performers, assured and persuasive in his delivery, accessible and generally guaranteed to avoid political gaffes.
He first became engaged in politics while campaigning for his younger brother and other children with autism. He topped the poll in the local elections and secured the highest vote in the country through his social media campaign.
While a councillor, he approached then Seanad leader Frances Fitzgerald, became her parliamentary assistant and moved into Leinster House politics from there.
Viewed as having an uneasy relationship with his party leader he is far from the inner circle. He is married with one child and lives in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Eamon Ryan – Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport
It has been a torrid few months for Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (56) as he enters Government with a deeply scarred and divided party.
In all the controversy the spectacular success in winning 12 seats in the general election has been all but forgotten.
Now appointed to his long sought role in climate action and transport he will have little time to relish the challenge as he bids to heal the schism within the party.
It is a reflection of the party’s divisions that when he was mired in controversy after repeating a racial slur in the Dáil that it took a minister from another party, Charlie Flanagan of Fine Gael to publicly defend the Dublin Bay South TD by saying he did not have a racist bone in his body.
But through all the accusations, insults and recriminations he has been calm, conciliatory and with party deputy leader Catherine Martin has persuaded the party’s membership to decisively back an unprecedented government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
He now faces a leadership contest against his deputy leader but has remained sanguine about the prospect.
An impassioned speaker prone to gaffes, including a call during the election campaign for the re-introduction of wolves, he nonetheless led a team to rebuild the party after its disastrous first foray into coalition government after which it lost all six Dáil seats.
A councillor before his 2007 election to the Dáil he previously ran a bicycle shop and cycling holiday business.
He is married to journalist Victoria White and they have four sons.
Catherine Martin – Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht
Dublin Rathdown TD and deputy Green party leader Catherine Martin (47) emerged as a surprising contender for the top job in the party.
Her stance on coalition has strained the previously close working relationship with Eamon Ryan but his move to appoint her as lead negotiator in the coalition talks was seen as an inspired move.
Cautious by nature, she is said to seek advice widely and does not say things lightly. Some in her party are said to find it hard to gauge where she stands and those on the other side of the negotiating table have described her as an enigma.
As an influential voice in the party she will have a significant role in attempting to heal the party’s schism.
From her first days in the Dáil she forged good relations across all parties and founded the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in the Oireachtas, pressed for anti-bullying protocols in the Leinster House campus.
Her initial foray into politics was when she was co-opted to her brother Vincent P Martin’s council seat in Monaghan in the 1990s. She returned to politics in Dublin, was elected as a councillor in 2014 and came from nowhere to win a Dáil seat in 2016.
Her husband Francis Noel Duffy became a TD in 2020 and took an opposing view in rejecting the coalition deal. The couple has three children.
Roderic O’Gorman – Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration
Long predicted to make the high table Roderic O’Gorman (38) is one of the Green party’s most experienced politicians. His victory in the 2020 general election marked his 10th foray in 15 years including four general elections, two byelections and four local elections. The party’s justice and equality spokesman he was on the negotiating team and insisted in the talks that the coalition must make a commitment to end direct provision.
A former chairman of the party he served from 2011 to 2019.
From Tyrellstown he lives with his partner Ray Healy in Blanchardstown. A lecturer at the Brexit Institute and School of Law and Government in DCU he is a graduate of Trinity College and the London School of Economics.
Close to both party leader Eamon Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin he is courteous, considered and reflective in his deliberations and well regarded across the party. He is a fan of TV shows West Wing, Game of Thrones and Arrested Development.
Hildegarde Naughton – Minister of State at the Department of Climate Action, she will be attending Cabinet
One of the survivors of the electoral cull of Fine Gael TDs, Hildegarde Naughton (43) has consistently grown in experience and stature since she first arrived on the political stage in 2009.
That was the year the former schoolteacher was first elected to Galway City Council, becoming mayor two years later. Mentored and promoted by then taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Galway West TD was appointed to the Seanad in 2013.
In 2016 she seized the chance to get on the Fine Gael ticket in the general election after Barry Walsh stepped aside from politics on health grounds.
Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in the last Dáil she fought the green fight in an uphill and forthright battle to persuade many reluctant party colleagues to the cause and has been Fine Gael’s leading environmentalist.
That role, that experience and her capability has brought her to the Cabinet table – along with the need to have some gender balance at cabinet and take account of geographical considerations.
Outside politics she is a talented singer who has performed and won awards for her roles in musical theatre. While a senator she established a group called Bel Canto with two other sopranos, who sang at charity events. She has described her musical interest as “my golf”.
Pippa Hackett, “Super Junior” Minister of State
Green Party Senator Pippa Hackett’s appointment as a “Super Junior” Minister of State is the first appointment of a Senator to Cabinet since the early 1980s.
She takes on the role of Minister of State for Agriculture with responsibility for land use and biodiversity.
Her appointment has taken some by surprise amid speculation that someone among the party’s TDs might be selected.
A farmer from Offaly and the party’s agriculture spokeswoman, she was elected to the Seanad in a byelection in November when a vacancy arose following the election of then Senator Grace O’Sullivan to the European parliament.
But the move is as much a surprise because it is virtually unprecedented.
The last time a Senator took on a ministerial role was in 1981 when then taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald nominated Senator James Dooge as minister for foreign affairs, a portfolio he held for a year.
A vocal supporter of the programme for government, Hackett was elected unopposed to the agricultural panel in the Seanad when the other parties opted not to contest the seat.
Formerly an Offaly county councillor she lost out in the general election for the Laois-Offaly constituency when she was eliminated in the final round.
Originally from Ballandine, Co Mayo she is married with four children and lives in Edenderry, Co Offaly.
Dara Calleary – Chief whip
New Government chief whip Dara Calleary has Fianna Fáil in his DNA. The Mayo TD who has been in the Dáil since 2007 and is the son of late TD and former minister of state Sean Calleary who served in the Dáil from 1973 to 1992. His grandfather Phelim was TD for Mayo from 1952 to 1969.
Affable and steady, popular with party colleagues he is deputy leader and viewed as a safe pair of hands.
He has had a previous taste of government when he served as minister of state for labour affairs and public service transformation from 2009 to 2011 in the Fianna Fail, Green Party coalition.
A graduate of Trinity College with a degree in business and politics he has served as the party’s spokesman on justice, equality and defence, as well as spokesman on jobs, enterprise and innovation.
Paul Gallagher SC, Attorney General
This will be Paul Gallagher’s second time in the job, having previously served from 2007 to 2011. During his first term, he was called to offer legal advice on some of the biggest issues ever to face an Irish government, including the bank guarantee scheme, the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency and the International Monetary Fund Troika programme.
He is regarded as one of Ireland’s top barristers, with a fearsome work ethic.