Cork North-Central TD Colm Burke, Fine Gael, is Ireland’s new junior health minister. Photo: Colm Burke/Facebook

Cork TD set for junior ministry

Cork may have lost a senior minister when Simon Coveny stepped down, but the Rebel County has just gained a junior minister.

Cork North-Central TD Colm Burke (Fine Gael) has been appointed Junior Minister with responsibility for Public Health and Drugs Strategy by the new Taoiseach, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris.

Deputy Burke is the Fine Gael spokesperson for Health and was elected as a TD for Cork North Central in 2020. He was previously a senator from 2011-2020 and was also elected on the Industrial and Commercial Panel.

The announcement came yesterday as part of a cabinet reshuffle following Mr Harris’ appointment.

On Tuesday, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris was voted in as the new Taoiseach following the resignation of his predecessor Leo Varadkar. Members of Dáil Éireann voted 88 to 69 in support of Mr Harris. At 37, he becomes Ireland’s youngest ever Taoiseach.

It is reported that Deputy Burke’s new role will see him take responsibility for drug policy, a position previously held by Government chief whip Hildegarde Naughton who is set to take on a new brief on special needs. Ms Naughton will retain her roles as Government Chief Whip and a super junior minister.

Two former junior ministers, Peter Burke and Patrick O’Donovan, have been promoted to senior minister positions, replacing outgoing Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney of Fine Gael. Peter Burke will take up the role of enterprise minister while Mr O’Donovan replaces Mr Harris as Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Mr Burke's now vacant junior role will be taken on by former Minister of State for Finance, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, while Mr Richmond's junior business, employment and retail minister position will likely be filled by Dublin TD Emer Higgins.

It was also confirmed yesterday that Minister of State Neale Richmond will be moving from Enterprise to Finance.

Addressing Simon Coveney’s decision to leave Government, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, said he and Mr Coveney had “invested a great effort in battling each other over the years”.

“I believe it has always been a fair rivalry,” said Deputy Martin, “one which has also included a lot of cooperation on issues of importance to the people of Cork who we have had the great privilege of representing in Dáil Éireann.”

The Cork Business Association (CBA) welcomed an Taoiseach Simon Harris’ response to small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) concerns during a public address following his appointment.

CBA President Aaron Mansworth said: “We are heartened to see a renewed focus on addressing the pressing issues surrounding the cost of doing business and law enforcement, areas that have long been of paramount concern to Cork's business community.”