I had a little time on my hands this morning, so I decided to take a quick look at the biggest three parties' front benches. It's one of the quirks of our system that we elect people to office locally, and individuals are then selected to serve nationally as ministers. I wondered what qualified the people currently doing the jobs to be so selected, as well as those who would want to take over following an election.
Many of the ministers, and would-be ministers have little to no 'outside world' experience. Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, essentially our choice for next Taoiseach, have both been in the Dail since they're in long trousers. And, as is well known, there is a disproportionate number of teachers.
The best qualified for the job they want looks to be Richard Bruton, at least on paper.
Doesn't this list serve as a fairly strong argument for a reform in how ministerial appointments are made? The pool we're choosing from is the same bunch of local-issue politicians, and dynastic family career politicians. It reinforces the 'they're all the same' argument. Should the Taoseach be able to appoint ministers from outside the Oireachtas to take portfolios to which they could add value? Business leaders, international figures etc. I know the Seanad appointments were probably originally intended for this purpose, but has this actually happened in recent memory?
Brian Cowen - Taoiseach - Qualified solicitor, TD since age 24
Brian Lenihan- Minister for Finance - Barrister
Batt O'Keeffe - Minsiter for Enterprise Trade and (now) Innovation - any help here? 40 odd when first elected
Mary Coughlan - Minister for Education - Social worker but TD since age 21, so not for long
Mary Harney - Minister for Health - Secondary school teacher, appointed to Seanad at age 24
Micheal Martin - Minister for Foreign Affairs - Secondary School Teacher
Enda Kenny - Leader of Opposition- Primary School Teacher, TD since early 20s
Richard Bruton- Shadow Finance Minister - Oxford MPhil in Economics, worked at ESRI and 2 large private sector companies
Leo Varadkar - Shadow Enterprise, Trade and Employment - qualfied Medical Doctor, in Dail since age 25/26
Brian Hayes - Shadow Education - Secondary School Teacher, TD since age 28
James Reilly - Shadow Health - qualified Medical Doctor, former president Irish Medical Organisation (essentially, Doctor's union)
Billy Timmins - Shadow Foreign Affairs- army career, including UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon and Cyprus
Eamon Gilmore - Leader of Labour Party - not sure of history here? I know he was 30-odd when first elected to Dail
Joan Burton - Finance Spokesman - Chartered Accountant, lecturer
Willie Penrose - Enterprise,Trade and Employment - Barrister
Ruairi Quinn - Education - Architecht
Jan O'Sullivan - Health - Montessori teacher
Michael D. Higgins - Foreign Affairs - Sociology and Political Science University Lecturer