Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Statement by An Taoiseach

 

1:00 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I would like to congratulate the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and her husband, Paul, on the news that they are expecting their first child in May. Is ócáid speisialta í sin i saol an Aire agus a fhear. Gach dea-ghuí orthu.

It is a special time in their lives and they have all our best wishes.

The Minister and I agree that she should of course be entitled to access the same full period of six months' maternity leave as any other public servant. Like any other woman, she should be afforded every opportunity to continue in her role and to pursue her career in accordance with her own wishes. The Government has agreed an approach that upholds the core principles of equality while also operating within the current legal framework, which is based on completely outdated assumptions and attitudes in this area. The Minister will therefore take paid maternity leave from her role for a period of six months with effect from 30 April. The Minister will remain a member of the Government without portfolio for that period. She will be provided with the necessary administrative supports to carry out any limited duties that may arise.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, will be assigned responsibility for the Department of Justice for the period from 1 May to 31 October. The Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, who attends Government meetings, will be assigned as Minister of State at the Department of Justice for the same period. This assignment will be in addition to her current responsibilities at the Department of Transport. The Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Deputy James Browne, will continue in his current role. There will be significant delegation of functions to the two Ministers of State in order to ensure a more balanced workload for this period. Deputy McEntee will resume her role as Minister for Justice on 1 November.

Finally, I believe this illustrates one more the absolute requirement for permanent reform in this area to ensure fully equality for all public representatives and the need to introduce maternity and paternity leave for councillors, Senators, Deputies and Ministers. We want to make sure that having a family is in no way in conflict with pursuing a career in public life. That will require legislative change or possibly constitutional change. These matters are under active consideration by the relevant Departments and also by the Citizens' Assembly on gender equality. It will also involve consultation and engagement with Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Government will bring forward proposals for reform in the coming months after the Citizens' Assembly on gender equality has produced its report, but be assured that we will deliver ambitious reform in this area in line with our programme for Government.

Is cinneadh tábhachtach é seo a léiríonn toil an Rialtaís ré nua a thabhairt isteach maidir le cearta ban agus cearta sibhialta go ginearálta, go háirithe i saol polaitíochta na tíre.

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