Fine Gael reshuffle winners: The spear-carrier, the legal eagle and the ‘Harris leak’ detective

Peter Burke

Mr Burke (41) is a Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath.

Occupying crucial midlands ground for the party, he has been a stalwart spear-carrier – always available to defend the indefensible, or to pad out government time in the Dáil – until his elevation to the junior ranks with this Government.

He served as junior minister with responsibility for EU affairs and defence from December 2022 until this month.

Few will realise that he was previously the junior minister with special responsibility for planning and local government from July 2020 to December 2022, two crucial sectors that have seen some convulsions in recent times.

Planning has been dominated by controversy at the top of An Bord Pleanála that landed a senior official in court while thousands of files went unaddressed – leading to complete reform mandated by the Government.

Local authorities, on the other hand, have struggled to spend their ample construction allocations from Housing, which happens to be Mr Burke’s department, where he has been playing second fiddle to ­Darragh O’Brien of Fianna Fáil.

Mr Burke did a basic B.comm at NUIG, then worked as a chartered accountant in Mullingar for a decade, honing his capacity for monotony.

First elected in 2016, he was decent enough on the Public Accounts Committee, but has otherwise more or less managed to rise without trace.

Extra: Simon Harris becomes Taoiseach and a new cabinet is confirmed

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ms Carroll MacNeill was elected as a TD in Dún Laoghaire in 2020 and took the seat of Maria Bailey, the so-called “swing-gate” former TD who was taken off the Fine Gael ticket after her pub lawsuit controversy.

Before Ms Carroll MacNeill entered politics, she worked as a solicitor and barrister.

She also worked as an adviser for Frances Fitzgerald, former justice minister Alan Shatter and former housing minister Eoghan Murphy.

Ms Carroll MacNeill was then elected as a councillor in 2019.

She is seen as a highly impressive first-time TD by colleagues and is expected by some to be a future party leader. While she made calls among her party in the hopes of putting her name forward for a leadership contest when Leo Varadkar announced his resignation, she ultimately backed Harris for the leadership.

She was elevated to the position of junior minister in the December 2022 reshuffle to the Department of Finance, with special responsibility for financial services, credit unions and insurance.

The Indo Daily Extra: Simon Harris becomes Taoiseach and a new cabinet is confirmed

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Patrick O’Donovan

Patrick O’Donovan. Photo:

Mr O’Donovan (47) is Fine Gael TD for Co Limerick.

He is the current junior minister in charge of the Office of Public Works (OPW), where he is not regarded as having in any way improved facilities management or the custodianship of Ireland’s built heritage and associated arts and cultural works.

Organisation is so poor that guides have left and certain landmarks are closed for want of staff.

Mr O’Donovan is seen as very much to the right wing of Fine Gael, which may endear him, politically, to Mr Harris.

Previously there was little love lost between the two men – in fact Mr O’Donovan previously set up a “Wagatha Christie”-style trap for whoever was leaking sensitive material from Cabinet.

He claimed to have caught Mr Harris – and took his findings to Leo Varadkar, who chose to ignore the “tell-tale” evidence.

Mr O’Donovan’s is based in Newcastle West.

He is a former junior minister tourism and sport, and is a frequent Dáil contributor.

A former primary teacher, he was also once an industrial chemist – and the formula has certainly worked out on this occasion as he finds himself elevated to the Cabinet.

Independent Ireland | News