Minister of State (Ireland)
A Minister of State (Irish: Aire Stáit) in Ireland (also called a junior minister) is of non-Cabinet rank attached to one or more Departments of State of the Government of Ireland and assists a Minister of that Government.
Senior government ministers are appointed by the President of Ireland on the advice of the Taoiseach, with the prior nomination of Dáil Éireann. Ministers of State are appointed by the cabinet, on nomination of the Taoiseach.
The role of a Minister of State is similar to that of a Minister of State (or "junior minister") in the Government of the United Kingdom. It is not equivalent to that of a United Kingdom Secretary of State, who holds a cabinet-level post corresponding to that of a Government Minister in Ireland.
Members of either House of the Oireachtas (Dáil or Seanad) may be appointed to be a Minister of State at a Department of State, however to date no senator has been appointed. Like a senior minister, Ministers of State continue in office after the dissolution of the Dáil until a successor is appointed. If the Taoiseach resigns from office, a Minister of State is also deemed to have resigned from office.
The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach is the Government Chief Whip and the most senior Minister of State. It is often a precursor role to a senior cabinet position.
The post of Minister of State was created by the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1977 and commenced in 1978, and under the Act a Minister of State may be delegated a power or duty of the Minister of the Government they support. The position was created to replace the post of Parliamentary secretary, the junior rank of ministers which had existed from 1922 until 1978. In the Irish Free State, the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 created the post of Parliamentary secretary, originally limited to seven holders.
In the original act of 1977 the number of Ministers of State was limited to 10, but in 1980 this was raised to 15, and in 1995 it was raised to 17, and in 2007 it was raised to 20. Brian Cowen asked all 20 Ministers of State to resign on 21 April 2009. He re-appointed a reduced number of 15 ministers the following day, when the Dáil resumed after the Easter recess. As of June 2017, there are 19 Ministers of State.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was the first woman to be appointed as a Minister of State when she as appointed by Jack Lynch as Minister of State at the Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy in 1978. She was also the first woman to be a Parliamentary Secretary in 1977.
Some Ministers of State attend cabinet meetings but do not have a vote. The Government Chief Whip automatically attends and starting in the 1990s some governments appointed an additional Minister of State with permission to attend cabinet but not vote thereat. Two were appointed in 2016 upon Enda Kenny's re-election.
The Ministers, other than the Chief Whip are usually described as a "Super Junior" minister. or sometimes more formally as "Minister of State attending cabinet". The Super Juniors of the 31st Government are:
- Paul Kehoe (Fine Gael), Minister of State at the Department of Defence
- Finian McGrath (Independent), Minister of State for Disability Issues
- Mary Mitchell O'Connor (Fine Gael), Minister of State for Higher Education
Some Ministers of State are de facto department heads. In the 31st Government, Leo Varadkar is the Minister for Defence but the day to day running of the department is done by Paul Kehoe, the Minister of State for Defence.