Mayo Fine Gael deputy Michelle Mulherin has played down any suggestion that the Taoiseach should have elevated at least one woman from the backbenches to a junior ministerial role.
Mr Kenny attracted some criticism on the issue of gender balance following the junior ministerial reshuffle earlier this week.
The Taoiseach did however promote Heather Humphreys to a senior ministerial role in the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.
Speaking yesterday to the Mayo Advertiser, Deputy Mulherin said choosing the cabinet is a Taoiseach’s prerogative and while the issue of gender balance should certainly be considered, it could not be an overriding factor in selecting the best possible team for the job.
“There was a big cohort of backbench TDs to choose from, who are all highly motivated, highly educated, and highly capable. A lot of factors, including geography, had to come into play,” she said.
Deputy Mulherin said she was not surprised or disappointed to be staying on the backbenches for the foreseeable future.
“I understand how it works,” she said. “We have a Taoiseach and a junior minister in Mayo. I wasn’t expecting anything.”
Deputy Mulherin did say that the issue of gender balance in politics is an “interesting and complex area” that is very worthy of debate.
“It is a legitmate cause,” she continued. “We do have to always remind ourselves of that, particularly as women. We make up 50 per cent of the population and are just as talented as men but that’s not always reflected in our institutions.
“It is worthy of debate but the end result, after this reshuffle, had to be a good team who will work in the interests of the country so that we get that lift that we are all desperately looking for.”
She added that there are a growing number of very positive female role models in powerful positions in Ireland, including the newly appointed Tánaiste Joan Burton, acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Minister for Justic Frances Fitzgerald, and the new Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.
“We are all in this together and, no more than the economy, the same goes for politics — a rising tide will lift all boats,” said Deputy Mulherin.