Helen McEntee, Ireland's Minister for Justice, is now the first person in the history of the Irish State to become pregnant, take maternity leave, and give birth all while serving as a Cabinet minister.
As it stands, there are no provisions for members of Cabinet to avail of parental leave. However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed in March that McEntee would be granted a six-month maternity leave, and promised reforms surrounding parental leave for politicians.
I’m pleased to announce that Government has facilitated the maternity leave of Minister @HMcEntee
Having a family should in no way conflict with a career in public life.
The Government will bring forward proposals for ambitious reform in the coming months.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) March 11, 2021
During her leave, McEntee will serve as a "minister without portfolio." Heather Humphreys, Ireland's Minister for Social Protection and Rural and Community Development, will serve as McEntee's replacement while she is on leave.
In a report surrounding Gender and Equality published on April 24, Ireland's Citizens' Assembly recommended that by the end of 2022, Ireland should improve family-friendly practices for all representatives elected to public office by making parental leave available to all elected representatives and providing flexible working options.
Speaking to the press on April 27, the day she began her maternity leave, McEntee said: “It’s really important women see other women in roles and positions being able to take maternity leave, being able to return to their jobs and the positions they were working in before.
“This [arrangement] is very much a sticking plaster, it’s not a long-term measure that we hope to put in place.”
She added: “I’ve had nothing but positive responses from colleagues, from my community and constituents, and from members of the public and I just want to thank everyone for that support.”
On Thursday, Humphreys joked on Twitter that it was a good thing McEntee began her maternity leave a few days early:
It’s a good job we had the handover a few days early! So delighted for @HMcEntee. A fantastic role model for young women. Helen might be the first serving Cabinet Minister to have a baby but she certainly won’t be the last! https://t.co/hxRd8Uhfz2— Heather Humphreys (@HHumphreysFG) April 29, 2021
Ireland's Cabinet members joined Humphreys in congratulating Helen and her husband Paul on their new arrival.
The Taoiseach said it is a "time of great joy."
Congratulations @HMcEntee and Paul on the birth of your wonderful baby boy.
A time of great joy for you all. Enjoy! Wishing you every happiness, always.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) April 29, 2021
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, also alluding to today's announcements of rollbacks on restrictions, said he was "delighted" to hear the news:
Full of hope this morning. Delighted to learn that @HMcEntee has given birth to a healthy baby boy. Also looking forward to Cabinet meeting this afternoon which will discuss plans to allow businesses to re-open and hundreds of thousands of people get back to work— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) April 29, 2021
TD Simon Coveney, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, said today is a "good news day:"
TD Roderic O'Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth, congratulated Helen and Paul:
TD Norma Foley, Minister for Education, sent warm congratulations:
Warmest congratulations to my Cabinet colleague @HMcEntee and her husband Paul on the birth of their new baby boy. Wishing them all well as they begin this new and exciting chapter.— Norma Foley T.D (@NormaFoleyTD1) April 29, 2021
TD Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science, said it was "great news"