I would like to congratulate Minister Helen McEntee and her husband Paul on the news that they are expecting their first child next May.
It is a very special time in their life and they have all our best wishes.
Minister McEntee and I agree that she should of course be entitled to access the same full period of 6 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.
We have agreed an approach which 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the core principles of equality, while also operating within the current legal framework, which is based on completely outdated assumptions and attitudes in this area.
Minister McEntee will, therefore, take paid maternity leave from her role as Minister for Justice for a period of 6 months with effect from April 30th. She 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.
Minister Heather Humphreys will be assigned responsibility for the Department of Justice for the period May 1st to October 31st.
Minister of State 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 as Minister of State at the Department of Transport.
Minister of State James Browne will continue in his current role as Minister of State at the Department of Justice.
There will be significant delegation of functions to the two Ministers of State to ensure a more balanced workload for this period.
Minister McEntee will then resume her role as Minister for Justice on November 1st.
Finally, I believe that this illustrates once more the absolute requirement for permanent reform in this area to ensure full equality for all public representatives and the need to introduce maternity and paternity leave for councillors, Senators, TDs, 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 Government Departments and also by the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality.
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.