Irish Cabinet minister breaks glass ceiling by securing maternity leave

Helen McEntee’s case hailed as milestone for women’s maternity rights

Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee (C) attends a general affairs council on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom at the Euroepan Commission in Brussels on March 19, 2019. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
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Helen McEntee has become Ireland's first Cabinet member to give birth while in office and take maternity leave, winning praise for breaking another glass ceiling.
Ms McEntee exposed problems with parental rights laws as she secured maternity leave, which was not enshrined in law for Cabinet members.
The case is reminiscent of Suella Braverman's, the UK government's chief law officer, who this year procured six months paid maternity leave from her Cabinet position after a change in law.
Ms McEntee's leave was allowed after a complicated arrangement fulfilled legal commitments on the number of Cabinet ministers.

Around the world, maternity rights have been evolving since 2005, when French Justice Minister Rachida Dati sparked anger for taking only five days, to 2018 when New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took six weeks off work.
Ms McEntee said the progress was encouraging.
"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," she said.
She described her own arrangement, which involved a considerable reshuffle of the Irish Cabinet, as "very much a sticking plaster … not a long-term measure".
Ms McEntee will temporarily step aside as justice minister but remain in government as Cabinet minister without portfolio.
Heather Humphreys, the minister for social protection, rural and community development, will become justice minister.
Irish politicians rallied to offer their support to Ms McEntee, with Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath writing on Twitter: "Congratulations to @HMcEntee and Paul on their new arrival! I'm delighted Helen is able to take the time to be with her baby in the months ahead. Another glass ceiling smashed."

Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte said: "Congratulations @HMcEntee, such a wonderful role model for young women and the first serving Cabinet minister to give birth in office. You are inspirational."
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said: "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."