Independent TD Denis Naughten became County Roscommon’s first senior minister in almost thirty-four years when he became Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources last Friday.
Finally, two and a half months after the General Election, the political deadlock was broken that day and a minority government was formed.
Led by Fine Gael, it has the backing of just 59 TDs, making the administration numerically the weakest in the history of the State. The Government comprises 50 Fine Gael members and nine Independents.
While Deputy Naughten supported Enda Kenny in the vote for Taoiseach, his constituency colleague Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice (Independent Alliance) abstained because agreement could not be reached on a turf-cutting issue.
Deputy Naughten’s decision to support Mr. Kenny was particularly notable because of the strained relationship between the pair since the former left Fine Gael over Roscommon Hospital five years ago.
However, his support of Mr. Kenny was rewarded with a ministry, making him the first Roscommon person to hold such a prestigious role since Seán Doherty served as Minister for Justice from March to December 1982.
“I am absolutely delighted to get the brief that I got,” Minister Naughten said. “It is ideally suited to a minister from the midlands, with ESB, Bord Gáis, Bord na Móna, Coillte…(falling under my remit).
“I am relishing the opportunity.”
It is the summit of Minister Naughten’s political career to date. The 42-year-old has served as a TD continuously since 1997, sitting as a Fine Gael representative until the hospital crisis in 2011.
On that occasion, he voted against the closure of the Accident & Emergency unit and was expelled from the party.
Since then, he has served as an Independent TD in the Dáil.
Born in Drum, south Roscommon, he lives in Roscommon town with his wife, Mary Tiernan, and their four young children: Liam, Ava, Eoin and Ella.
A scientist by professsion, Minister Naughten was a member of Fine Gael’s front bench for many years, as a spokesman for Immigration and Integration; Agriculture and Food; Transport; and Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
He had a brief career as a Senator before his Dáil career. He was elected to the Seanad in the by-election on the Agricultural Panel in January 1997 and, at 22, he became the youngest ever member of the House.
Minister Naughten has a keen interest in all sports and has played Gaelic football with Clann na nGael GAA Club and has had both county and provincial athletic titles with Moore AC.