Following the formation of the grand coalition three-party government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, Fine Gael TD Peter Burke has been appointed Minister of State for Local Government and Planning. The Housing Magazine profiles the first-time portfolio holder.
Burke first won his seat in the Longford-Westmeath constituency in 2016, elected on the 15th count as the only Fine Gael TD in the four-seater constituency. Having secured 10.3 per cent of first preference votes in 2016, a total of 5,683, Burke increased his standing in the 2020 general election by collecting 11.7 per cent of first preference votes, a total of 6,617 votes in the first count. Burke was elected on the 10th count along with his now-fellow government TDs, Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy and Joe Flaherty.
A native of Mullingar in Westmeath, Burke has previously served as a member of Westmeath County Council from 2009 until his election to the Dáil. Burke was educated in St Mary’s CBS in Mullingar at both primary and secondary level before attending NUI Galway and graduating in 2004 with a degree in commerce. He then joined Stephens Cooke and Co Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditors in Mullingar and is a qualified Chartered Accountant with 10 years of practice behind him.
Burke’s profile on the Fine Gael website describes him as a man that “represents a new generation of public representatives eager to work for their community and country and to ensure honesty and integrity in politics”. Burke says that he is “proud to represent a party which encourages change, equality and empowerment of those who genuinely want to make a difference within their local communities”.
In the lead up to the government formation, Burke commented that “it is absolutely critical that its focus is exclusively on economic recovery and renewal from day one with no distractions”. The areas in which he called for focus included the July Stimulus and Recovery Fund, the Credit Guarantee Scheme, the Business Restart Grant, scaling up MicroFinance Ireland and the setting out of commercial rates for the remainder of 2020.
In assuming a brief similar to that of former Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English TD, Burke says that the new government must meet people’s expectations and solve the housing crisis.
“We have to be honest: it’s an issue that hasn’t been solved over a number of years. There is a huge challenge and we have to respond to try and do our very best to get it right. There is huge expectation from society to politicians to sort this. I will try my best to play my part in that,” he told his local paper, the Westmeath Examiner. While saying that there must be a significant increase in the number of social houses delivered, Burke also emphasised the need for “middle ground” affordable housing.
Also appointed to the newly renamed Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is Green Party TD Malcolm Noonan, named as Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform.
Noonan is a new TD, having won his seat in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency in the 2020 general election, becoming his party’s first TD there since Mary White lost her seat in 2011. Having sat on Kilkenny County Council from 2004 until his election to the Dáil, Noonan unsuccessfully stood for party leadership in 2011 and Dáil election in a 2015 by-election and the 2016 general election. He previously served as Mayor of Kilkenny from 2009—2010.