Michael Ring, the newly-appointed Minister for Rural Affairs.PHOTO: SPORTSFILE.

Michael Ring is appointed Minister for Rural Affairs

MAYO TD Michael Ring has been appointed a member of newly-elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's reshuffled cabinet.

The Westport-based representative is responsible for the senior ministerial post of Community and Rural Affairs in what represents a major boost for the western region.

Up to the time of his new appointment, he was Minister of State for Regional Economic Development and served as Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport with Special Responsibility for Tourism and Sport in the last government.

Aged 63, he becomes the first *Westport-based politician to hold such high office and his success will be celebrated when he returns home tomorrow (Thursday) evening.

Born in Fr. Angelus Park, he was educated at Westport CBS and the local vocational school.

He was working as a bread salesman when he was first elected to Westport Urban Council in 1979.

He contested the 1992 general election in the Mayo West constituency and missed out on winning a seat, but he secured a seat in Dáil Éireann two years later by winning a bye-election in the constituency following the appointment of Padraig Flynn as an EU Commissioner.

Deputy Ring was elected to Mayo County Council in June, 1999, after topping the poll with 2,694 first preference votes in the Westport electoral area, his huge popularity being blamed for Fine Gael only winning one of the four seats on offer.

He was appointed to the Fine Gael frontbench after the 2002 general election as spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs.

But he stepped down from the frontbench in 2004 due a planned demotion which led to a fallout between himself and party leader Enda Kenny.

Many observers believe his decision to take a legal challenge against legislation abolishing the 'dual mandate' led to his 'demotion'. The abolition meant members of the Oireachtas could no longer simultaneously hold seats on local authorities.

Deputy Ring lost his High Court appeal when Ms. Justice Laffoy, in a reserved judgment, said the central plank of his case was that he had a constitutional right to stand for election to Mayo County Council. However, she found there was no constitutionally guaranteed right to stand for election to a local authority.

He returned to the Fine Gael frontbench in 2007 as spokesperson on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

After the formation of the Coalition Government in March 2011, Ring was appointed Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, working closely with senior minister Leo Varadkar, with whom he got on very well.

Following the formation of a Fine Gael minority government in May 2016, he was appointed Minister of State for Regional Economic Development.

Michael Ring is married to Ann Fitzgerald and they reared a family of three.

An Aston Villa supporter, he played soccer with Westport United and Westport Crusaders in his youth and won an All-Ireland Vocational SchoolsÂ’ Gaelic football medal with Mayo.

His ministerial appointment is warmly welcomed in Mayo political circles where he is held in high regard for his work rate and keen interest in the development of the county.

A number of months ago he was a central figure in saving the future of historic Westport House.

Sources close to Minister Ring said he will be determined to address the issue of decline in rural communities with tremendous gusto and vigour.

“He will be determined to show his ability to deliver to his own region more than any senior politicians before him, most of whom stand accused of failing to do so. It's a good day for the west of Ireland and Mayo in particular,” the source added.  

*Westport-born Thomas Derrig was Minister for Lands (1939-43) and Minister for Education (1943-45) while serving as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency. He was first elected a TD in the Mayo North and West constituency as a Sinn Féin (anti-Treaty) candidate in 1921.   

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