Heather Humphreys to miss the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this weekend

HEATHER Humphreys is to miss the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Galway this weekend.

But while her absence is sure to set tongues wagging — against the backdrop of a Cabinet reshuffle — the Minister will be carrying out a vital role in a much more important portfolio.

She will be the proud mother of the bride as her daughter Tara gets married in Monaghan.

The Minister for Social Protection has been on leave of absence this week.

Tara Humphreys is marrying Gerard McGovern in Monaghan at a venue being kept secret from outsiders. The groom is from Aughawillan, Co Leitrim, and is a major figure in the local GAA club.

She has secured from Simon Harris the post of Fine Gael Deputy Leader in return for backing him for the helm.

“Heather is very proud of her youngest daughter, and she can’t miss this one,” a source said.

But despite her focus of family matters this week, Humphreys officials are battling hard to ensure the minister’s profile remains high — and are maintaining that she is available to serve in the Justice portfolio, if asked.

Yet other backers are hedging their bets by insisting the minister is very happy where she is now, and has much to busy herself with.

They cite the roll-out of pension auto-enrolment, which will be a huge undertaking in workplaces across the country, as well as overseeing grants towards rural development and welfare measures such as the May introduction of child benefit for youngsters aged up to 19 years who are still in full-time education.

A spokesman for Ms Humphreys said she had previously notified outgoing Taoiseach that she would miss the Ard Fheis in Galway because her daughter’s big day already had a big red circle around it in the calendar.

“She told him months ago that the wedding date clashed with the Ard Fheis,” a spokesman said, adding that Mr Varadkar had fully understood and been very gracious in the matter.

It is understood that, while Ms Humphreys and Simon Harris have already spoken, a further phone conversation is likely in coming days as the new Fine Gael leader prepares to take the role of Taoiseach.

Her officials have been playing down the assertions of others that she does not want the Justice role, insisting she will be happy to take up the cudgels wherever she is asked to serve.

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