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I was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1997 as a representative of Cork East and I have been re-elected at each election since. In the previous Oireachtas, I was Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and dealt with an array of policy and legislative issues in areas such as legal capacity, domestic and sexual violence, prostitution, bankruptcy, firearms, penal reform, new Garda Authority and Human Rights and Equality Commission. I was also the Chairperson of the Working Group of Committee Chairs.
From October 2004 to September 2007 I was the Fine Gael Front Bench Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs and Equality. From October 2007 to July 2010 I was Assistant Whip (Dáil Reform) with Special Responsibility for Disability Issues. In July 2010 I took up the position of Spokesperson on Defence.
While in these roles I dealt with the development and shaping of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, the Disability Act 2005 and the development of Fine Gael policies on Early Childhood Education and Oireachtas Reform.
I was also previously a member of the All-Party Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform in the 31st Dáil.
I most recently served as the Minister of State in the Department of Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration from May 2016 – June 2020.
Prior to becoming a full time public representative I worked as a second level school teacher of educational woodwork and construction studies. I also worked as a career guidance counsellor which included home school community liaison. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematical Science and Sociology, Diplomas in Career Guidance and Counselling, Education Administration and a Masters in Education. I am also a former Commissioned Officer in the Army Reserve.
I am married with four sons and live near Ballinacurra, Midleton and I enjoy walking, gardening and reading, in particular historical biographies, in my spare time.