Hanafin refuses to publicly back her colleague
SPORTS Minister Mary Hanafin is refusing to publicly back her cabinet colleague's controversial plans to wrestle rugby matches off sports channels and make them free to air on Irish television.
The minister is keeping tight-lipped on the divisive issue while the rugby chiefs and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan lock horns.
Ms Hanafin has discussed the free-to-air proposals with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and has also held "informal discussions" with Mr Ryan.
Her deliberations with both sides are taking place against the backdrop of a public consultation process that has been extended to July.
But the minister is refusing to say if she supports Mr Ryan's plans or if she shares the concerns of the sports bodies that claim the changes would cost the IRFU €12m and result in severe financial turmoil for the professional game.
"She intends to engage with Mr Ryan on this issue while consulting further with the relevant national governing bodies," a spokeswoman for Ms Hanafin said.
Pressed further on whether she supported Mr Ryan, the spokeswoman would only say that Ms Hanafin was anxious to hear from the sporting bodies and to respond to Mr Ryan's written request for her views.
Ms Hanafin has already signalled that further cutbacks are coming down the tracks for her sector of arts, sport and tourism.
Therefore, she will be hesitant about signing up to any initiative that could strap one of the most successful sectors for cash and result in them lobbying her for extra funding.