Monday 5 December 2016

Sacking Ross would be 'fatal error for FG', warns Halligan

Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Sacking under-fire minister Shane Ross from Cabinet would be "a fatal error for Fine Gael", his Independent Alliance colleague John Halligan has warned.

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Mr Halligan said the Alliance was "100pc behind him".

"If Ross was removed from Cabinet in the morning. I would go. No question about it," he said.

He was speaking after a week of intense pressure on Transport Minister, Mr Ross, who was at the centre of a Cabinet row over a Dáil vote on neutrality.

Mr Ross has been accused of blocking new judicial appointments as he demands an overhaul of the system for selecting and overseeing judges.

A senior Fine Gael source said there was "growing frustration" that Mr Ross was "spending so much time worrying about everybody else's brief rather than getting on with his own [Transport]".

Last night, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin ratcheted up the pressure on Mr Ross, branding the Government's handling of the issue of judges as "shambolic".

"That one minister's personal obsession is blocking appointments and delaying public access to justice is a disgrace," he said. "For most Irish people, delays in getting to court is the problem, not a lack of faith in the judge they face when in court."

He said there was broad agreement about the need to reform the judicial appointments process, but that a refusal to allow new appointments until that was complete was "unacceptable and should end immediately".

Junior minister Mr Halligan was quick to leap to his Alliance colleague Mr Ross's defence and warned Fine Gael against any attempt to "undermine" him. He accused Fianna Fáil of "throwing their toys out of the pram" and pointed to their record in government.

"Look at the political appointments they made," he said.

Mr Halligan said he did not understand the "hullabaloo" over the issue and that it was a "genuine attempt by Mr Ross and the Alliance to make judges and other State appointees "accountable".

He pointed out that reforming political and judicial appointments was in the programme for government.

"I know he's [Mr Ross] coming under fire but he has 100pc backing from me," he said.

He also referred to suggestions over the weekend that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would have to sack Mr Ross, saying it would be "a fatal error for Fine Gael to come after him".

"We're all trying to push forward for a better society where everyone's accountable to society, including judges. What's wrong with that?" he said.

Senior Fine Gael minister Charlie Flanagan attempted to strike a conciliatory note on the matter when he was asked if Mr Kenny should sack Mr Ross on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.

"Not at all," he said. "The Government is working well. Of course there are going to be tensions. That's what Cabinet is for - to debate the issues and reach a consensus."

He said the issue of judicial appointment was "very serious" and that it would be "wrong" that any one person can have a veto over the appointment of judges. But he insisted judicial reform was high on Tánaiste and justice minister Frances Fitzgerald's agenda and that legislation would be published shortly.

Irish Independent

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