Sunday 4 December 2016

Transport Minister Shane Ross is dubbed a 'mini dictator' in Dáil row

Fianna Fáil says Mr Ross is “cavalier and untruthful” about judges

John Downing and Kevin Doyle

Published 22/11/2016 | 14:18

Transport Minister Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke
Transport Minister Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke

Embattled Transport Minister Shane Ross has been called “a mini dictator" in a scathing Dáil attack by Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin.

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Mr Martin said the Transport Minister lacked the due respect which a government minister should have for judges. He said Mr Ross had been “very cavalier and untruthful” in his criticisms of the judiciary.

“It may play well. But I don’t think it’s right that a minister should use his ministerial platform in such a way,” the Fianna Fáil leader said.

He challenged the Taoiseach to explain why no judges had been appointed in recent times and the number of court vacancies was growing.

Mr Martin added that there were now 34 vacancies on various state boards which were under Mr Ross’s ambit. These included two vacancies on the Road Safety Authority which had very important work in hands.

The Fianna Fáil leader described as a “ridiculous commentary” the Minister’s explanation that he could not make choices on board appointments.

“No Minister can set himself up as a ‘mini dictator,’” Mr Martin said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Ross’s comments about judges were his own personal view – not the view of the Government. He said the Justice Department would shortly table a new draft law overhauling the way judges were appointed and supervised as to future conduct.

Mr Kenny said there would be a Judicial Council and board with a majority of “lay members.” There would also be a Judicial Conduct Committee which would investigate any alleged misconduct by judges and also promote excellence.

The Fianna Fáil leader again challenged the Taoiseach alleging Mr Ross had got his way – as the Taoiseach had for the first time effectively admitted that he had not appointed any new judges pending a new appointments regime.

Mr Martin also complained the Taoiseach had not answered the question about the state board appointments which Mr Ross had failed to make.

The Taoiseach said there was now a Public Appointments Service which dealt with state board appointments.  Mr Kenny said the Minister just set down the criterion required of appointees.

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