Sunday 20 August 2017

'We're not afraid to take on FG' - Alliance

Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Independent Alliance members have warned they will not be "frightened" to challenge a new Fine Gael but won't be seeking a review of the Programme for Government.

All four ministers said they will be happy to keep their current ministries, while OPW Minister Sean Canney revealed he will hand over his office to Kevin 'Boxer' Moran on June 2.

The five members of the Alliance held a press conference yesterday to mark the first anniversary of their time in government.

They defended their record and took several swipes at opposition parties for being "hurlers on the ditch" when it came to forming a government.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said it was "a good thing" that the Government was consistently losing Dáil votes.

"The insiders of Irish politics can now be successfully challenged," he said.

And Mr Ross insisted the Government could last three years, as agreed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in their 'confidence and supply arrangement'.

"Those who say the Government will only last another few months were saying the same thing last year," he said.

Mr Ross was asked if he was disappointed that one of his big demands at the time - the reopening of Stepaside Garda Station in his constituency - had not yet occurred, but said he was confident it would happen later this month.

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He said Stepaside was "the worst case in the county that I knew of for burglaries", adding that it "must" be included in a list of six garda stations to be reopened.

Mr Ross said it was not up to the Alliance to decide on the next leader of Fine Gael but they would work with Enda Kenny's successor.

All five members refused to express a preference between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, although Finian McGrath said he had a closer working relationship with Mr Varadkar.

Mr Ross offered an assurance the group would not go to the new leader with "an aggressive new manifesto" but said the changeover would be an "opportunity to refresh things".

He added: "We're not going to be frightened to raise new issues."

Mr McGrath said he now realised it was "not very popular to be in government"

However, he said he intended to stand for re-election in Dublin Bay North because a lot of other independents "ran away" from government after last year's election.

"They became hurlers on the ditch and that needs to be challenged," he said.

Mr Canney, Mr Moran and Mr Ross all said they would run in the next election but Waterford TD John Halligan said he has yet to decide.

"I'm not too sure. I'll think about it," he said.

Mr Moran said he was looking forward to taking up a ministerial post for the first time, having been the only Alliance member left without one after the government formation.

"We did have a shaky start. We had to settle down," he admitted.

Irish Independent

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