Saturday 18 November 2017

Canney and Ross clash as tension among Independents increases

Shane Ross: strained meeting. Photo: Frank McGrath
Shane Ross: strained meeting. Photo: Frank McGrath
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Transport Minister Shane Ross has been involved in heated clashes with his Independent Alliance colleague Seán Canney as tensions continue to increase over the upcoming Budget.

Mr Canney questioned Mr Ross's performance since being appointed to Cabinet and told the Dublin TD that he needed to "do more" to assert the authority of the alliance within the Government.

At a strained meeting of the group in Leinster House last night, Mr Canney, the OPW minister, also insisted upon an urgent meeting with senior Fine Gael "negotiators" to review how the Government is performing.

Several sources present said there were interventions by Longford/Westmeath TD Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and alliance strategist Tony Williams in an attempt to defuse tensions between the two ministers.

At the same meeting, junior minister John Halligan once again raised the issue of Waterford Hospital and his demand for a second catherisation (cath) laboratory. Mr Halligan, the junior minister for training and skills, told the meeting that the issue "has not gone away".

He said that he still wants to see a second cath lab delivered for the south-east, despite the findings of an Independent clinical review.

The meeting also heard from Finian McGrath, who said he was pushing Fine Gael to significantly increase the number of medical cards for children who receive domicillary care.

Mr McGrath, the super junior minister for disabilities, also said he believed the Budget would contain more resources for speech therapy.

But the tensions between Mr Ross and Mr Canney indicate that the Budget process is taking its toll on the alliance.

At several points during the meeting, Mr Moran rowed in behind Mr Canney and insisted more needs to be done to get the alliance's message across to the public.

"Boxer and Canney, in particular, made it clear to Ross that as the senior minister, he is best placed to fight for the alliance at the Cabinet table and they questioned whether he has been doing that," said a source.

A separate source close to Mr Canney emphasised that while there were "frank exchanges", relations between him and Mr Ross remain strong.


Following the meeting, those present agreed to a media blackout. Later, however, a spokesman for Mr Ross said: "We had the usual debate and discussion and left in total agreement about the submission we will be making to the Taoiseach and the Finance Ministers in relation to the Budget."

The alliance is due to meet Finance Minister Michael Noonan for an hour and-a-half today to discuss its budget demands.

A further meeting will also take place with the Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

At last night's meeting, there was an acceptance that the group will benefit from the hiring of a deputy government press secretary to ensure they receive more positive coverage in the media.

Former reporter of the 'Irish Daily Star' Catherine Halloran will take up that role next week.

Irish Independent

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