Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty has blasted Shane Ross’ new book revealing details of cabinet meetings as “naked attention-seeking” and said “he had no interest in being a minister”.
Senator Doherty and Shane Ross spoke on RTÉ Radio One, and Mr Ross claimed his new book, ‘In bed with the Blueshirts’ didn’t break cabinet confidentiality as “you may as well have an RTÉ camera in the room most of the time as people have been leaking stuff out to their favourite journalists.”
In a stunning back and forth, Senator Doherty accused Mr Ross of trying to make a “few bob” by doing his “tell-tale” book and reminded him that he went “bananas” when someone leaked info about his ministry.
“I remember a particular cabinet meeting, and I am probably guilty now of dumping info but, I remember Shane Ross going bananas at a cabinet meeting because something had been leaked to do with his ministry. So, what’s good for the goose..” Ms Doherty said.
Shane Ross reminded Ms Doherty of the Fine Gael precedent of divulging cabinet details but admitted he may have gone “into a little more detail”.
“I can understand the anger that has come out as a result of this. What I tried to do was tell a tale as to what happened in the last four years of government and it would be absolutely impossible to tell that tale, without referring to the cabinet in detail and how it made its decisions.
“This isn’t the first time a cabinet minister has written about their time in government and about what went on in cabinet. Gemma Hussey did it and Garrett Fitzgerald did it. Which means there is very good Fine Gael precedent for it.
Mr Ross was reminded that leaking details of cabinet meetings is against the constitution and he admitted he didn’t seek a High Court ruling to reveal such documents as the constitution dictates.
“I don’t expect there will be any prosecutions, either, as the precedent is there for them having done this. I probably produced a little more detail than they did [Hussey and Fitzgerald] but there is a real problem with cabinet confidentiality and that was true when I was there. Everything was leaked, and it is far better that it is told in an orderly way of what happened,” Mr Ross said.
Senator Doherty said she was disappointed with Ross for “undermining one of the most important positions in the land”.
“I think that the indecent haste with which Shane has written this book leaves us with no doubt that he had no interest in being a minister and that he was only there taking notes from a journalistic perspective to provide us with his tell-all book and I think it is unedifying.
“I think it’s a real shame, to be honest. We all have only a small opportunity to make a difference and to make an impact. Some people think it is positive and in my case, many people think it is negative but I think this is a real pity. I think it shows it is about naked attention-seeking and publicity. I even feel guilty being on with you as I feel like I’m giving him more publicity and I think it’s a shame. It’s unedifying.
“There are businesses being conducted between 15 adults in there that are making decisions in the best interest of the people in the State, and the decision-making process and differences of opinion, and the arriving at those decisions are not fodder for journalists or commentators. I think it is unedifying to do your tell-tale tatler after it.
“The confidentiality that is supposed to allow you to share, without fear or favour, your view and then to arrive collectively at a decision about policy that is being put forward. To be fair, not that there’s much of it going around these days as we seem to be live-tweeting cabinet meetings anyway,” Ms Doherty said.
Shane Ross echoed this sentiment saying leaks were a big issue when he served in cabinet.
“When I attended my first cabinet meeting I remember we had to put our phones in a locker outside and when Leo came in he said, ‘No, this is ridiculous, bring your mobiles back in.’ The result of that was one day Simon Coveney said, ‘this item we are now discussing, okay, it is out on RTÉ already what is being said at this cabinet meeting.
“I’m very honoured to have been there but I think the public have a right to know what goes on behind those doors, and I think it is ridiculous to think you don’t have to be accountable for what you say when you go behind those doors. The public don’t get to see how the real big decisions are made and I am trying to show that,” Mr Ross said.