Sunday 20 January 2019

'He's very committed to road safety' - Taoiseach on 'sleigh' perched on top of car bearing image of Shane Ross

Festive: The Christmas tree on a car in Stepaside. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Festive: The Christmas tree on a car in Stepaside. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Laura Lynott, Fiona Dillon and Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he expects Shane Ross to heed safety warnings over a ‘Christmas sleigh’ bearing his name which is being driven around on top of a car.

Mr Varadkar was somewhat surprised to hear about the stunt when alerted to it by journalists at his annual pre-Christmas briefing in Government Buildings.

The Road Safety Authority has called on the Transport Minister to remove the sleigh, which is holding a Christmas tree, because it appears unsafe and could distract other motorists.

A visibly bemused Taoiseach said: “I’ll try speak to Minister Ross before I make any comment on it – but I know he’s very committed to road safety so I’m sure take any advice from the RSA on board.”

The Road Safety Authority has urged that a 'Christmas sleigh' perched on top of a car and bearing the name and image of Transport Minister Shane Ross be removed, as it is "unsafe".

The Irish Independent contacted the RSA after our photographer spotted the large red box, meant to resemble a sleigh and containing a Christmas tree and lights, on top of a black car yesterday. It appears to be secured in place with the aid of two ropes fastened under the bonnet of the car.

Kevin Daly and Shane Ross. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Kevin Daly and Shane Ross. Photo: Justin Farrelly

One motorist told the Irish Independent they have seen this vehicle being driven in and around the south Dublin suburb of Stepaside.

"I made sure I was a good distance from it as it looked unsteady and it was during the heavy winds earlier this week. You just don't expect to see something like this car when you're driving along. It's a distraction and can make you nervous," the driver said.

The 'sleigh' features photographs of Mr Ross and Independent Councillor Kevin Daly, a close political associate of the minister, with Santa hats glued to their heads.

Their message reads: "Happy Christmas Cllr Kevin Daly, working with Shane Ross TD. Like Santa we deliver."

The RSA works closely with Mr Ross, as it has done with every transport minister, and has backed him in his recent campaigns to amend the drink-driving and speeding laws.

But on this occasion, it is taking a different view.

An RSA spokesman said: "We couldn't condone it (the box). It doesn't look secure, it isn't safe and should be removed.

"It shouldn't be out on the road. It needs to be removed.

"If the thing is insecure, it could come off in transit and poses a potential risk to drivers and there's a risk of driver distraction."

The contraption was described as "bizarre" by Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson Robert Troy.

"It does appear to be very much an uneasy looking contraption for want of a better word," Mr Troy said.

A number of attempts were made to contact the minister last night about the 'sleigh' contraption, but no response was forthcoming.

Cllr Daly insisted the structure on top of the car was safe.

"The structure on top of the vehicle in question was inspected by local Garda today who stated there was no problem with it, as it's structurally sound and safe.

"I would invite an inspection from the RSA tomorrow if they so wish," he said.

The same vehicle has been used before when a number of posters were attached to the car, complete with spotlights, thanking their south Dublin constituents for voting for Mr Ross and Mr Daly.

Mr Ross has been accused of a case of 'do as I say, not as I do' when it comes to road safety due to the sleigh.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys has criticised Mr Ross for what he argued was a dangerously placed sleigh and a "clear road hazard".

He claimed: "It seems to be a case of 'do as I say, not as I do' when it comes to the Minister for Transport's road safety drive.

"Perhaps the Minister should consider the introduction of penalty points for stupid stunts?,"  he added.

Mr Ross's spokesperson has been contacted for comment but has not yet responded.

Irish Independent

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