Monday 23 September 2019

Councillor to take 'Ross sleigh' off car as a 'gesture of goodwill'

Minister's ally wants 'no ambiguity where road safety is concerned'

Controversy: the ‘sleigh’ on top of Kevin Daly’s car
Controversy: the ‘sleigh’ on top of Kevin Daly’s car
Shane Ross and Mr Daly outside the former Stepaside garda station

Cormac McQuinn, Laura Lynott and Kevin Doyle

A controversial 'Christmas sleigh' perched on the roof of a car bearing Transport Minister Shane Ross's name and image is being removed.

Councillor Kevin Daly, an ally of Mr Ross in his Dublin-Rathdown constituency, is taking down the large red box and Christmas tree from his vehicle as a "gesture of goodwill".

According to a spokesperson for Mr Ross, Mr Daly maintains that gardaí approved the vehicle and sign.

But he is to remove it so that there is "no ambiguity where road safety is concerned".

Meanwhile, the spokesperson moved to distance Mr Ross from the stunt in the wake of criticism, saying that he doesn't own the vehicle and has never driven it.

The 'sleigh' includes lights on the tree and a slogan that reads: "Happy Christmas Cllr Kevin Daly, working with Shane Ross TD. Like Santa, we deliver."

Lights illuminate the Christmas tree and frame of the sleigh at night.

When the vehicle came to their attention, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) initially raised concern and said it should be taken down.

On Wednesday, a 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."

Mr Daly insisted the structure on top of the car was safe when the RSA concerns were put to him, saying that it was "inspected by [a] local Garda today who stated there was no problem with it, as it's structurally sound and safe."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was somewhat surprised to hear about the stunt when alerted to it by journalists at his annual pre-Christmas briefing.

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 he'd take any advice from the RSA on board."

But then the RSA last night issued a statement back-tracking on its previous advice that the sign should be removed.

It said: "The RSA can confirm that it has spoken to Councillor Daly regarding the structure displayed on the roof of his vehicle. He has confirmed to us that he has satisfied the gardaí in relation to the security and safety of the structure, which gives the necessary reassurance.

"Furthermore, the councillor has confirmed that the necessary insurance is also in place."

The RSA said Mr Daly confirmed he would "take on board our concerns."

However, in another twist, a spokesperson for Mr Ross later said that Mr Daly would take the sign down anyway.

She said: "I have spoken to the councillor who has said, even though gardaí have approved his vehicle and sleigh, he has decided to remove it as a gesture of goodwill to ensure there is no ambiguity where road safety is concerned."

She added: "Minister Ross does not own, nor has ever driven this vehicle."

He has been snapped with Mr Daly in a recent photograph - both men are wearing Santa hats and holding a sign saying 'Our Garda Station is reopening in 2019'.

The picture was taken outside the former Stepaside garda station, with the minister appearing to wave for the picture.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section