Minister Shane Ross attacked over 'constant pursuit of vanity projects'
New FF spokesman sparks war of words with transport minister
Fianna Fail's newly appointed transport spokesperson Marc MacSharry has launched a scathing attack on transport minister Shane Ross, whom he accused of being in "constant pursuit of vanity projects and photo opportunities".
Speaking for the first time since his appointment, Mr MacSharry said the minister, who is also responsible for sport, was "like the president of a golf club or a GAA club".
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"He gets to stand in for the photos at ceremonial occasions and say a few words but really he has nothing to do with running the club," he told the Sunday Independent.
The Sligo-Leitrim TD said he did not want to personalise his criticisms of Mr Ross. But he said: "All he does is run to the airport to meet whatever Irish athlete has put in a good effort and won honours internationally. It's just not credible.
"I call it 'behind the winning jockey syndrome' when the Galway Races or Cheltenham is on television and there is always someone trying to squeeze into the photograph with the winning horse and that's all that Shane Ross means to sport," he added.
Mr MacSharry also accused Mr Ross of having "no strategic vision" for public transport and said he was shirking his responsibilities as a minister.
"He epitomises the commenting on executive roles embraced by most of the Government but he is particularly out on his own when it comes to ambivalences to responsibilities," he said. "He's the primary enemy of the judiciary and champion of garda stations in his constituency, but when it comes to his core brief, he is missing in action."
He also accused the minister of not attending important conferences and claimed he was using Dail time to promote councillors affiliated to the Independent Alliance.
Yesterday, Minister Ross responded by saying: "Ten out of ten for Marc on his first outing - he is bang on the money.
"I rarely miss an opportunity to promote Independent Alliance councillors and I shamelessly love greeting successful Irish sports stars at the airport. Long may such sporting successes and photo-opportunities continue," he added.
Separately, Mr MacSharry said his focus in his new role will be seeking to address the lengthy commutes faced by workers.
"We will form radical policies which will address one of the nation's silent crisis which is the commute misery that is being endured by thousands of families and workers. Particularly in Dublin but also to a lesser extent in towns and villages," he said.
Mr MacSharry had long-running difficulties with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and his appointment to the party's front bench surprised some colleagues who felt they should have been promoted for showing loyalty.
Mr MacSharry said his appointment shows Mr Martin "respects" opposing views from within his parliamentary party. "The price you pay for being involved in a party that is challenging to go into Government is that you have to kick things around and ensure you come up with the consensus view," he said.