Sunday 18 February 2018

Ross is left isolated after backing down over neutrality vote

Neutrality row: Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Neutrality row: Transport Minister Shane Ross Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross has been left isolated within Cabinet after he backed down on his demands for a free vote on the issue of neutrality.

Mr Ross and his Independent Alliance colleagues last night sided with Fine Gael in relation to the Sinn Féin motion.

The motion, which sought to enshrine the country's neutrality in the Constitution, was the subject of a heated row between Mr Ross and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

At one point during the tense meeting, Mr Kenny held up a copy of the Constitution and insisted that Mr Ross adhere to the principle of collective cabinet responsibility.

The Transport Minister has privately expressed his anger over Mr Kenny's response to his demand for a free vote.

Mr Ross's stance was that the issue of neutrality is not in the Programme for Government - therefore he and his colleagues are entitled to vote as they wish.

With Fianna Fáil also siding with the Government, the Sinn Féin motion was defeated last night.

Several figures within the Independent Alliance, however, have voiced deep anger over Mr Ross's handling of the issue.And Independent ministers Denis Naughten and Katherine Zappone are also said to have been left miffed that the issue was blown up into a full-scale row.

One Independent Alliance Minister Seán Canney held a meeting with Mr Ross this week and asked him to outline areas of progress within his department.

There remains a clear sense within the grouping that Mr Ross is disinterested in his role - a claim sources close to him have denied.

Meanwhile, the Polish foreign minister told an audience at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday that it would be "desirable" if Ireland "came on board" with the Nato military alliance.

Witold Waszczykowski had earlier met with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to discuss the implications of Brexit for both countries.

The Polish minister noted that Ireland, unlike Poland, was located far away from many current conflict zones. He also said US president-elect Donald Trump's "campaign comments" about pulling back from Nato in Europe were different since he had been elected, and he believed the US would honour its Nato commitments.

Irish Independent

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