Ross launches attack on 'the establishment' over reaction to 'granny grant'
Transport Minister Shane Ross has dug his heels in over his proposal to pay €1,000 a year to grandparents who provide childcare - and he issued a stinging rebuke to his critics.
In an extraordinary defence of the proposed payment to those who provide 10 hours or more of childcare to their grandchildren, Mr Ross attacked Fine Gael, opposition parties, "conservative Ireland" and the childcare industry.
The suggestion, put forward in the Independent Alliance's pre-Budget submission, is to be costed by the Department of Finance. However, sources have raised serious concerns over the projected cost.
The scheme, dubbed the 'granny grant', has also faced criticism from opposition parties and lobby groups for doing little to address the high cost of childcare facing parents.
However, in a scathing rebuttal published in the 'Sunday Independent', Mr Ross said that following the suggestion "the establishment went to work".
"Anonymous Fine Gael sources were widely quoted as rubbishing the suggestion and its proposers. Official Ireland circled the wagons. Conservative Ireland took to the airwaves," he wrote.
"A threatened childcare industry joined forces with an incoherent Fianna Fáil. 'Kill this one dead before it gets legs'.
"All of them sang from the same hymn sheet. The mantra was identical: where had this project ever been attempted before?"
Mr Ross defended the idea as a "proud experiment" and said questions about the detail of the scheme, such as how compliance would be monitored, were "fair questions about detail, which happily do nothing to denigrate the merit of the big idea".
Mr Ross referred to a number of opinion polls carried out during the week, including by Independent.ie, which showed a majority in favour of the proposal.
Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who came in for special mention in Mr Ross's column as having "tied herself and her party up in knots", hit back at the minister, describing his claims as "complete nonsense". "He is trying his best to portray himself as someone who is a maverick and an outsider - he has been decades in the Oireachtas," she said.
Ms Clifford-Lee accused the minister of using the plight of young families to earn some easy headlines.
She said she took issue with the sum of €1,000 because it was not enough to compensate grandparents for the work they do, but clarified she doesn't think they should be paid at all because they shouldn't have to be stepping in to provide childcare.