Sunday 17 December 2017

Ross supporter gets Government role for Independents group

Tony Williams. Photo: Tom Burke
Tony Williams. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Independent Alliance will appoint a key supporter of Shane Ross as a go-between with Fine Gael in Government.

Tony Williams, a well-known lawyer who specialises in libel, will be appointed as political liaison for the group.

Mr Williams, a former councillor and member of the Progressive Democrats, will be tasked with promoting the policies of the Alliance.

Mr Ross, along with Junior Minister John Halligan and TD Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, conducted interviews in Leinster House on Monday. Mr Williams, who previously worked for Simon McAleese Solicitors, former legal advisers to the Irish Independent, was contacted yesterday and told that he would be given the job.

Mr Williams's appointment will be on the same terms and conditions as a government special adviser to a minister. He will be on a principal officer's salary of between €79,401 and €91,624.

The announcement is due to be finalised today, according to Independent Alliance sources

The appointment will leave Mr Ross open to claims of showing favouritism. Mr Williams has campaigned for the Dublin Rathdown TD in a number of elections and was endorsed by Mr Ross to replace him in the Seanad five years ago. However, sources in the Alliance have insisted Mr Williams is "well qualified" for the role and "will be a great asset to the Alliance".

Meanwhile, Mr Ross has backed Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's criticism of the €70m cost increase for the second parallel runway at Dublin Airport. A 2014 report put the cost of developing the second parallel runway at €250m. But in April, it emerged that the cost would actually be €320m.

Mr Ross said he was not convinced that the price hike was "justified" and he has met the DAA over it.

"I think Michael O'Leary has a point. I've met the DAA about this. The original estimate for that is €250m. And it's gone up €70m. I'm not yet satisfied that's justified," he said.

Irish Independent

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