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Minister's first day in office ends in slapdown


New Minister for State Tom Hayes. Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins

New Minister for State Tom Hayes. Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins

New Minister for State Tom Hayes. Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins

NEWLY appointed minister Tom Hayes has become embroiled in an astonishing first-day row with Cabinet heavyweight Ruairi Quinn.

Mr Hayes infuriated the Education Minister after he publicly stated that plans to include capital assets in the means tests for student grants have been dropped.

The Tipperary South TD was yesterday unveiled as the new junior agriculture minister, following Shane McEntee's tragic death in December.



Despite only being in the job a few hours, Mr Hayes put himself on a collision course with Minister Quinn by claiming that he had dropped the controversial means test plans involving capital assets.

"That idea has been dropped by Minister Quinn and it is only fair that it be dropped," he said.

He added that grants have always been handed out based on a family's income and that's how it should remain.

Mr Quinn issued a slapdown within hours.

"The matter has not been dropped," he said. "I'm telling you what I know. I've been in this job for two years and three months; the man [Mr Hayes] hasn't had a half-day yet."

Labour sources last night said Mr Quinn was adamant that capital assets must be on the table.

The move would particularly affect business owners and farmers, who fear that the values of their companies, premises and land would be used as a reason not to hand out grants to their children.

"As far as we're concerned in the Department, we're committed to introducing a reform of the overall allocation of students' supports. There should be some measurement of capital assets," Minister Quinn said.

"The memorandum has not been brought to Government so far. It is my intention to bring it fairly soon.

"When the Government has decided how it is going to respond to that, there will be an announcement."



But Fine Gael sources last night said Mr Hayes's comments "represented the core view of the party".

"Tom Hayes knew exactly what he was doing. He's there in the Department of Agriculture and this is a huge issue for farmers," one TD said.