Thursday 27 June 2019

Ross under fire as Rugby World Cup bid fears mount

Sports Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Sports Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Niall O'Connor

Sports Minister Shane Ross is to rush through legislation in order to support Ireland's staging of the Rugby World Cup.

There was shock within political circles last night after Mr Ross raised doubt over whether Ireland's submission to host the 2023 event would be accepted.

In a letter to the Oireachtas committee for Transport, Sport and Tourism, Mr Ross revealed that advice received from the Attorney General stated that emergency legislation was required to support Ireland's bid to host the tournament.

He said that the Government was now under "extreme time pressure" to ensure specific guarantees sought by the organising body could be delivered.

"I am writing now on a matter of urgency that has arisen," Mr Ross said. "The draft guarantees to be provided by the State to support the staging of the tournament were received from the Rugby World Cup Limited on April 7.

"After consideration of the views of the minister, the Office of the Attorney General advised on May 4 that express statutory authority through the passing of legislation is necessary for a minister to provide the necessary guarantees."

In his letter, seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Ross said the hosting of the event would prove "very beneficial" for the sport and for the economy. The bill was approved at Cabinet last week. Mr Ross said in the letter that the bill had to pass through the Oireachtas by the summer recess. As a result, he said the Oireachtas committee would need to be bypassed.

"Given the urgency of the legislation, I have asked the House Business Committee not to refer the bill to the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, to move instead to drafting by the Office of the Parliamentary Draughtsmen," he said. "I trust you understand the reason for this approach is to do everything in my power to secure passage of this vital piece of legislation in an extremely constrained time period."

Last night, two members of the committee - Fianna Fáil TDs Robert Troy and Kevin O'Keeffe - criticised the minister over his apparent lack of preparedness. "It was known weeks ago that this would require legislation. The minister has shown that he is completely all over the place on this issue, and it would be very concerning if our bid was jeopardised as a result," Mr O'Keeffe said.

Irish Independent

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