herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Ross says criticism of him is 'complete and utter nonsense'

Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross
Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross

Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Shane Ross has described criticism of his performance as "utter nonsense".

Mr Ross made the comments at a farcical press conference in Dublin yesterday.

The Independent Alliance TD repeatedly refused to answer questions on the issue of judicial appointments, amid accusations that he is holding up the filling of a number of vacancies.

Mr Ross was attending a Tourism Ireland event in Ballsbridge.

Members of the media were told by an adviser to Mr Ross at the start of the press conference that questions should be confined to the issue of tourism.

No reason was given as to why other issues could not be raised. Asked about criticism relating to his own brief, Mr Ross rejected it outright.

"Any criticisms I'm not spending enough time in the tourist portfolio are complete and utter nonsense," he said.

"There is simply no evidence provided by anybody to support that, not one scintilla of it."

The row over judicial appointments has been rumbling on for weeks.

Heated

Mr Ross was at the centre of another row last week following his demands for a free vote on the issue of neutrality.

A Sinn Fein 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 to highlight the principle of collective cabinet responsibility.

The 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 - so he and his colleagues were entitled to vote as they wished.

With Fianna Fail siding with the Government, the Sinn Fein motion was defeated.

Several figures within the Independent Alliance, however, have voiced deep anger over Mr Ross's handling of the issue.

Independent ministers Denis Naughten and Katherine Zappone are said to have been left annoyed by the row.

OPW and Flood Relief Minister Sean Canney held a meeting with Mr Ross and asked him to outline areas of progress within his department.

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