Independent TD says it’s time to ‘move on’ from controversy

‘Boxer’ Moran says North Korea plan ‘embarrassed’ him and that Halligan made a ‘mistake’

 Members of the Independent Alliance Seán Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Shane Ross and John Halligan. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Members of the Independent Alliance Seán Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Shane Ross and John Halligan. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran has said it is time to move on from controversy surrounding a proposed trip by the Independent Alliance to North Korea.

His fellow alliance member Shane Ross last night said “it’s off” in reference to the would-be peace mission as the group was “not going to do anything which is in breach of Government policy.”

Mr Moran, who was not among the alliance members proposing to visit the secretive state, said the trip was something that had “embarrassed” him and was “something I didn’t condone”.

“I accept that they say it’s off. I drew a line in the sand. We can move on now,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland after a clear the air meeting with three of his colleagues about the issue.

He said the first he had heard about the North Korea visit was on radio. He said he was annoyed and deeply hurt at the manner in which he heard about the trip.

Mr Ross said that in opposition “many years ago” he, John Halligan and Finian McGrath had spoken regularly about making trips abroad and doing things that were constructive. “It was just an idea.”

“We never had it in a structured plan to do it. It was a project we talked about, that is all that it was. It had never developed to a stage where we were going.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the proposed visit by the three Independent Alliance TDs had not been discussed with his department.

He had since spoken to Mr Halligan and explained why it was not a good idea.

“It has been dealt with and we’re moving on,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The alliance also made the headlines this week over the conduct of Mr halligan, a Minister of State, who was criticised after the Workplace Relations Commission awarded €7,500 to a woman who he had questioned about her marital status and number of children during a job interview. The commission found she had been discriminated against.

‘Unacceptable’

There were calls for Mr Halligan, who is on a trade mission in Asia, to stand down over his comments, which the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald on Thursday acknowledged were “discriminatory” and “unacceptable”.

Mr Hailligan on Thursday expressed his remorse for the comments, stressing it was a “genuine mistake” and was never meant to cause offence.

While he was unaware of how repayment would work, the Minister of State said he was eager to pay the money back if that option was available to him. Mr Halligan said he would make every effort possible to ensure the taxpayer does not have to pay the fine.

Mr Moran said Mr Halligan’s future in the Cabinet was a matter for him and the Taoiseach. “He is a very decent guy. No one is hurting more than John Halligan this morning,” he said.

He apologised to the family of the woman at the centre of the case, saying Mr Halligan had “made a mistake”.

“In terms of Government, we need to move on.”

Mr Coveney said Mr Halligan’s line of questioning in the job interview should not have happened. “It was a mistake, an error of judgment. He has taken on the responsibility himself of paying the fine,” he said.

“It shouldn’t have happened. The consequences are clear. John has accepted that and we’re moving on.”