Minister in state as Shane Ross fails to delegate functions

Fine Gael’s Patrick O’Donovan yet to be given official powers after nearly a year in office

Patrick O’Donovan (r) with Shane Ross. The Minister of State has cited ‘a degree of frustration’ with the Minister for Transport. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Patrick O’Donovan (r) with Shane Ross. The Minister of State has cited ‘a degree of frustration’ with the Minister for Transport. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The junior minister in Shane Ross’s department has complained about his “frustration” at not being given official powers nearly a year after taking up office.

Patrick O’Donovan has twice written to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport seeking an official delegation of functions, but has not received a written reply.

Correspondence released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act shows that Mr O’Donovan told Mr Ross the refusal to delegate functions is causing “confusion” within the department and asked for it to be urgently addressed, claiming he is the only Minister of State to be in this position.

In the first piece of correspondence, dated February 3rd, Mr O’Donovan asked the Minister to outline when he intends to take a memo to Cabinet confirming his responsibilities in the department.

The Fine Gael TD said he was “anxious that the matter is clarified” because it was raised by the Opposition.

Two weeks later, on February 27th, Mr O’Donovan made further contact seeking clarity on his delegated responsibilities.

He described confusion around his duties and responsibilities due to the lack of clarity within the Department of Transport.

This is “due to the absence of a clear series of delegated functions”, Mr O’Donovan said.

The email reads: “As you will be aware from the staff notice 9/2016, I am supposedly to have a ‘particular focus on tourism-generating events including festivals’, however in the past week it has come to my attention that this has not been adhered to within the Department and has caused me a degree of frustration given that I had spent several weeks and months resolving a particular festival related issue.”

Finally concluded

Mr O’Donovan said he would like this issue to be “finally concluded some ten months after my appointment”.

He wrote: “It is my understanding that I am the only Minister of State that does not have this level of certainty and clarity, and given that my Independent Alliance and Fine Gael colleagues as Minister of State have had this matter resolved by their line Minister, I am requesting that the same apply.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Ross said the two have discussed the matter in private since the emails were sent.

She said there was no precedent in the department to delegate functions, pointing to a similar situation between former minister for transport Paschal Donohoe and minister of state Michael Ring.

However, she said the pair would continue to discuss the issue between them.

Mr O’Donovan and Mr Ross are known to have a frosty relationship and were recently reported to not be on speaking terms.

When the Fine Gael TD announced plans to introduce gender quotas on the board of sports bodies, Mr Ross rejected the plans publicly.

The Minister for Transport then held a meeting with the State bodies and did not invite Mr O’Donovan.

Mr O’Donovan was contacted for comment but did not respond.