Shane Ross deletes tweet amid claims of ‘fake news’ stunt

Minister admits Marlay Park charger used in image will not be operational for weeks

The photograph Shane Ross  tweeted over the weekend in Marlay Park, south Dublin. Photograph: Shane Ross Twitter feed

The photograph Shane Ross tweeted over the weekend in Marlay Park, south Dublin. Photograph: Shane Ross Twitter feed

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has deleted a social media post which purported to show him charging his new electric car in south Dublin after it emerged the charging point was not yet working.

The Minister tweeted a photograph of himself on Sunday next to his new car plugged into an electric charging point at Marlay Park, in his constituency of Dublin Rathdown.

Along with the picture Mr Ross commented: “Who said there is a shortage of chargers for electric vehicles? Look what I found in sunny Marlay Park this morning.”

However, professor emeritus of Chemistry at UCC John Sodeau, a research specialist in atmospheric chemistry and aerobiology – who is also an An Taisce Climate Ambassador – was quick to point out that in fact the car charger in the picture, was still wrapped in plastic and was not working.

Prof Sodeau later told The Irish Times he generally stayed away from politics “but if somebody wants to cod us I would want a better attempt than that”.

Mr Ross subsequently deleted the tweet. But by lunchtime on Monday, amid accusations that the Minister was peddling fake news, the photograph was tweeted by Mr Ross a second time.

This time with a different caption which referenced the launch by Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton of a new charging incentive scheme to be run by local authorities and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

“Apologies to Richard Bruton for jumping the gun on today’s new EV charger announcement! Here in Marlay Park this new charger is due to be operational in the coming weeks,” Mr Ross wrote.

Attempts to speak directly to Mr Ross were unsuccessful. His office issued a statement saying: “Minister Ross released a tweet from Marlay Park, Dublin, yesterday of a charge point that is to be commissioned in due course. He deleted the tweet after he became aware it was inappropriate as it was in advance of a Ministerial colleague’s important announcement today of EV charging points investment”.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council which installed the charge point said: “We are currently working on the charging point for electric vehicles in Marlay Park and it will be operational as soon as is possible”.

Mr Bruton declined to address the Twitter controversy directly when asked about it on RTÉ Drivetime but he described Mr Ross as a key ally at Cabinet meetings in promoting the electric vehicle (EV) agenda.

Mr Bruton said he was not aware of what happened Mr Ross’s previous car, but he said he had known Mr Ross was driving an electric vehicle “on approval” and he was delighted Mr Ross was now “putting his money where his mouth was”. Mr Bruton said he wanted to dismiss the “canard” that the State bought cars for ministers.

New charging points

Announcing the new, Government-backed scheme earlier on Monday, Mr Bruton said the number of public charging points for EVs would double through a mix of 1,000 chargers either on street or in public car parks. They may be also be integrated with street lighting in a single lamppost, he said.

The initiative, designed to build a charging infrastructure of sufficient size to service close to 1 million EVs on Irish roads by 2030, was described by Green Party transport spokesman Patrick Costello as “a welcome small step” but not “ ambitious enough”.

Mr Costello said “The decision to mandate county councils to provide these points but to only provide 75 per cent of the funding is going to seriously hamper rollout. It is an example of the Government setting up councils to fail and getting themselves off the hook.”

He added: “If we look at Norway they already have 12,000 charge points. The Government need to aim for the provision of 10,000 charge points.”

Separately, Climate Action Funding of €10 million has been allocated to ESB eCars to develop a nationwide, EV fast-charging network.

This includes installation of 90 high-power chargers capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously, upgrading 50 existing standard chargers to fast chargers and replacing over 500 existing charge points with next generation models. ESB is matching this funding with €10 million.

Charges for use of this network will be introduced on a phased basis beginning with fast chargers and applied to all public charge points on its network in 2020. “It is our intention that solely using the EV fast charger network to charge an EV would provide a worthwhile saving compared to a similar-sized diesel vehicle,” an ESB spokesman said.

Pricing plans will be announced “in the next month or two”. The company is considering a “pay as you go” rate based on the unit of energy used rather than time spent at a charger.

Feedback indicated people want to prevent EV drivers from overstaying at chargers. In a recent ESB survey of EV drivers, 90 per cent supported the introduction of an overstay fee.