‘Boxer’ Moran: I was maddened and embarrassed by my colleagues’ North Korea plan

Minister of State says any tensions within Independent Alliance in the past

Minister of State Kevin "Boxer'' Moran has insisted any tensions within the Independent Alliance are in the past but said he was "maddened" and "embarrassed" over a planned trip to North Korea by his colleagues.

“There were tensions,” he said. “But now, there is a good working relationship, although I would like to see us working more as a unit.’’

He pointed out that the Independent Alliance was not a political party and its members were not subject to a whip system.

Sitting in his spacious Leinster House office, he did not hold back when asked about the reported row generated by the abortive plan by Independent Alliance ministerial colleagues Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and John Halligan to go on a peace mission to North Korea earlier this year.


“I was maddened at the time, embarrassed, and I think we have learned from it,’’ he added.

“It is over and done with now, and I think my three colleagues would admit it was a mistake.’’

Since he took over as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief last summer from Sean Canney, as per an agreement reached between the two men during the discussions on the formation of the Government, he has taken to his ministerial duties with relish.

He said it was not daunting becoming a junior minister.

“But going into Government as part of the Independent Alliance was frightening,’’ he added.

“It was a worry whether we were up to the task and not about to let people down.’’

A member of Westmeath County Council until his election to the Dáil in 2016, he came to national prominence in 2015 when he led a large group of volunteers operating water pumps to prevent the River Shannon from flooding dozens of homes in danger from the rising waters in his native Athlone.

He had little doubt about what ministry he wanted, recalling a late night meeting with the then taoiseach Enda Kenny, when the Government was formed, and asking him for a brief that would include responsibility for sorting the flooding in various parts of the country.

He has visited areas in Mayo, Limerick and Cork to see the problem at first hand and, in a pre-Christmas briefing to the Cabinet, he estimated the Government would need to spend €1 billion over a decade to ensure flood defences across the country were up to standard.

He has initiated a maintenance programme.

"I have put more machines on the Shannon than has been done since the time of Queen Victoria, '' he added.

He established a special fund to deal with the fallout from flooding, although “as Minister for Flood Relief I hate the term ‘rainy day fund’.’’

When Storm Ophelia hit the country, he personally rang local TDs to get information on just how bad it was in their areas.

Last May, his interview on The Late Late Show about mental health issues he encountered in the past, including an attempt to take his own life, and his problems with literacy and dyslexia, drew a huge public response.

“People welcomed it,’’ he added. “It showed there is hope at the end of the day for people who suffer from anxiety and stress.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times