Ross confirms Kenny waved Constitution at him at Cabinet meeting

Minister for Transport describes exchanges with Taoiseach as having been ‘very robust’

Minister for Transport Shane Ross (left) with  Taoiseach Enda Kenny  at the launch of the Uefa Euro 2020 Host City Logo launch   in  Dublin last week. The Minister has confirmed Mr Kenny waved a copy of the Constitution at him during a Cabinet discussion on neutrality.  File photograph: David Maher/Sportsfile

Minister for Transport Shane Ross (left) with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Uefa Euro 2020 Host City Logo launch in Dublin last week. The Minister has confirmed Mr Kenny waved a copy of the Constitution at him during a Cabinet discussion on neutrality. File photograph: David Maher/Sportsfile

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has confirmed Taoiseach Enda Kenny waved a copy of the Constitution at him during a Cabinet discussion on neutrality last week.

Describing exchanges with Mr Kenny at the meeting as “very robust”, he recalled that “he did wave the Constitution at everybody, probably principally at me”.

In an RTÉ television interview with Claire Byrne on Monday night, he said he hoped his relationship with the Taoiseach was not influenced by his description of Mr Kenny as “a political corpse” earlier this year.

He believed “our personal relationship is very good, outside the political context”. They operated “pretty effectively”, he added.

Asked whether the Taoiseach might fire him, he said: “I don’t think it will come to that”. Besides, he said, he had “the full backing of my Independent Alliance colleagues” who were “determined the Independent Alliance will maintain our identity” on such issues as judicial appointments.

Collective responsibility

Emphasising he had never breached Cabinet collective responsibility, he insisted that, at the same time, “you do not abandon your principles”.

He was “not undermining Government at all” but had “made our views absolutely clear before entering Government. We have an absolute right to a free vote on certain things” such as abortion and neutrality.

He agreed he and Independent Alliance colleagues had backed down on the neutrality issue. “It was not a major backdown.” It was “a retreat, which I regret, I’m sorry we did it” but “you have to compromise”, he said.

Legislation on a new system of judicial appointments would be in place “possibly before Christmas”.

This had been inserted into the programme for government by the Independent Alliance after “long evenings of negotiations”, and “if I didn’t champion it no one else will do it”, he said.

Mr Ross said he believed criticisms of the shortage of judges last week by Judge Raymond Groarke, president of the Circuit Court, were “injudicious of him”. He also wanted “to see root-and-branch reform” of the appointments system to State boards.

Challenging portfolio

Transport was “a very full and challenging portfolio” which took up 90 per cent of his time. It was “not a bit boring”.

He agreed with the appointment of Padraig Ó Ceidigh as chair of the Oireachtas committee on water and said he would accept charges for excessive use of water if a basic allowance was free.

He felt President Michael D Higgins “could have balanced it a little bit” in his comments on the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but that the Irishman was “a superb President” and it was “not a matter of great importance”.

He had supported President Higgins in the 2011 presidential election “and would support him again. He’s a wonderful man with very high principles.”

It would, he said, “have been hypocritical of him to condemn Castro”.