Shane Ross insists he is fully committed to Bus Connects

Minister: ‘I make Government policy, but don’t ask me for details. I don’t micro manage’

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been accused of being disconnected from his brief. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been accused of being disconnected from his brief. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has insisted he is fully committed to the Bus Connects project despite having told a residents’ association meeting in his constituency he had nothing to do with it and had no responsibility for the National Transport Authority.

During the meeting Mr Ross indicated that he would be making his own submission to the ongoing public consultation on the plan and objecting to some aspects of it.

According to one person present, when he saw a proposed route map for the Bus Connects plan at the meeting, he told attendees: “Don’t mind this map.”

Responding to a report on the residents’ association meeting in The Irish Times on Friday, Mr Ross rejected allegations he had disavowed any knowledge of the Bus Connects proposals.

“I wanted to make it clear that, yes, I make Government policy, but don’t ask me for details. I don’t micro manage.

“If you have a problem in your particular area, it’s up to you to make a submission, but don’t come to me to change a route. That’s not my job, that map was not drawn up by me,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

Mr Ross was speaking at the agm of the Nutgrove Loreto Community Association, in the Rathfarnham-Churchtown area of his constituency.

Two other area representatives, Green Party TD Catherine Martin and Fianna Fáil Cllr Shay Brennan, who attended the meeting, said there was a need for leadership from the Minister.

‘Not appropriate’

“The level of disconnect is not appropriate from a Minister,” said Ms Martin while Cllr Brennan added: “either the Minister is in denial or he was playing to the audience. If he’s not interested he should step aside.”

Mr Ross responded: “This sounds suspiciously like a local spat when this is an important issue.”

Ms Martin accused Mr Ross of behaving like an Opposition TD while in Government. “He can’t have it both ways.”

Mr Ross said the National Transport Authority (NTA) makes the decisions, not him. “I don’t make decisions, but I will be making a submission on behalf of the people in my constituency who are greatly inconvenienced. It’s a very good project, but there are problems that must be ironed out, that’s why there is a consultation process. I’ve no responsibility for the detail of Bus Connects, that’s why we employ the NTA to be separate so there isn’t political interference. Of course I’m going to relay the worries of my constituents.”

He said the map being used at public meetings was “only a proposal which will be adjusted in the near future. The NTA will report to me when it has a new proposal and there could be a second consultation.”

Mr Ross said he was committed to the project as it was important, but he was not going to direct the NTA “to put one route here or another one there”.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the Minister’s comments would make “you weep”. In atweet he said: “The Minister for Transport says he’s not responsible for transport. Read the manual! (There is one). Every Minster is personally responsible for every act of his/her department and all agencies operating under it!”

Varadkar’s backing

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he is happy with Mr Ross’s ministerial performance. Mr Varadkar said he had listened to Mr Ross’s interview on RTÉ and believed the Minister had satisfactorily “clarified his remarks”.

However, the Taoiseach said Bus Connects needed “major modifications” even though it was what he described as the best plan for the future of urban bus transport.

He said he had met the NTA chief executive last week to discuss concerns.

“It is a €2 billion investment to improve bus services not just in Dublin but also in Cork and Galway . . . Bus Connects, if it is done properly, can reduce bus journeys by half.”

The Taoiseaach went on to say it was important to get it right. “I really think what is required now is the NTA take on the concerns expressed by the people of Dublin and make major modifications to the plan.”