‘Do these f***ers not read the news?’: Coalition rift sparked by Varadkar comments on rail plan

Fine Gael sources say party is seeking meeting with Eamon Ryan to discuss future roads projects and their belief they are being undermined or abandoned

A war of words has erupted between the Green Party and its two Coalition partners over plans for a major expansion of public transport and the impact this would have on future roads projects.

Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan this week published a multibillion euro all-island strategy, up to 2050, which he said would usher in a “new age of rail” and potentially double the number of people travelling by train.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believed the plan actually further “makes the case” for a greater level of investment in road projects given the projections under the strategy for the proportion of passengers and freight that would be carried by rail, rising to 6 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, were modest.

The Green Party’s desire to shift the balance of investment away from roads to public transport and active travel such as walking or cycling has been a matter of tension between the three Coalition parties since they formed the Government.


The Fine Gael leader’s comments sparked a backlash in the Green ranks, with one source asking: “do these f***ers not read the news? Do they not see that the world is burning?” Others noted annoyance across the party that a plan about expanding public transport had become a story about having more cars on roads.

Fine Gael sources confirmed that the party was seeking a meeting with Mr Ryan to discuss future roads projects and their belief that they are being undermined or abandoned. However, Green Party TD Patrick Costello said that building more roads would result in a hike in emissions at a time when they need to be reduced. He said Ireland has “underinvested in public transport for most of the history of our State and we cannot continue to do so”.

“Building more roads while we still have so many fossil fuel vehicles on the road would result in an increase in emissions and we are already struggling to meet our legally-binding emissions targets and, as the Climate Action Advisory Council have advised, we can’t afford not to do everything we can to meet those targets,” he said.

“Young people now who will be commuting in 2050 are telling us that first and foremost they want sustainable transport options and those need to be prioritised in the long term for funding.”

Fianna Fáil TD and Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers defended calls for further road projects to be seen through. “We must ensure continued progress on national roads projects which Government collectively agreed in the National Development Plan. They are fundamental from a road safety perspective and also the wider objective of balanced regional and economic development so we enhance connectivity for people.”

Speaking after Mr Varadkar made his comments, Mr Ryan said the “world is burning” and transport emissions needed to fall.

Figures in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil privately blame Mr Ryan and the Greens for “building huge expectations for projects which have zero funding” while simultaneously undermining roads projects which had been agreed in the National Development Plan. “What Leo said yesterday is a reflection of what’s going on behind the scenes – there is significant tension,” said one source.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times