Confusion surrounds the immediate electoral future of Skills Minister and independent TD John Halligan after Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he was “very, very sorry” that Halligan was not to run again.
At a press briefing at the gates of Leinster House, Mr Ross responded to questions regarding the future of the Independent Alliance, in the wake of the decision of Kevin Boxer Moran not to stand with the grouping during the election campaign, saying that the alliance was not yet finished.
“It doesn’t mean anything like that,” the minister said, before adding that “I’m very, very sorry that Finian McGrath and John Halligan are not standing, but come the polling day I think the independents will be very strong”.
While Mr McGrath’s decision not to stand for a fifth time had become public knowledge earlier in the morning, Mr Halligan has yet to give any indication of whether or not he would be putting his name on the February 8 ballot.
An official speaking on behalf of Mr Ross subsequently said that he “may have misspoken”.
Mr Halligan could not be contacted for comment. However, a source close to the Waterford TD said that the issue of his candidacy remains “up for discussion”, and would not be decided before Mr Halligan meets with his staff on Thursday, adding that they “don’t know” why Mr Ross said what he did.
Mr Halligan, 64, was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and retained his seat five years ago, before entering Government as part of the Independent Alliance.
Were he to decline to run for office once more it would leave Dublin Rathdown TD Mr Ross as the sole remaining member of the alliance.
The transport minister, who was speaking to the media mainly in relation to the talks he had conducted with UEFA regarding the future of the FAI, said that Mr Moran had stepped down “so he can run an independent campaign”.
“We’ve always run as independents, on independent platforms,” he said. “They would be large losses, if they had gone.”
Minister Ross also touched on two subjects close to his political heart. He said he is “hopeful” that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill “will be revived in its present form, at its present stage, under the next Government”.
“That's quite normal in cases where governments are successful in office - it’s quite normal to revive legislation at the point at which it has reached,” he said.
The Independent Alliance had made the bill its marquee price in return for forming a Government in 2016. The Bill has passed the Seanad committee stage of legislative debate, but has yet to be heard by the DAil for a second time.
Meanwhile Mr Ross added that Stepaside Garda Station, the reopening of which he has extensively campaigned for, will be open “within a couple of weeks”.
“It's been handed over to the gardaí, gardaí are being recruited and it’ll be open very shortly,” he said.