Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent
Transport Minister Shane Ross has denied there has been any "push back" against the Independent Alliance's widely ridiculed granny grant plan, despite the Department of Finance, rival politicians and campaign groups insisting the scheme is unworkable.
Mr Ross was forced to defend the high-profile budget suggestion during a media briefing in which he admitted the Independent Alliance has no idea how much the potential policy will cost and has failed to flesh out details since they first considered it last year.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Ross said that while the mooted initiative - which would see grandparents and other relatives receive €1,000 a year for self-assessed childcare - has sparked controversy he is standing firmly behind it.
And, despite a series of Department of Finance sources, rival politicians and campaign groups all lambasting the granny grant policy as unworkable, he claimed he has heard no criticism or "push back" against the introduction of the financial aid.
"I don't think there's been any push back at all. What we're going to do is we're pursuing this as an idea, and as a novel idea, and we're going to push for it.
"It's not something I've noticed any big push back at all on," Mr Ross claimed.
When asked for more details and how the policy would work and if there was any indication of how much it may cost, Mr Ross admitted "there are lots of questions being asked" and that officials still need to meet to "thrash it out from there".
However, while declining to describe the granny grant as a "red line" issue as it would be "unhelpful", he insisted the Independent Alliance is serious about the proposal, saying:
Despite Mr Ross's claims there has been no "push back" against the granny grant plan since it was raised by Independent Alliance members during a pre-budget meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, the potential policy has been widely ridiculed across the political spectrum.
On Thursday, Department of Finance sources warned the plan could cost "many hundreds of millions of euro" if it is introduced, and could have a negative impact on existing financial support for grandparents and other relatives in families.
"There are big questions about this policy. It's all well and good until you start looking at a policy that could end up costing many hundreds of millions of euro," the Department source said.
A Government minister who declined to publicly comment also privately described the plan as "stupid" as "we are coming under pressure to show a surplus" in the wider economy, while Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and other opposition parties have heavily criticised the suggestion over the past three days.
Campaign groups have also questioned the validity of the €1,000 granny grant proposal, warning it may impact on other financial supports already given to grandparents and pensioners, and that the money could be put to better use in other parts of the childcare services.
The campaign group criticism included that of Frances Byrne from Early Childhood Ireland, who said Mr Ross needs to realise cash payments to relatives are "not the answer" and that what parents really need are drastically improved State childcare services and supports.