Independent Alliance ministers decide against trip to North Korea

The trip by Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and John Halligan to North Korea is definitely off — and it was only ever a project they had talked about and had never developed to a stage where they were going, according to the transport minister.

Furthermore Mr Ross also claimed last night he had not seen a letter about the trip that John Halligan sent to the North Korean embassy in London.

“It’s off. The trip to North Korea is not government policy and we are not going to do anything which is in breach of government policy,” insisted Mr Ross in an interview on Prime Time. 

“John, Finian and I spoke regularly about making trips abroad and doing things which were constructive.

“It was an idea on which we were working in a freelance capacity and very rarely did we have it in a structured way. We never had a structured plan to do it. It was a project we talked about. That is all it was. It had never developed to a stage where we were going. I don’t think we had even mentioned it to Seán Canney or Boxer Moran.”

Seán Canney and Kevin Boxer Moran were said to be very annoyed at the fallout from the revelation because of the ridicule it brought upon the Alliance.

Meanwhile, Mr Ross also Mr Mr Halligan made a serious mistake in the “are you married” incident, but added that “asking him to pay the ultimate price of resigning when he is very fine minister, I think is going too far”.

While Mr Halligan has apologised, there were calls from the Labour Party, the Greens and Solidarity for his resignation.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner from Thailand, Mr Halligan said he has no problem in paying the €7,500 in compensation ordered by the Workplace Relations Commission if deemed possible by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

“I am so sorry but this was an innocent mistake. I accept the ruling,” he said.

The minister said it was a “genuine mistake” and was never meant to cause offence.

“I have no issue with paying the money back. I am not too sure how repayment could work but I have no problem in paying the money. If it can be paid, I will,” he said.

In the Dáil, meanwhile, his senior minister, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, made her unhappiness clear.

She said she was “disturbed and disappointed” when she learned of Minister John Halligan’s “discriminatory” question to a female official during an interview.

During Leaders’ Questions, Ms Fitzgerald said the comments were unacceptable and should not have been made.

She was responding to questions from Labour leader Brendan Howlin who wondered would Mr Halligan be facing any further consequences over the matter.

Shane Ross said last night: “John Halligan made a serious mistake. He said some very inappropriate words at a time which he shouldn’t have done. He should have known better. He has apologised. He has said he is not going to appeal this decision.

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