Michael Ring, the Rural Affairs Minister, is understood to have launched a “ferocious” broadside at Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
Mr Ring, who is known to be very displeased at the lack of progress in the formal establishment of his newly created department and the budget it has, was a lone dissenting voice at Cabinet on the morning of the budget.
According to several sources present, Mr Ring “exploded” towards the end of the Cabinet meeting which had received a briefing on the budget from Mr Donohoe when Mr Varadkar asked for feedback from ministers.
While most ministers offered comments in support of the €1.2bn budget package, Mr Ring broke ranks and “let fly” and made his displeasure at the lack of a meaningful budget for his department known.
It got €19m, or 12% of an increase.
“When Leo went around the table to ask for views on the budget, everyone said happy, happy and then it came to Ringer who let fly. He was very angry,” said one minister.
“We were taken aback. If Shane Ross or Finian had said it, no one would have been surprised because that is what they do to try and distinguish themselves from the Fine Gaelers. But when Michael spoke out and spoke out so harshly, you could see Leo sit up and notice.
“It is not that rural Ireland is not a priority, but when you are putting out fires in other areas, they have to be the priority. They are health and housing.”
It is also believed that Mr Ring’s unhappiness in recent weeks has been mounting over the lack of progress in establishing his department.
He is known to have made the point that if he is not looked after, he will see it as being “thrown to the wolves” of the opposition such as Fianna Fail’s Éamon Ó Cuív and Roscommon Independent Michael Fitzmaurice.
Mr Fitzmaurice told the Irish Examiner: “Michael Ring was right to give out. He has the smallest budget for a department that covers most of the country. It is a token gesture to rural Ireland with the budget he has, nothing else.”
Several attempts to contact Mr Ring directly were not responded to.
However, a source close to Mr Ring insisted he was “satisfied” with his budget increase, but did not deny he made his outburst at Cabinet on Tuesday.
“Throughout the budgetary process, Minister Ring worked very hard to ensure increased Government investment in rural Ireland and is delighted with the end result,” the source told the Irish Examiner.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Ó Cuív said Mr Ring’s department is a “Cinderella” department because of the tiny budget it has and very limited functions.
“What can he do for rural Ireland with a tiny budget and little or no delegated functions?” he said.
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