Shane Ross: Judicial Bill is a plate of caviar

The Government’s Judicial Appointments Bill is no longer a “dog’s dinner” but rather a plate of “caviar and oysters”, Transport Minister Shane Ross has said.

Mr Ross, in an interview with the Irish Examiner, has said the bill will be passed, despite the best efforts of the Law Library.

The bill, which seeks to remove the appointment of judges from the hands of politicians, will be passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess, he said.

Mr Ross said that many of the amendments proposed by Fianna Fáil have now been reversed and the bill is more than suitable.

“Those have been reversed and the dog’s dinner has become a plate of caviar and oysters. It is now pretty well sorted,” said Mr Ross.

He criticised Attorney General Seamus Woulfe for using as he put it “colourful language”, saying it would have been better had he not made those remarks.

“I would have preferred if he had not said it,” said Mr Ross. “What he was referring to was to the Fianna Fáil’s amendments, not the Government’s work.

“But it was deliberately taken up by some people as ‘Shane Ross’ bill is a dog’s dinner’ and that we had made a dog’s dinner of it.

“What he was saying, in a colourful phase, and that is fine, he was referring to the FF amendment which had changed the bill in a way that was unrecognisable.”

Mr Ross also confirmed the bill has been the cause of deep divisions within the Government, but he said it is the price Fine Gael paid to get into power.

“There is no point in pretending that this is a Fine Gael bill,” said Mr Ross. “It is not.

“It is an Independent Alliance bill. But it is set in stone and we have to pay a price for being in government with other people and sometimes we have to swallow things you don’t like, and they bought into it.

“There are varying degrees of enthusiasm within Fine Gael for this bill.

“There are some people who are very enthusiastic and there are others who are not very comfortable with it at all,” he said.

Reports in recent weeks have said Mr Ross and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan have been at odds over the bill, and Mr Ross did little to quell such talk.

“I have spoken to him privately virtually every week on various issues,” said Mr Ross.

“We have had discussions which have been very robust, but we are very good friends.

And when judges are going to be appointed, it is a matter of some difficulty, but I have spoken to him as to how it will be managed.

Mr Ross also criticised his former Independent Alliance colleague, Sean Canney, for opposing his Road Traffic Bill, which is seeking to reduce drink-driving limits amid some resistance from rural TDs.

The Transport Minister admitted to some annoyance at Mr Canney’s public opposition in the Dáil.

He said he wished Mr Canney would have “kept his mouth shut”, rather than opposing the bill so pointedly in the chamber.

“He had major problems with the drink-driving bill, whereas Boxer [Longford-Westmeath TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran] came on board,” said Mr Ross.

“That made life difficult, as to have one of your ministerial colleagues opposing you in public was not easy.

“I would have preferred if he had kept his mouth shut but it did not have a material impact on the passage of the bill.

It was a point of conflict and he could have been less combative but he felt very strong about it.

Mr Ross had further criticism for the rural TDs who opposed his tightening of drink-driving limits.

“I think the rural TDs, including Sean and Mattie [McGrath] and the Healy-Raes, have gotten it wrong on this bill.”

“The evidence there in the referendum campaign is that they are out of touch with rural Ireland. Kilgarvan went two to one in favour. Are these guys out of touch or what?”

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