Tensions grow in Government alliance

Fine Gael have “little or no interest” in seeking a continuation of government with Independent Alliance “headbangers” after the next election, sources say.

Several Fine Gael ministers, speaking to the Irish Examiner, have made it clear that they have grown weary of the “antics” of the Alliance members in relation to Government business.

“Just when you think they are getting to a good place with them, they throw a wobbler and cause trouble,” said one minister.

“They are headbangers.”

 

Relations between the two parties have become increasingly strained in recent weeks as Alliance members, but especially Transport Minister Shane Ross, have become agitated at the slow pace of delivery of their policies.

Senior sources on both sides of the coalition have conceded a lot of resentment has built up around the delayed passage and handling of the Judicial Appointments Bill and the Road Traffic Bill.

The Irish Examiner understands the Alliance met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week to ventilate their unhappiness at delays to the Judicial Appointments Bill and the Road Traffic Bill, both pet projects of Mr Ross, but also other matters such as the failure to deliver Stepaside Garda Station and a full-time cath lab in Waterford. 

The Alliance is to meet again on Tuesday ahead of a further meeting with Mr Varadkar amid heightened talk of an autumn election.

Since his elevation to the position of Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar has made considerable efforts to improve relations with his Independent ministers, but many of his Fine Gael colleagues do not share his enthusiasm.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Mr Ross are at odds over the reopening of Stepaside Garda Station. Mr Flanagan last night said he was “surprised” at a suggestion from Mr Ross that the station would reopen soon.

Mr Flanagan said he was unable to state a date for the station’s reopening, as it was in need of a major refurbishment.

“Having visited the former station earlier in the week, I was shocked at the dilapidated state of the interior, ” he said.

“Following what I saw, I am surprised at suggestions the opening is imminent.”

 

It is understood refurbishment work on the station could cost €1m.

Mr Flanagan’s comments were in reaction to Mr Ross emailing constituents to say he expected to be given an opening date in the “coming weeks”.

At a PAC hearing, Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy said he would have chosen to open another station based on policing resources. The Alliance believes that, because of Mr Leahy’s intervention, Mr Flanagan has put the brakes on delivering it, despite promises from Mr Varadkar.

“They don’t want to do it, and Ross is furious over it. He feels they are backing away from a firm commitment to do it,” a source said.

The source added that Mr Ross was livid when Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey opposed proposals to reopen Stepaside.

For his part, Mr Ross says the Judicial Appointments Bill and Stepaside are the price Fine Gael pay for Government.

“This is about being in government with other people and sometimes we have to swallow things you don’t like, and they bought into it,” said Mr Ross.

 “There are varying degrees of enthusiasm within FG for these. There are some people who are very enthusiastic and there are others who are not very comfortable with it at all.”


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