Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly says he has laughed off the criticism of fellow Tipperary Minister Tom Hayes on road funding for Tipperary.
The row followed the rejection by Tipperary Town Council of a planned new traffic scheme for the town, with the €500,000 earmarked for the scheme, and the €4m for the overall project, lost to the town.
Minister Kelly announced that the money would then be spent elsewhere in County Tipperary, saying he had ensured that the money would remain in the county.
But Minister Hayes rejected this, calling the claim disingenous, and said it was always the intention of Minister Leo Varadkar to spend the money on other projects in the county if it was not spent in Tipp town.
But Labour’s Minister Kelly rejected the claim made by his Fine Gael colleague in government - both Tipperary TDs.
“I was very surprised with the comments from Tom, if I’m being honest, I felt they were quite childish in nature”, he said.
“Tipperary Town council turned down the investment for a new link road which was their democratic right. That was their decision on this specific project.
“Immediately I spoke with my officials in my Department to push that the money be retained for other smaller but significant projects in South Tipperary. The officials in South Tipperary wrote to my officials asking that the remaining allocation of €514,000 be retained for these projects. At all times I was in touch with the officials on both sides to make sure we retained the funding and got significant work done for a number of different areas across the county”.
He added - “Tom accused me of being disingenuous about securing the funding and that it was always staying in Tipperary. The reality is that this funding was not always staying in Tipperary and it is purely contrived to say otherwise. Local authorities receive funding for road maintenance and improvements but they also can receive funding for other specific projects such as the Tipperary Link road. This is one off specific funding. It is not ring fenced.
“If it was why did South Tipperary officials write to my officials requesting permission to re-allocate it and why did I spend the week ensuring this was done satisfactorily and spread across a number of projects in South Tipp. The redistribution of funding for specific projects to other areas of the country goes on all the time. Where councils can’t deliver some projects the money can often be redistributed to other local authorities or put into the general budget. As Minister, I’ve done this myself on occasions.
“Having being in the Department of Transport for two and a half years I can assure Tom that I know its workings quite intimately and his statements last week were contrived and childish. All the public care about is that these new works across the county will be delivered and I will working with both sets of officials will try to ensure this happens.
“One thing that does need to be acknowledged is the work and efforts of the South Tipperary officials who had contingency projects in place to be able to look for this funding in the event the Link road did not go ahead”.