Green leader Eamon Ryan under pressure at party meetings of his Coalition partners
December 08 2021 09:21 PM
Transport Minister and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has come under pressure tonight at the party meetings of his Coalition partners.
TDs in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil complained about the Greens dominating Government policy – on fuel, roads, and the climate change impositions on the agricultural sector.
Mr Ryan made a courtesy appearance as minister to take questions and hear views at the Fianna Fáil party meeting, where he ran into flak from former agriculture minister Barry Cowen, among others.
Meanwhile criticism of Mr Ryan was also aired at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, where TDs claimed he was remote from them and his department failed to provide detailed or even basic replies to their queries.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar also made a direct complaint about Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe.
But in most cases TDs were looking for information on the offsets to climate change pain – such as alleviation measures for increased costs and the retrofitting or insulation of homes.
Clare TD Joe Carey said he had been frustrated for weeks in his efforts to secure a meeting with Mr Ryan about an unpublished report into marine casualty investigations and the new Marine Casualties Bill 2021.
Limerick TD Kieran O’Donnell criticised a new evaluation mechanism in Mr Ryan’s department for capital projects – the National Investment Framework for Transport (Nifty) – which is due to go to Cabinet next week.
Some Fine Gael TDs fear the new oversight will be used to stop road projects being built.
Mr Varadkar also told the meeting that a recent letter by Green Party MEP Mr Cuffe to bank chief executives criticising large loans being approved for young farmers to increase their herd was “wrong”.
He said Fine Gael want to encourage more people into farming and that some farmers may require borrowing to do so, or upgrade and modernise their farms to make them more sustainable. He said Fine Gael will always support the farming sector.
He also told the meeting that two of the country’s power stations – Huntstown and Whitegate – are now back online and that there would be no blackouts or brownouts this winter.
At the Fianna Fáil meeting, Mr Cowen raised the long delays in the so-called ‘Just Transition’ for former workers at peat-fired electricity plants in the Midlands which have been stood down.
He challenged Mr Ryan in particular to ensure the Midlands region could access EU transition funding of €85m, and called on him to recognise “the failings of Just Transition to date”.
Mr Cowen said an independent authority made up of regional stakeholders should be set up to administer, adjudicate and deliver promised cash supports, rather than Mr Ryan’s department.
The funding should be specifically targeted at those counties most affected by the acceleration of decarbonisation, such as his own Offaly base, Mr Cowen maintained, to be followed by Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon, Galway, Laois and Kildare.
Mr Cowen found supportive voices from party members from those areas, with the point made that community groups should not be “saddled” with the onus of matching funding for worthwhile proposals and initiatives.
Mr Cowen asked that the Government grant a free energy-rating BER assessment to all houses over five years old, although the inspections would cost a considerable sum.
He said that whole-of-house insulation, including window and door draft-proofing would cost €3,000 to €3,500 per home with the grant and tax incentive, plus a low-interest loan from credit unions.
This would decrease emissions per house by a quarter and reduce the annual house heating cost by a third, he said.
Mr Ryan was also asked that HGV oils be approved here as they are in UK and Europe where it is claimed that conversion from kerosene can reduce emissions by over 80pc.
In the Fine Gael meeting, which Mr Ryan is expected to attend at a future date, there were complaints that little detail is available from his department and many constituents are going without answers to simple queries.
Party members said Mr Ryan needs to insist that Eirgrid provide answers relating to a €10m downpayment to the ESB over a now-defunct process of awarding an emergency electricity-generation contract at the North Wall in Dublin.
The matter has previously been raised in the Dáil by the Opposition.
It was said the minister “needs to reign in Eirgrid” over its alleged failure over last number of years to plan the expansion of wholesale energy generation on national grid. Alan Kelly, leader of the Labour Party, has previously berated the Government on the subject.
Elsewhere at the Fine Gael meeting several TDs and Senators, including Carey, Paul Kehoe, Paddy Burke, Ciarán Cannon, called for the restoration of full Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme rates to aid employers affected by new public health restrictions.
One source at the meeting said that the reopening of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) at the full rate of €350 was affecting some hospitality employers attempting to retain staff.
Mr Varadkar said there would be an announcement on Thursday about business supports following last week’s new Covid restrictions.
He said it was not yet clear if vaccines will need to be tweaked to combat the Omicron variant.