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Shane Ross Says He Regrets Tweeting About Wesley College's Massive Grant

Shane Ross Says He Regrets Tweeting About Wesley College's Massive Grant
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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Just to run you down a few things that Shane Ross has done since becoming Minister for Sport, Transport, and Tourism.

Having tweeted 'Go Katie Go' hours after Taylor had been beaten at the Olympics, Ross made haste in his return to Dublin following the arrest of Pat Hickey, announcing the news by tweeting, "Shellshock here in Rio".

Other highlights since include a continuous stream of tweets about betting on Man United with Finian McGrath the night before a rail strike; resolving to travel to North Korea to defuse nuclear tensions during a rail strike; referring to Thomas Barr as Thomas Barry at the Olympics; accidentally voting against his own Road Traffic Bill in January and most recently, tweeting a congratulations to Dave Kearney along with a picture of Rob Kearney.

While much of the above has invited ridicule, another tweet by Minister Ross copped some far more serious criticism. Earlier this month, he tweeted his delight that Wesley College had been granted €150,000 of public money to resurface their hockey pitch. This provoked widespread anger, given that Wesley already have vast, sprawling sporting facilities at their disposal. This hardly


In a relatively quiet week news-wise, the ethics of the doling out of sports grants have clogged the airwaves and newspapers, with John Considine appearing on Off The Ball this morning to draw attention to the fact that the volume of sports grants in a county are greatly heightened if the Minister of Sport happens to hail from that county.


Minister Ross has responded to the news by appearing on Today with Sean O'Rourke on Radio One this morning, and has admitted that he regrets tweeting the Wesley College grant, and promised to overhaul the system of administering sports grants.

He clarified that he had nothing to do with the awarding of the grant to Wesley.


I was delighted but that doesn't mean I was involved in the process in any way. The Sports Capital Grants, before I came into office, faced accusations of pork barrell politics. It worked that there was a scoring system for every application that was done by the officials, and it was then sent for political decision after that. Sometimes, those decisions did not reflect the scoring system, let's ut it that way.

When I came in, I made it absolutely clear that would not happen under my watch. The officials would do the scoring system, and I would have nothing to do with it and when it came to me, I would sign it without interference, observations or comment.

My constituency actually got unlucky. What happened first was that Wesley College was refused, and I signed off on that. That's what happened, I had nothing to do with it bar signing off on it. You're going to have to accept that. Then there was an appeal, and I signed off on that. There was no alteration, no political decision not one movement of money, sum or individual: it came through as the officials wanted it.

O'Rourke then brought up the fact that the school had publicly thanked Minister Ross for his Wesley College thanking Shane Ross for his support.

I was cheering for them, as I was cheering for others in my constituency, but that is not interference with the process. I didn't move one inch.

Absolutely not [officials discerning the Minister's preferences]. There were clubs in my constituency Kilmacud Crokes for instance, one of the most powerful clubs in the country had heir application was turned down. I made no interference, one way or another.

I'm sure they've got money in the past. I was there, and they didn't get money...

...The narrative on this is baffling. The narrative is absolutely extraordinary. The first narrative is that I interfered: absolutely not. I was totally hands off. The other narrative is that a private school got a hundred a fifty grand from me because they were in my constituency.

A private school doesn't get a hundred and fifty grand out of this sports grants. Any school that applies has to open up to the community and do it jointly with a club in the community. What happened in Wesley's case is quite simple and quite right. They went in with the YMCA, and the conditions are now that Wesley must open their pitch to the YMCA for very, very wide use.

YMCA now get 32 hours a week, probably more than Wesley themselves, on the hockey pitch. It also opens it up to a national school. In every case, it opens up the facilities to the community.

When O'Rourke made the point that the complex application process is weighted toward the private schools that can draw from a wider breadth of highly-qualified people, Ross admitted that there may be reform of the system, while playing down the successes of private schools.

I think what we're going to have to do, is to be a little less rigid and a bit more communicative. A lot of them are declared and invalid, and that can be brutal. Very few private schools got through, it's in single figures so don't exaggerate figures.

Ross agreed that it was an error of judgement to tweet so enthusiastically about the grant to Wesley.

Yeah I think it probably was. But I've sent some pretty irresponsible tweets around from time to time. The reaction I didn't anticipate. I was very pleased, but I didn't have anything to do it.

The Minister also promised a "total review" of the system to see if any aspects of it should be reformed.


See Also: Predicting The 31-Man Ireland Squad For The 2019 Rugby World Cup

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