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Ring refuses to apologise to ‘D4 brigade’

Ring has no spending regrets

Minister will not apologise to ‘D4 brigade’ over spending in Mayo

Neill O’Neill

“BITTERNESS and petty jealousy from the Dublin 4 media” is what Michael Ring called the on-going furore in the national press about his perceived favouritism towards his home county in terms of allocating funding.
“All that’s wrong with them people in Dublin 4 that are giving out and writing negative comments is that they’re afraid development in Mayo will impact on their holiday homes,” was his reaction yesterday (Monday).
The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was unrepentant despite the criticism levelled against him and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny both locally and across the country, after an article in The Mayo News on November 1 last revealed that he had spent over €48,000 per day from his department in the constituency in the previous three months.
Far from rowing back on capital expenditure in the wake of the debate however, Mayo has received further funding in excess of €8.2 million from the state coffers of Ring’s department in the 50 days since November 1, taking the daily average spend in the county since July 11 last to over €82,500.
“I am going to make no apologies for facilitating the progress of County Mayo,” Deputy Ring The Mayo News, “we have been spending across the State, including in Dublin, and will continue to do so regardless of who is whingeing about it. A lot of projects have gone into Dublin and there is no talk about them at all, and other areas like €5m for refurbishing Killarney House in Kerry. We have committed to replacing much of the Dublin Bus fleet which will cost millions but I didn’t hear anybody in Dublin criticising my department for doing that.”
Minister Ring found himself with an unlikely ally yesterday, with Mayo Fianna Fáil TD, Deputy Dara Calleary, who had previously been critical of The Mayo News for the manner in which it broke the story about Minister Ring’s spending, labelling the approach from some media organisations ‘unhelpful’.
“I presume they had a few quiet news days last week,” he said. “It is not helpful for the national media to be stirring up a rural versus urban debate when there is so much going on in this country and in Europe. There are surely more useful things they could be doing, and there was nothing new in this.”
He also reiterated his previous assertion that the good times have not just started rolling in Mayo since the change of Government earlier this year, and that his own party also delivered millions of euros to Mayo in the term of the last Dáil.
“I welcome all investment in Mayo and I say well done to Minister Ring for that, though I reiterate that it’s not just as if the tap was turned on after the last general election, the previous Government (of which Deputy Calleary was a Minister of Sate) also invested heavily in Mayo.”
Last week, an article in a daily newspaper re-ignited the debate by reprinting the list of money allocated to Mayo from Minister Ring’s department between July 11 and October 27 2011.
“It’s a real case of you’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t, and it’s being fuelled by some Fianna Fáil councillors in Dublin” said Deputy Ring. “We were starved for funding for long enough and people were complaining bitterly about that. Now we are allocating funds for worthy projects in Mayo and what do you know, they are still giving out. My first priority is to my country, but anything I can do for my constituency will be done.
“Just because I’m from Mayo doesn’t mean I cannot spend money here, we need to have great facilities around the county in the tourism and sport areas, and also at the airport, while the roads must continue to improve. All applications that come into my department will be adjudicated on, regardless of where they are from, and all these projects are above board and are creating much needed jobs around the county.”
Among smaller items, included in the recent funding announcements for Mayo are €3.5 million for upgrades to the N59 at Kilbride outside Newport, almost €4.5 million for capital improvement/safety upgrade works and marketing at IWAK and €180,000 for Mayo County Council for Civic amenity grants.
The figures for recent expenditure do not include the tens of millions it will cost to construct the Ballaghadeereen bypass which was also announced recently, and is the only such road works project in Ireland that will commence in 2012. Just yesterday it was confirmed that a new school building for Our Lady’s Secondary School in Belmullet will also be built next year, for which Deputy Ring confirmed there was substantial funding available.