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Minister's Twitter post almost delays major road project

Junior Finance Minister Patrick O'Donovan incensed his Fine Gael colleagues and Transport Minister Shane Ross when he uploaded a video announcing €447m funding for a new Limerick motorway.

The video was posted on Twitter and Facebook just after 10am last Wednesday before the Cabinet had met to agree the funding.

At the meeting, Mr Ross reported Mr O'Donovan had announced Government investment before it had been agreed by the Cabinet.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is understood to have asked Mr Ross if he wanted to delay the funding and the Transport Minister left the meeting to consider the proposal.

However, Mr Ross later returned to the meeting and agreed to sign off the funding despite the breach of protocol by Mr O'Donovan.

"Ross came back into the room and said he could have delayed it but said he wouldn't and suggested there were other ways of dealing with Patrick," a Fine Gael minister said.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, Mr Ross said: "It should be a sacred, unbreakable principle of Government that no Cabinet decision is undermined or pre-empted by premature public comment by interested politicians. There is always a danger that the Cabinet will decide to amend or postpone important projects for good reason."

Asked for a comment, Mr O'Donovan responded: "You'll have to ask a Cabinet source."

A Fine Gael minister yesterday said there were "heated exchanges" at the meeting when the issue was raised by Mr Ross. "Most of the ministers in the room agreed O'Donovan was completely out of order and should have waited for the decision to be officially signed off," a minister said.

Another minister suggested the Taoiseach was "appeasing" Mr Ross by condemning Mr O'Donovan's behaviour.

The €447m roads investment will go towards the construction of a new Adare bypass that will also link the M21 to Foynes port near Limerick

Mr Ross and Mr O'Donovan have had a long running feud since they worked together in the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism.

It was previously suggested that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny would have to intervene to calm the tensions between the two warring ministers.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was forced to resign when he was Minister of State in the Department of Finance in 1993 after it emerged one of his advisers leaked details of the budget to the media.

Sunday Independent

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