Latest: More audio released contradicting Shane Ross' denial that Leo Varadkar made promises on local issues

Update 4.53pm: During the interview with the Irish Examiner, John Halligan also confirmed that Shane Ross at that private meeting with Leo Varadkar, days before he became Taoiseach, was "pressing" the issue of reopening Stepaside Garda Station.

The Irish Examiner is again releasing more of this interview now.

The full transcript of the interview, unedited, will be published in tomorrow's Irish Examiner newspaper.

Earlier: The Irish Examiner today releases audio from an interview conducted by Political Correspondent Juno McEnroe with Minister of State John Halligan on August 28.

The long and detailed interview included a discussion around promises made to the government partners the Independent Alliance by Leo Varadkar before he was confirmed as Taoiseach.

Mr Halligan, in detail, set out how he and other members of the group met Mr Varadkar and how at that meeting the then-Taoiseach elect said he would get certain issues "over the line" for the Alliance.

These included extending cardiac services in Mr Halligan's native Waterford as well as the reopening of Stepaside Garda station in the Dublin Rathdown constituency of Shane Ross.

Mr Ross, speaking to RTE's Prime Time, has denied that Mr Varadkar made a promise to get Stepaside "over the line" at that meeting, effectively contradicting his Alliance colleague John Halligan.

Mr Varadkar has now said the issue will be discussed at Cabinet next week.

For the sake of clarity, the Irish Examiner is now releasing some audio from the interview.

Original story: Published on August 28: Varadkar made promises on local issues

Leo Varadkar promised days before he was formally voted in as Taoiseach to the Independent Alliance government partners that he would get local constituency projects or concerns “over the line”, writes Juno McEnroe.

The then-Taoiseach elect told Shane Ross he would help get Stepaside garda station reopened, a move which weeks later the alliance putative leader announced with much publicity.

John Halligan, the junior jobs minister, has revealed that Mr Varadkar told him and Shane Ross just days before being voted in as Taoiseach that “we will get them [the issues] over the line for you'”.

The reopening of the south Dublin garda station led to charges that a secret deal or “stroke” had been agreed between the Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance members of government.

Mr Varadkar's promise he would get the station reopened was made a week before he was elected Taoiseach. Shane Ross Tweeted the day before the Dail vote that the station would reopen.

Junior jobs minister John Halligan has described how the then Taoiseach-elect met the alliance and where local issues were thrashed out between both sides, as Mr Varadkar sought to ensure the continued support of the government partners.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Halligan denied there had been a “stroke” or quid pro quo deal agreed between Fine Gael and the alliance over the station reopening for something else.

At the time it was announced by Mr Ross on June 13 after the last Cabinet meeting overseen by Enda Kenny, Opposition parties questioned the move, especially after it was also agreed at that same meeting that Attorney General Maire Whelan was to be promoted to the Court of Appeal.

Fianna Fail claimed the two moves were linked and it had been a political “stroke”.

Mr Halligan explained that while at the 90-minute meeting with Mr Varadkar, both sides not only discussed Stepaside garda station but also progressing cardiac services in Waterford, where the junior minister faces pressure to deliver a second specialist lab for cardiac patients.

“When we went in to meet Leo Varadkar. Up to then, he [Shane Ross] was arguing on Stepaside, at that meeting with Leo Varadkar, as I was arguing with the hospital in Waterford.

“He [Mr Ross] actually said to me 'Jesus, I'm having awful problems with this. And he [Mr Varadkar] was 'we knew, we knew'.

“There was no question of him [Shane Ross] saying 'I'll agree with the Attorney General if you give me Stepaside', that did not happen, that did not happen.

“He [Shane Ross] was pressing it still then. That's the truth. He was pressing that then.

“We put our stuff that we had, we decided that we would be honorable in this, we wouldn't start adding new stuff. What it was was a change of leader in Fine Gael and then a new Taoiseach."

But despite demands by Mr Ross and him to progress local issues, Mr Halligan said this was not linked to the promotion of Ms Whelan, made a week later at Mr Kenny's last Cabinet meeting on June 13.

“Do you think that the hassle I'm having with the hospital, if I thought that he'd gone in and said 'I'll give you that judge if you give me'...no, no, no, that is not true because I was speaking to him [Shane Ross] weeks before that and said 'I'm having problems with this hospital and he said 'I'm the same in Stepaside, I can't get this over the line'.

“At that meeting [with Mr Varadkar], we had said that we had made it quite clear that there were issues in the programme for government. My issue was with the hospital, the mobile cat labs, Shane Ross said 'my issue is Stepaside'.

“In fairness, Leo Varadkar said 'we will get them over the line for you'.”

The revelation Mr Varadkar promised alliance members that he would get local issues or concerns “over the line” may raise questions about what other side deals or pledges were made by the Taoiseach-elect before he days later got the crucial Dail votes necessary to be voted as the new Taoiseach.


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