Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross (born 11 July 1949) is a former Irish Independent politician who served as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport from May 2016 to June 2020. He was a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin Rathdown constituency from 2016 to 2020, and previously from 2011 to 2016 for the Dublin South constituency. He was a member of Seanad Éireann for the University of Dublin from 1981 to 2011, until his election to Dáil Éireann at the 2011 general election.
|Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport|
6 May 2016 – 27 June 2020
|Preceded by||Paschal Donohoe|
|Succeeded by||Eamon Ryan (Transport) |
Catherine Martin (Tourism and Sport)
February 2016 – February 2020
February 2011 – February 2016
13 October 1981 – 25 February 2011
|Constituency||University of Dublin|
Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross
11 July 1949
Goatstown, Dublin, Ireland
|Fine Gael (until 1997)|
He is a former business editor of the Sunday Independent. He was a Fine Gael Wicklow County Councillor, and a one-time Fine Gael general election candidate in the Wicklow constituency. In the 31st Dáil he was a member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee. He co-founded the Independent Alliance with Michael Fitzmaurice in 2015. He was re-elected to the 32nd Dáil, and subsequently appointed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in May 2016.
Early life and career
Shane Ross was born in Dublin in 1949. He is the son of former Senator and prominent member of the legal fraternity, John N. Ross, and the noted gardener and writer Ruth Isabel Sherrington. He was schooled at St Stephen's School, Dundrum, and Rugby School, before attending Trinity College Dublin, where he graduated with a degree in history and political science in 1971. During his time at Trinity he was the Record Secretary of the College Historical Society. A stockbroker with NCB, Ross was Business Editor of the Sunday Independent, Ireland's biggest-selling weekend broadsheet, until his election to the Dáil in 2011, when he resigned from the post. He is married to Ruth Buchanan, a former presenter and journalist with RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster. His son-in-law is Nick Webb, who succeeded him as Business Editor of the Sunday Independent.
He was first elected to the Seanad in 1981, as an Independent candidate for the University of Dublin constituency, and was re-elected on nine occasions, becoming the longest-serving member of the house.
He stood unsuccessfully as an Independent candidate at the 1984 European Parliament election, for the Dublin constituency. At the 1991 local elections, he was elected as a Fine Gael candidate to Wicklow County Council for the Bray local electoral area, and served until 1999. He stood as a candidate for the party in the Wicklow constituency at the 1992 general election, but did not gain a seat, remaining instead in the Seanad where he once again sat as an Independent Senator following the 1997 election.
He is one of Ireland's most visible business commentators, promoting free enterprise, small government and low taxes, and is widely identified as one of the most visible champions of laissez-faire capitalism in Irish politics, praising former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, as a "brilliant Minister in the boom years" and lauded McCreevy's controversial tax individualisation as "visionary". He profited from the boom in Irish land prices, selling his home at Carrickmines to a developer in 2004 for an estimated €4 million to €4.5 million an acre; however, he subsequently bought a house in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, for €6.2 million in 2005. Despite labelling himself as one of Ireland's foremost business commentators his record as a stock picker is mixed: as he noted himself, "my record when a stockbroker was so bad that Dermot Desmond rightly gave me my P45. ...if any readers are beginning to take me seriously, remember it was I who advised people to sell First Active Shares when they went public and subsequently quadrupled and it was I who told innocent investors not to touch Ryanair shares with a barge pole at the flotation. They rocketed."
Ross promotes himself as standing up for small shareholders and consumers. In 2000, he and Eamon Dunphy championed the case of small shareholders of eircom, after shares in the former state-owned company fell in value by more than a third in just over a year. Ross took the board of directors to task over the level of salaries, bonuses and fees being paid, and denounced a plan whereby senior management were to get share options at a value below the flotation price. He was also sharply critical of the decision to sell the mobile phone arm Eircell to Vodafone and later sought the dismissal of 5 board members at the March 2001 AGM, citing poor share price performance and poor acquisitions.
At a shareholders' meeting in May 2005, Ross highlighted the monopolistic practices of tolling agency NTR plc. Ross persisted in drawing attention to the issue, criticising the National Roads Authority in August 2008, for its inadequate and confusing management of the M50 barrier-free tolling system, and was reported in The Sunday Times of London as having declared that "the removal of the barrier should have been cause for celebration. Instead, we have higher tolls, an administrative mess and pending chaos".
Stance on corporate governance and cronyism
The packaging conglomerate Smurfit Group, small shareholdings in which were held by many Irish investors, has also been a frequent target for Ross, specifically its high executive pay, poor shareholder returns, and alleged nepotism and cronyism.
Criticism of Bank of Ireland
Prior to the Irish financial crisis he was a persistent critic of the performance of Bank of Ireland, of which he was a shareholder. He contrasted the conservative performance of the "establishment" Bank of Ireland with other financial institutions, notably Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) and Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo) which he praised. In his Sunday Independent column he described Michael Fingleton's Irish Nationwide as publishing "a cracking set of figures... he even leaves superstar Sean Fitzpatrick's Anglo Irish standing", and in another column dismissed shareholder critics of Fingleton, notably Brendan Burgess, and contrasted the small shareholder rebellions of eircom, Smurfit and First Active with that of the INBS, the CEO of which, he claimed, "despite all his abrasiveness, was delivering small riches to them", Ross dismissed the corporate governance concerns of Fingleton's critics, writing "for all his faults, has delivered the only thing that matters in business: profit". In his article on Pernod Ricard executive Richard Burrows' appointment as the Governor of the Bank of Ireland, Ross claimed it was mainly due to Burrows' social status as a "toff" and criticised the bank for not even interviewing the "far too dynamic" Sean FitzPatrick, then CEO of Anglo Irish Bank. In 2007, Ross praised Sean Quinn's purchase of a stake in "anti-establishment Anglo Irish Bank" and referred to Quinn as "this genius... [who] has combined being a champion of the customer with making a mint", describing Quinn Direct as "the most successful insurance business in Ireland".
Anglo Irish Bank revelations
In April 2008, Ross revealed that a group of Anglo customers were planning to launch a leveraged fund to buy Anglo shares to "squeeze" the Anglo "short sellers" whom Ross blamed for the collapse in the Anglo share price. Ross had been briefed by a member of the group, and quoted him saying "We are going to teach the brokers and hedge funds that damaged the bank a salutary lesson... They will come out of this with their fingers burned"; the episode became known as the Maple 10 and cost Anglo and ultimately the taxpayer €451 million. As leverage for the Anglo share purchase was provided by Anglo, this coordinated action would have constituted market abuse.
Ross was also a trenchant critic of the under-performance of the Irish Pension Funds, and contrasted their performance with the SVM Global's Saltire Fund, the hedge fund which he chaired; however, in 2013, the Saltire Fund revealed a large loss of 32.4% during a period in which global stock markets had gained 17.7%.
Campaigning and political activism
In the aftermath of the voters' rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in its first referendum in June 2008, in spite of support for the treaty by the major political parties, Ross highlighted the "disconnect" between the ruling caste of the nation's politicians and the democratic will of the public.
In January 2009, he took the Central Bank of Ireland and Ernst & Young to task for their failings leading up to the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank. In his capacity as Senator, Ross pressed Allied Irish Bank executives on the bank's fraudulent offshore dealings involving subsidiaries and Caribbean front operations, charging that the only party to be disciplined in the affair was the whistleblower who brought it to light and forcing from the bank's CEO Eugene Sheehy, the admission that the institution may have been in breach of the Companies Act. He authored an account of the Irish financial crisis later that year – The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees. In October of that year Ross drew the ire of the public transport company CIÉ for publicising charges of widescale fraud and mismanagement within the semi-state organisation. He has criticised government inaction in voicing concerns about the Sellafield nuclear plant, and has called for stronger legal protection for whistleblowers in cases of fraud and corruption.
For his investigation into waste at the state training agency FÁS pursuant to the FÁS expenses scandal, Ross was recognised by his peers as the 2009 Journalist of the Year. Ross is frequently featured as a source by international news media, and has been cited as "one of Ireland's foremost financial commentators" by the Associated Press.
On 15 January 2011, during the course of a television interview, Ross announced that he would stand in the Dublin South constituency at the next general election, which at that date had not been announced but was expected very soon. He had refused an offer to run for the resurgent Fine Gael party and become an "insignificant backbencher", and was determined instead to stand as an Independent candidate, declaring: "I think you're going to see in this election a huge number of similar independents who want to put an end to cronyism, who want to see a change in the political system, who want to put an end to Civil War politics in Ireland, who want to see an end to the kind of tribal politics we've got, who are going to stand in the election as well". During the general election campaign Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter attacked Ross, saying the Senator "was a cheerleader for Sean FitzPatrick and Michael Fingleton" and had "reserved his criticism of bankers for AIB and Bank of Ireland and celebrated the enormous profits earned by Anglo and Nationwide". In the election Ross received the second-highest vote in the country, heading the poll in Dublin South with 17,075 votes.
In April 2011, Ross claimed the Government was "wearing the clothes of the last government of Brian Cowen" in its economic policy. He asked why senior bondholders had to be treated in the same way as depositors. "They are completely different creatures", he said. "Senior bondholders go out there and take a risk and make an investment." He claimed that Enda Kenny's greatest cheerleaders in his policy were in Fianna Fáil. "The support is coming from the last government", he added. "And very few people can see the difference, if there is any, between this government and the last government in its attitude to the banks." Ross accused the Government of completely and utterly surrendering to the IMF and the EU. "They know that, we know that . . . everybody knows that", he said. "Default, apparently, is the word which cannot be mentioned in this chamber."
In February 2013, Ross spoke in the Dáil against water fluoridation, referring to a Hot Press article he cited Declan Waugh whom he called "a well known scientist" and claimed fluoridation was the cause of Ireland's "high rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes". He also claimed that Ireland had double the incidence of Down's syndrome of Northern Ireland as a result.
In 2015, Ross co-founded the Independent Alliance.
He lost his seat at the 2020 general election.
At the 2016 general election Ross topped the poll in Dublin Rathdown, and was elected. Taoiseach Enda Kenny nominated him as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in May 2016. His most significant action as minister for transport was the introduction of the Road Traffic Act(2018). The law up to that point had allowed a first-time drink-driver offender, if they were between 50 mg and 80 mg, to opt for a fine and three penalty points instead of disqualification. This option was removed. Another section of the bill made it an offence for the owner of a vehicle to allow an unaccompanied learner driver to use it.
In December 2018 Ross announced that the NTA (National Transport Authority) was being tasked with setting up a dedicated National Cycling Office to provide cycling infrastructure.
It had been a demand of Kevin "Boxer" Moran of the Independent Alliance in the Programme for Government that a new tourism brand for the midlands would be launched by the new government. Ross launched the "Ireland's Hidden Heartlands" brand in April 2018.
There were two major dramas while Ross held the Sports brief.
At the 2016 Olympics in Brazil a story broke alleging the involvement of the Olympic Council of Ireland in a ticket-touting scandal. Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, was arrested. Hickey claimed that there was no foundation for the accusation and that an OIC inquiry would show this. He temporarily stepped down from his position. Ross insisted that there had to be a member independent of the OIC on any inquiry; Hickey resisted. The government set up an independent non-statutory inquiry under retired judge Carroll Moran. Hickey and other OIC members refused to give evidence at the tribunal. After the publication of the Moran report the OCI met and voted unanimously not to reinstate Hickey.
On 17 March 2019 an article in the Sunday Times reported that John Delaney, head of the Football Association of Ireland for many years, had given a loan of €100,000 to the FAI. Subsequently it became obvious that the FAI was in serious financial trouble. When the 2018 accounts became available in December 2019, the FAI was shown to have liabilities of €55 million. In an article in the Irish Times, Professor Niamh Brennan, an expert on corporate governance, wrote "The organisation is at death's door. As I see it, only government intervention can save Irish soccer."
Ross's apparent lack of knowledge of sports in multiple disciplines has been repeatedly observed. He tweeted, "Go Katie go!", shortly after Finnish boxer Mira Potkonen knocked Katie Taylor out of the 2016 Summer Olympics. A few days later, after Thomas Barr twice broke the Irish record on his way to finishing fourth in the final of the men's 400 metres hurdles at the same Olympics, Ross instead congratulated a "Thomas Barry". Following the Ireland national rugby union team's 2018 Six Nations Championship Grand Slam, Ross tweeted a photograph of himself alongside Ireland players Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney; the photograph's caption stated, "Congratulations and welcome home this evening to superstars Johnny Sexton and Dave Kearney". Rob Kearney responded to Ross's error by tweeting: "You're welcome Leo", followed by a wink emoticon. In May 2018, Ross tweeted that he was "delighted to confirm" that a fee-paying school, Wesley College (located in his constituency), would be given a grant of €150,000 to resurface its field hockey pitch. Ross was then criticised for announcing increased funding for the Ireland women's national field hockey team following their second place finish at the 2018 Women's Hockey World Cup in August 2018, the timing being seen to indicate a publicity stunt on Ross's part. The following month, a statement from Ross congratulated a "Dominant Pušpure" after Sanita Pušpure's gold medal win at the 2018 World Rowing Championships. In mid-November 2018, Ross tweeted a photograph of himself inside the stadium celebrating the Ireland rugby union team's victory over the All Blacks in Dublin; the photograph portrayed his tie poking through an open trouser fly. During a radio interview on Newstalk on 30 November 2018, Ross displayed a lack of knowledge of association football; initially crediting the goalkeeper Shay Given with having scored the winning goal against Germany in UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying in October 2015, Ross corrected himself and credited Given with the assist and Shane Long with the goal. The problem, which was not corrected during the interview, was that Given had gone off injured after half an hour and it was his replacement, Darren Randolph, who had provided the famous assist. During the same interview Ross congratulated a "Shane Kenny" on being appointed manager of the Republic of Ireland national under-21 football team, with the intention of being promoted to the senior job after UEFA Euro 2020.
- Ross, Shane (2009). The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-216-8.
- Ross, Shane; Nick Webb (2010). Wasters. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-251-9.
- Ross, Shane; Nick Webb (2012). The Untouchables. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-277-9.
- Ross, Shane (2020). In Bed With The Blueshirts. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-83895-291-4.
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- "Eircom's net loss at Ebeon". Irish Independent. 24 November 2012.
- "NRA accused of causing confusion to nation's drivers". The Belfast Telegraph. 29 August 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Lisbon result poses question for EU". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- Ross, Shane. "Where Were The Auditors". shane-ross.ie. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
- "AIB chief pressed on Goodbody issue". RTÉ News. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- Ross, Shane (2009). The Bankers: How the banks brought Ireland to its knees. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1-84488-216-8.
- "Iarnród Éireann rejects Ross criticism". RTÉ News. 29 October 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- "Court hears MOX economic justification flawed". RTÉ News. 8 November 2001. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- Walsh, Jimmy (3 June 2010). "Callely says he will co-operate with inquiry into expenses". The Irish Times. Dublin. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
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- "Dáil Éireann debate – Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013 Vol. 794 No. 2". Oireachtas.ie. 27 February 2013. Archived from the original on 6 July 2021.
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- "Constituency: Dublin Rathdown". Irish independent. 27 February 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
- McCarry, Patrick (6 May 2016). "Ireland reacts with shock, comedy and GIFs as new Minister for Sport unveiled".
- Ross, Shane (2020). In Bed with the Blueshirts. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-83895-291-4.
- "New 'Cycling Office' announced by Ross as funding for cycling and walking set to increase". www.thejournal.ie. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
- "Ireland's Hidden Heartlands launched as new midlands tourism brand". independent.ie. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
- Watterson, Johnny. "The early morning knock on the door that brought Pat Hickey's world crashing down". www.irishtimes.com. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
- Brennan, Niamh. "FAI is at death's door and only government intervention can save Irish soccer". www.irishtimes.com. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
- Healy, Martin (19 October 2018). "A brief history of minister Stephen Ross's many sporting blunders".
- "Bad connection means Sports Minister Shane Ross' Katie Taylor tweets are ill-timed". independent.
- "Minister Stephen Ross makes a number of gaffes while talking sport during radio interview". Irish Independent. 30 November 2018.
- Mullally, Una (24 September 2018). "Gaffes and more gaffes: Stephen Ross's star is fading fast". The Irish Times.
- "PressReader.com - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". www.pressreader.com.
- "Shane Ross made a few gaffes while talking about Irish football during a recent interview". JOE.ie.