The Irish government has secretly voted in a law allowing Ministers to drive in bus lanes – without as much as a debate in parliament.
The Irish Mail on Sunday has published details of the secretive vote on October 18 when proceedings in Dail Eireann, the parliament, were dominated by job cuts at the Aviva Insurance company.
A report in the paper states that that law was passed on October 18th using a "statutory instrument" which removed the need to debate it publicly.
The bill was passed by the Fine Gael-Labor Party coalition despite the opposition of Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
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The Fine Gael minister claimed the decision sent an "appalling message" to the public who are forced to put up with chronic traffic congestion, particularly in Dublin’s city centre.
One of the first things the new coalition government did last March was remove the rights of Ministers to state cars driven by police officers, in a bid to save $6 million in transport costs.
Now the Ministers, with civilian drivers, have won the right to drive in the bus lanes – just like the police officers they used to employ.
The Mail on Sunday has printed a copy of a note attached to the official documentation from Minister Varadkar which outlines his opposition to the law change.
The note reads: “As approved by Government against my advice and that of the department.”
Varadkar had been lobbied by Ministers angry that the Prime Minister, deputy PM and President were all entitled to use the bus lanes but not rank and file members of cabinet.
A memo sent to Varadkar and published by the paper said: “Given the urgency of Government business, the minister may wish to effect a change in the rules of access to bus lanes to allow ministers to continue to avail of bus lanes while on official business.
“We recommend that you opt for a total exemption, ensuring that ministers would continue to enjoy the same status on the roads as before.”
Whilst agreeing to the use of bus lanes by Ministerial drivers, the government did turn down a request to exempt such cars from parking and speeding regulations.