Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley TD has strongly criticised Minister Alan Kelly for failing to take on board independent advice when allocating funding from the Active Travel Town Scheme.

Deputy Dooley made the comments after it emerged Minister Kelly diverted a large chunk of funding available under the €6.5m grant scheme to local projects in his own constituency of Tipperary.

“The revelation that Minister Alan Kelly ignored expert independent advice when awarding grant scheme funding is extremely worrying. Minister Kelly is meant to take on board the wider national interest when serving in cabinet, however it is apparent that he is willing to ignore expert advice to ensure the money flows into his own constituency” said Deputy Dooley.

“This scheme was established to encourage people to consider walking or cycling to work instead of driving. An independent assessment was carried out to identify towns most in need of funding across the entire country. It has now emerged that Minister Kelly ignored this independent assessment so that he could divert €1.5m of the funding available to less urgent projects in Tipperary.

“Minister Kelly is clearly showing preferential treatment towards his own constituency to the detriment of the rest of the country. Towns such as Drogheda, Athlone, Killarney, Newcastle West, Letterkenny and Castleblayney were identified as having a much greater need of funding over the projects that Minister Kelly chose to fund in Tipperary.

“The independent advice highlighted that one of the projects Minister Kelly awarded funding to is unlikely to lead to more people walking and cycling instead of driving cars. It is difficult for the Minister to justify this allocation when you consider the other projects that missed out on funding, and which would have had a greater return on the investment provided. This is a case of Minister Kelly providing money to his own constituency in a desperate effort to save his seat at the next election.

“I am calling on Minister Kelly to set out why exactly he decided to award a large chunk of the funding available under the scheme to projects in Tipperary, contrary to what was advised by the expert independent assessors. The Taoiseach also needs to clarify if he thinks it is acceptable for his Ministers’ to ignore independent advice in order to divert funding to constituency projects while the rest of the country loses out.”