Environment Minister Alan Kelly has come under fire from Fine Gael Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, for allegedly doling out more than €1.5 million in unmarked grants to three towns in his own constituency.
According to Mr. O’Dowd TD, the Co. Tipperary politician was put in charge of allocating funding for a campaign to get commuters walking and cycling instead of driving, while then Transport Minister. However, prior to the local elections in May 2014, Minister Kelly gave some €1.5 million from the Active Travel Town Scheme Fund to the towns of Tipperary, Clonmel and Thurles, instead of other listed areas identified by an independent assessment group and which were deemed to be in greater need.
These revelations come about following the release of an independent scoring system made available under the Freedom of Information, which show that an independent assessment group had already pinpointed these funded projects for other areas.
Dozens of applications were received from towns all over the country for a €6.5 million Active Travel Fund. Mr Kelly, who was then Transport Minister at the time, gave most of the funding to the six highest-scoring small and medium-sized towns, in line with the group’s original recommendations. However he departed from the original scoring system to dole out €1.5million for projects in Thurles, Tipperary and Clonmel all in his own newly enlarged constituency.
The independent assessment expert group gave the Thurles project just 56 marks out of 100, saying it had “little in the line of behavioural change” to get people walking and cycling instead of using their motor vehicles.
To date, over one year later, none of the allocated funding of €510,000 for Thurles, which was first announced in April 2014, has been spent.