Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring has unleashed a ferocious attack on former Kerry footballer Pat Spillane after his appearance on RTE’s Late Late Show.
Mr Ring said The Sunday Game pundit “clearly has a high regard for himself” after he appeared on prime-time television criticising the minister and his staff over their efforts to rejuvenate rural Ireland.
Mr Ring also said he was “very disappointed” that RTE decided not to invite him on to Ryan Tubridy’s show to address the comments made by the eight-time All Ireland winner.
The minister has also released details of text messages he recently received from Mr Spillane in which he praises Mr Ring and the Government’s policy on rural affairs.
Mr Ring has also decided to publish details of the fees and expenses Mr Spillane received while working for Government departments on rural issues.
On The Late Late Show, Mr Spillane was highly critical of Mr Ring’s decision not to renew his contract as Ambassador for Rural Ireland. He also said the decision to create a senior ministry for rural Ireland was first proposed in a report he oversaw.
“I was the man who delivered that report to the minister and indirectly thanks to me Minister Ring got a ministry and I was the first fella to be shafted,” Mr Spillane said.
He said the minister was getting “bad advice” from his officials and described a recent scheme to tackle rural isolation as “gobbledegook and horse s**t”. He also attacked proposals for rural roadshows which aim to inform communities on Government actions.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Ring said he wrote to Mr Spillane last Monday to inform him he would not be renewing his contract.
“His contract ran until the end of December 2018 and no longer, that was clear, but I wrote to him on Monday of this week and outlined that his contract would not be renewed because he still seemed to be in some doubt about it,” he said.
“Four days later, he appeared on The Late Late Show and it’s like he was a different person. He couldn’t have been more negative or more critical. How can he have changed his views so radically in the space of a few days?”
In a text message sent to Mr Ring on February 4, 2018, Mr Spillane said: “Minister, had several meetings in Offaly this afternoon, huge positivity towards yourself in particular and indeed rural department.”
In a text sent on December 18, 2018 when his contract had lapsed, the former footballer asked to be reappointed as Rural Ambassador.
“I would love dearly to be involved as I firmly believe that thanks to your work as minister, along with your rural department, things are really starting to happen for rural Ireland,” Mr Spillane said.
The minister said the RTE GAA pundit received €30,000 in fees for the two years he worked as Rural Ireland Ambassador and was paid an additional €14,381 for expenses.
He also received €27,000 in fees and expenses for his work with the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas.
Mr Ring said he planned to contact RTE Director General Dee Forbes about the decision to allow Mr Spillane attack him and his staff on the country’s most-watched television show without giving him an opportunity to respond.
He also said he would like RTE to release details of Mr Spillane’s contract with the station. A spokesperson for RTE said they would not be commenting.