Bus Éireann sues executive of rival company for libel
STATE-OWNED Bus Éireann is taking a libel case against one of the executives of the company that is challenging its right to operate the school transport scheme.
Last July, a US-backed group, STS, argued in a High Court case that the school transport scheme operated by Bus Éireann for the Department of Education should be put out to tender.
The group wants to bid for the contract to provide the service and says it could do so for considerably less than the €160 million that the State spent on it last year.
Yesterday, it emerged that Bus Éireann is suing STS managing director, Tim Doyle, for libel after he wrote to Senator David Norris stating that the company was involved in bullying and bribery.
According to an affidavit by Bus Éireann chief executive Martin Nolan, supporting the company’s claim, Mr Doyle told Senator Norris in an email that Bus Éireann was “bullying and bribing” local operators to stay away from STS.
In a subsequent letter, also referred to in the affidavit, Mr Doyle is quoted as saying: “I accused Bus Éireann of bullying and bribery in their administration of the school transport scheme. This is correct and I take the opportunity to repeat these allegations and add a further allegation of bias.”
Mr Nolan says that the accusations are groundless and are designed to damage the State company’s reputation, specifically with members of the Oireachtas, the Ministers for Transport and Education, and the Department of Education, which is the company’s biggest customer.
Mr Doyle intends to defend the action and says he has evidence to support the statements he made in the email and the letter.
While Bus Éireann has overall responsibility for school transport, inspectors in the company’s local offices hire private operators as subcontractors to do much of the actual work.
Earlier this month, Bus Éireann confirmed that an investigation into “school transport matters” in its Limerick office in 2010 resulted in the company taking disciplinary action against one individual.