Keep on trucking


THE TIMES WE LIVED IN:WE MAY FONDLY imagine 2012 was a bad summer – glorious September weather notwithstanding – but it was nothing compared to the annus horribilis that was the summer of 1981. Hunger strikers were dying in the North, there was rioting on the Merrion Road, Dublin following a H-Block protest and the coalition government was facing a Dáil vote on a tough supplementary Budget which threatened to bring the whole shaky edifice crashing down.

On top of which, a “CIE craftsmen’s strike” decimated bus services in Dublin, Cork and Galway. Happily for hard-pressed Dublin commuters the Army was swiftly drafted in, with 50 trucks running from seven points around the city centre to and from the suburbs.

This military mercy operation involved 240 privates and 17 officers. It took commuters a while to get the hang of it – no texting, no tweeting, no electronic signs at bus stops – but once they did, the truck dubbed the “Tallaght Express” did particularly brisk business.

Each truck held 30 people on hard chairs which may explain why the folks in our photo look a bit stiff and sore as they clamber down from the back of the lorry. The woman in front swinging a sports bag in her right hand appears to be squinting in the sunshine, so presumably reading lights were not available inside.

Another woman is approaching the stepladder with all the enthusiasm of a swimmer dipping a toe into the Arctic. She is watched by a soldier who really, you might think, ought to be giving her a helping hand. As to the soldier in the foreground, well, he’s either executing some sort of exotic peace-time goose-step or trying to pull up his socks without disturbing his highly polished boots.

Some commuters expressed unease at the service on the grounds that it was, technically speaking, strike-breaking. But most were delighted with it. “It’s just as comfortable as CIE,” one Clondalkin-bound man told an Irish Times reporter. “And it’s much more regular.”

Arminta Wallace

Published July 21st, 1981 Photograph by Jimmy McCormack

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