Shane Ross is ‘sabotaging’ public transport, Sinn Féin claims

Minister criticises ‘cheque book’ approach to industrial relations during Dáil exchanges

Minister for Transport Shane Ross ‘is doing his job’ and had worked to achieve a 33 per cent increase in support for public service provision for Bus Éireann, his cabinet colleage Richard Bruton said. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Transport Shane Ross ‘is doing his job’ and had worked to achieve a 33 per cent increase in support for public service provision for Bus Éireann, his cabinet colleage Richard Bruton said. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There were sharp exchanges in the Dáil Thursday as Ministers and Opposition TDs clashed over how best to respond to the ongoing Bus Éireann strike.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Minister for Transport Shane Ross of “sabotaging the transport network” over his failure to intervene in the dispute.

But Minister for Education Richard Bruton rejected her accusations and claimed instead that the Sinn Féin approach “would lead to more industrial disputes and result in the taxpayer funding every strike”.

During Dáil leaders’ questions, Ms McDonald raised the dispute, now in its sixth day and affecting an estimated 100,000 customers.

Ms McDonald said it was time for Mr Ross to “grow up”. She accused him of being “hell-bent on his agenda of privatisation”.

Bus Éireann employees had no alternative, she said and they feared losing between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of their wages.

“What choice do workers have when faced with a Minister who is absolutely intent on shutting down Bus Éireann as a public service?”

Ms McDonald said the public was boiling with anger and “it is very important that this anger is directed at the right people” and they were the Minister for Transport, the Government and Bus Éireann management.

Mr Ross was “sabotaging the transport network” and the Sinn Féin deputy leader called on the Government to demand he “end his disastrous policy of non intervention”.

Dismissing her claim, Mr Bruton said Mr Ross “is doing his job” and had worked to achieve a 33 per cent increase in support for public service provision for Bus Éireann.

The Minister said the difficulties that arise in Bus Éireann came from their commercial operations and it was not open to the Minister to provide public subvention.

If, during every dispute, Sinn Féin “seeks to elevate and politicise that dispute and look for Ministers to come in with a cheque book, we will never resolve industrial disputes”.

He said it was not for the Minister to look for solutions but for workers and management through the industrial relations machinery provided by the State.

But Ms McDonald claimed Mr Bruton “is almost as deluded as the Minister for Transport”.

“You seem to think it is a tenable position for a Minister for Transport to opt out of resolving a massive transport dispute,” she said. “This is not an ordinary industrial relations dispute. This is a public policy crisis but you seem to be prepared to sit it out.”

The Minister rounded on Ms McDonald and claimed the “Sinn Féin approach would lead to more industrial disputes and result in taxpayer funding every strike”.

He said there were identified deficiencies identified on both sides of the dispute and these issues had to be resolved in direct negotiations through the Workplace Relations Commission.