Government 'inept' in bid to avert public sector dispute


THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of “throwing in the towel” and doing nothing to prevent the 24-hour public sector strike next Tuesday, which is set to cause widespread disruption.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore accused the Government of “ineptitude” in handling the issue and failing to get directly involved in talks to try to avert the dispute, which is expected to close every school, public office and reduce hospitals to a Christmas Day schedule.

Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter accused the Government of “falling asleep on the job” and sharply criticised as a “negation of democracy”, the curtailing of Dáil business on Tuesday.

But Tánaiste Mary Coughlan did not believe the “withdrawal of labour will be constructive or add in any way to discussion that are currently ongoing between Government, employers and public service unions”.

She pointed out that usually “a withdrawal of labour takes place after something has been decided, as opposed to pre-empting something that is being considered and has not been decided”.

Sinn Féin confirmed that it would not pass the pickets on Leinster House. It also emerged that the Defence Forces could be called in during the strike.

Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea told the Dáil during question time: “I do not immediately see a role for the Army next Tuesday, but we have looked at that. Arrangements are in place whereby the Army can be called upon if needed. There are well-known lines of authority in that regard and long-standing arrangements which can be put in place.”

Mr Gilmore said there was “tacit acceptance by Government that the strike is going ahead because there is a proposal here that there will be no adjournment debates on Tuesday next”. The debates allow TDs to raise issues and Ministers respond with a script prepared by civil servants.

Mr Gilmore said this is not an issue as to whether Ministers or Ministers of State can come into the House and give an answer without a script. “We know they can’t.” The Government “clearly has no intention of sitting down with anyone and using the industrial relations machinery of the State to try to avert the strike”.

There would be no staff “staff right up to principal officer level in the departments concerned to prepare responses to adjournment debates for Tuesday next”.

Mr Shatter said it was “unacceptable that the sovereign parliament of this country should be curtailed in properly conducting its business by any strike action”. He added: “The Government is saying, because it is a public sector strike, not a single senior Minister . . . has the competence in an adjournment debate to deliver a five minute speech”, which the Government side rejected.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said “we in Sinn Féin will certainly not besmirch our record of solidarity with Irish workers” and they would not pass the picket.