Transport Minister Shane Ross has been criticised for being pictured draped in a feather boa with former Miss Ireland, Amanda Brunker, while talks to end weeks of crippling strikes at Bus Éireann were ongoing, writes Stephen Rogers.
Commuters this morning face a 20th day without bus services as the dispute has now moved to the Labour Court after the Workplace Relations Commission was unable to find a resolution between unions and management despite marathon talks over the weekend.
The sides reconvene in court this morning in the hope it will be able to put together a non-binding recommendation within 24 hours that unions can put to their members for ballot. One of the key parts of that recommendation will be on a consolidated rate of pay for drivers.
Management has proposed €19.20 while unions have demanded €22-€23. Sources say a figure close to €21 could be acceptable to workers.
On Sunday, Ms Brunker tweeted the image with the caption “So... this happened last night”.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary reproduced the image on his Twitter feed with the caption “featherweight minister”. He said that, at the same time the image was captured, talks were at a crucial stage for vital transport services for rural communities, yet Mr Ross was engaged in “frivolous activities when he should have been at the wheel of the bus”.
“His Independent Alliance colleagues have done nothing for us. I wonder what they think about their proxy leader,” said Mr O’Leary.
Mr Ross’s spokesperson explained that, on the day in question, he was at a lip-sync event for a GAA club in his constituency — he had agreed to be a judge at the event a number of weeks ago.
Details of the picture emerged on the same day unions were criticising what they perceived to be a “restrictive” role by Mr Ross’s department in the talks process.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.