Transport Minister Shane Ross is being urged to “get on with” resolving the Iarnród Éireann pay dispute after being accused of being more interested in sending tweets about Manchester United and “fantasy” North Korean trips than his own job.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin issued the rebuke as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted rival parties must be “honest” and admit the State must choose between service improvements or staff pay rises.
Speaking during the latest leaders’ questions debate held during the second of five Iarnrod Éireann strike days, Mr Martin said Mr Ross had failed to address the core of the problem and has been invisible since the industrial action started.
Mr Martin claimed there was a growing belief among the public that Mr Ross was more interested in sending tweets about football results — a reference to a message sent by Mr Ross on Twitter during the first strike day last week — and discussing trips to North Korea than his own portfolio: “Given his public utterances down through the years, he [Mr Ross] has a long track record of lacking basic sympathy and empathy with Bus Éireann, Irish Rail and CIÉ overall. However, a country is at stake now. Instead of tweeting about the fortunes of Manchester United or contemplating publicly a fantasy visit to North Korea, he would be far better focusing on issues within his realm of responsibility.”
The Fianna Fáil leader continued by calling for the immediate publication of the national rail review, which sought submissions 12 months ago and urged Mr Varadkar to intervene by ensuring a stakeholders’ group of companies and unions, promised in the wake of the Bus Éireann strikes earlier this year, will be immediately convened.
Mr Martin’s comments were repeated by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who said the current Iarnrod Éireann stand-off has been caused by “successive governments”.
“The Taoiseach claims not to be a keeper of his ministers, but where is the minister with responsibility for transport? We have seen little or no interest from him. Given his efforts towards peace — perhaps he is minister with responsibility for North Korean affairs in his own head — I suppose a rail strike is a very trivial matter. Will the Taoiseach ask Deputy Ross to do his job,” Mr Adams asked.
Mr Varadkar said he does not know when the stakeholders’ meeting will take place, and added that while it may be “useful” to publish the rail review it would not solve the current stand-off.
Mr Varadkar defended Mr Ross by saying he briefed the Cabinet on the strike yesterday morning, and that it was not the Government’s job to directly intervene in industrial disputes.
However, moments later the Taoiseach told Mr Martin and Mr Adams to be “honest” and decide if they wanted service improvements or “pay rises substantially above the increases being paid to others in the public and private sector”.
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