Ahern calls for €2bn CIÉ funding to be addressed in talks

CIÉ has received €2 billion in funding from the taxpayer in the past six years, the Taoiseach said yesterday.

The cost of subsidising the national bus and rail network will be discussed by the Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan and union chiefs in talks on transport issues in the coming weeks.

Unions will meet with Mr Brennan later this week to discuss the implementation of the scrapping of Aer Rianta, making Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports independent entities. But Mr Brennan will also debate his plans for CIÉ and a second independent terminal at Dublin Airport with the unions.

Yesterday Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the taxpayer was putting in a huge subsidy into CIÉ since Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats took up office in 1997.

Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy had remarked recently that CIÉ had received €2bn in subsidies and other payments during his tenure and those issues have to be addressed, the Taoiseach said.

Yesterday, at an unscheduled meeting, union chiefs told the Taoiseach and Mr Brennan that the plans to break up Aer Rianta were causing serious damage to Government-union relations.

Admitting there had been a lot of plain speaking at the meeting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary David Begg said the partnership process was damaged by the Aer Rianta breakup and the meeting was fairly reasonable considering the circumstances.

“It is clear to everyone that the events of last weekend caused a fissure between the Government side and ourselves,” he said.

But the Taoiseach denied that the Government had damaged the partnership process and said there had been an enormous amount of dialogue on transport policy in recent weeks.

Defending the Government’s plans he said he believed the policy changes would create jobs, especially in Shannon and the West and Cork and the South-West.

“We see this as good for the public, we see this as good for the unions and we see this as an opportunity. We are not doing it just to sustain jobs but to grow jobs,” he said.

The Taoiseach said it was agreed that Mr Brennan will address the issues in SIPTU’s 10-point plan and also discuss wider public transport issues, including the future of CIÉ and the second terminal. The hastily arranged meeting demanded by the unions was attended by the Taoiseach, Mr Brennan, Department of An Taoiseach secretary general Dermot McCarthy and Department of Transport secretary general Julie O’Neill, while the union delegation comprised of Mr Begg, SIPTU general president Des Geraghty and IMPACT general secretary Peter McLoone.

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