Controllers insist talks not a climbdown
Published 22/01/2010 | 05:00
THEY have been "hurt" by the negative publicity surrounding their cause in recent days. They are "sorry" for any inconvenience caused to the travelling public.
But striking air traffic controllers yesterday insisted their decision to enter new talks aimed at resolving the dispute that brought the country's main airports to a standstill was not a climbdown
It was a sombre-looking bunch of eight members of the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association (IATCA), with Michael Landers of IMPACT, who exited a two-hour meeting yesterday in Roscrea, Co Tipperary.
Perhaps chastened by all the talk bandied around about the average tin-pusher being on €160,000 per year, they said they would attend Labour Court talks today without pre-condition -- even if the IAA refused to re-instate the 14 suspended members.
But it was not a climbdown. IMPACT's Michael Landers firmly shook his head upon mention of the word. Instead, they had decided to "take the initiative" and defer any future industrial action pending today's and any future discussions in the Labour Court.
Despite the move, sorry still seemed to be the hardest word and it was only at the end of the media interviews -- when asked how they felt about Wednesday afternoon's airport chaos -- that they said they were "sorry for inconveniencing the travelling public".
IATCA president Tristan Spillane -- one of the suspended 14 -- admitted that the negative coverage of their campaign had taken an emotional toll. "It's quite hurtful when you're being slated in the media," he said.
But there would be no mud-slinging, the controllers insisted.
"We're taking a dignified line on this and not getting involved in any spat."
There were tight smiles when the thorny subject of Michael O'Leary was brought up. Tristan Spillane pointed out that the Ryanair boss would "command a lot of air time", but, unsurprisingly, the air traffic controllers didn't agree with a whole lot he had to say. In fact, they didn't agree with anything he had to say.
When asked what he thought of Mr O'Leary views, Michael Landers replied in a perfunctory manner: "Not a lot," before adding that the airline boss had "very little to offer" the world of aviation.