'Minister Pontius Pilate is happy to hide from looming bus strikes'
Transport Minister Shane Ross has been described as a "Pontius Pilate" character who is hiding from the looming chaos at Bus Éireann.
Opposition leaders have hit out at the Government's response to a possible open-ended strike by workers at the company.
Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin claimed that privately Mr Ross is "very comfortable" with what is happening at Bus Éireann.
He argued that efforts were made to avert industrial unrest at Dublin Bus and the Luas, but Mr Ross had adopted an attitude of "to hell with rural Ireland".
Bus Éireann has said it could be insolvent by May if it does not reduce its pay bill by €12m.
Management want to make savings on overtime, spare driver arrangements, hiring buses, sick pay, bonuses, expenses and flexibility. Mr Martin said Bus Éireann had taken "a very aggressive approach" that is "conflict driven".
"In one fell swoop we're taking a sledgehammer to workers' terms and conditions," he said.
In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny acknowledged that a potentially "catastrophic situation" is looming for passengers.
But he defended Mr Ross, saying the minister is "anxious that the machinery of the State be used".
The Taoiseach called for "direct engagement" between management and unions.