'Trust in Bus Éireann is gone' as passengers left stranded
The Bus Éireann strikes have eroded public confidence in the service and left people in rural Ireland stranded, it has been claimed.
The chairperson of Abbeyfeale Community Council, Maurice O'Connell, said his area has been hit particularly hard by the industrial action which has been going on for almost three weeks.
The Limerick man (49) told the Irish Independent: "The traditional long-term trust that has been there for the public transport system in this country - you'll always have people nitpicking here and there - but that trust is gone."
He said there was hope in his community that buses would be running again yesterday, but the news that talks had broken down meant a further wait for services to resume.
Abbeyfeale has a large elderly population and people regularly use their bus passes to travel with Bus Éireann. Mr O'Connell said they have had to cancel plans made months in advance, and continue to be isolated in their homes.
He added: "There will be a small amount of people who will be able to tap into their own funds and they will find alternatives.
"But there is a large percentage of the population who rely very heavily on public transport and won't be able to do that.
"Whatever hope there was yesterday, I think that hope is now gone. There is a lot of uncertainty.
"There are some people who feel they have no choice but to be indoors for long periods of time, it doesn't do their mental or physical health any good. For a lot of people I've been speaking to over the last few weeks, particularly the active retirement group, they've already suffered a lot from what has gone on.
"There's obviously going to be a relief if the strike ends, but it will tempered very much by a little bit of anxiety as in, 'will this happen again?'"
Mr O'Connell said that people in his community also rely on buses to get to hospital.
Meanwhile, UCC worker Sheila Ronan (56), from Bandon, Co Cork, said that people in her area have taken to carpooling in order to get around as the strike has dragged on.
Ms Ronan said that people in the town are heavily reliant on Bus Éireann services and have had to make alternate travel arrangements to get to work, school and hospital.
She said that while she supports and sympathises with bus drivers, the patience of people has worn thin at this point.
As unions and management look to engage again at the Labour Court this morning, she said a resolution is needed.
"Even at this stage it's having quite a big impact and I think people are getting quite disgruntled," she said.
Ms Ronan has been spending almost an hour longer getting to and from work every day and she said that it "takes a toll".
Being a yearly ticket holder she has paid for all her journeys since the strike began.
"Now whether that is refundable I'm not too sure, but we'll definitely be investigating," she said.