Editorial: New approach needed to resolve the rail strike
Published 25/08/2014 | 02:30
Tales of "ghost trains" to heroic games in Croke Park took on a new dimension yesterday. Thousands cheered epic games between the minor and senior footballers from Mayo and Kerry but our railway stations were eerily silent.
And those thousands who made it to Croke Park without the trains proved that life will go on, with or without our rail services. There were no trains yesterday - but life continued.
Today is day two of a planned five days of stoppages announced by frontline SIPTU and NBRU train staff. The strikes mean huge inconvenience for commuters in Dublin and other major centres, as well as mainline passengers seeking to do commercial and social business.
People who own cars will face additional costs and inconvenience as they buy extra petrol or diesel, have to use expensive parking and face into traffic congestion at a time when many schools re-open. It is all far less than ideal - but in the same way as the thousands made it to Croke Park yesterday, so will people go about their business today and later next month.
If these strikes continue, people, including regular rail users, will find ways to get on with life. Few services are truly indispensable, least of all our railway services in modern Ireland.
Strikes are generally ugly things which are best avoided. That is true whether you are a manager, worker or innocent by-stander. This series of railway strikes, particularly planned to embroil GAA supporters, is no exception.
It is easy to understand the frustration of Iarnrod Eireann management, which is seeking pay cuts and trying to make ends meet in a very difficult business environment. Many will also sympathise with workers' resistance to pay cuts but question the value of their medium or long-term strategy.
The best industrial relations people in the country have spent nearly two years trying to find a compromise. That time is over and we need a new approach.
Now management and workers must sit down, negotiate and find a solution. Otherwise, the rest of the nation could get used to a world without rail transport.
That would be a dangerous precedent for workers and management in Iarnrod Eireann. This country would be all the poorer, economically, socially and strategically, without our railways, which date from the middle of the 19th century.
But it is not entirely unthinkable.
Courageous Rose is a fine role model
Maria Walsh wowed the nation more than many of her recent predecessors when she was crowned this year's Rose of Tralee.
Yesterday, she told the world that she is "gay and proud" and said her parents and family accept this - as do the bulk of her friends.
The Mayo woman, who grew up in the USA, has strong, positive views about Irish women and argues staunchly in favour of the Tralee contest as a true showcase of all facets of femininity.
"The Rose of Tralee is about celebrating women's intelligence, careers, their volunteer work. The question of sexuality never came up. To me, being gay is normal; it's natural," Maria Walsh said.
Phlegmatic as ever, the organisers said she is a Rose "who happens to be gay".
Her matter-of-fact and confident announcement may help many young people of both sexes to speak frankly about their feelings about sexuality.
We salute the honesty and courage of Maria Walsh and wish her well in the future.