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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Outspoken union chief Brendan Ogle rules out politics after shock exit

Brendan Ogle says his decision to leave the ESB unions was by mutual consent. Picture: Mark Condren
Brendan Ogle says his decision to leave the ESB unions was by mutual consent. Picture: Mark Condren

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

ESB union boss Brendan Ogle has ruled out a career in politics, telling friends and colleagues he wants "some time out" following his shock decision to resign.

The controversial and often outspoken union leader told confidants he had no immediate plans, but may return to work in the trade union movement at some stage in the future.

News of his resignation as head of the ESB group of unions came as a surprise to members, coming as it did just weeks after Mr Ogle successfully led a campaign to have their main pension scheme reclassified and treated as a defined benefit scheme.

He announced his intention to step down during a meeting with colleagues yesterday and will vacate the role in the coming days.

Mr Ogle (46) told those present he had "reached a crossroads" in his life and was unsure of his future plans.

However, he was adamant it will not involve a move into the political arena, which had been speculated during the December dispute with ESB management.

The high-profile trade unionist had been on secondment from Unite, but has no immediate plans to return to working for the trade union.

While working as head of the ESB unions, his salary of around €80,000 had been funded by the ESB.

It had been widely expected he was to seek an extension of his contract following the successful pension campaign.

He had fought off efforts to force him out two years ago following the emergence of a video in which he described ESB staff as "spoilt" and claimed they had benefited from plenty of "gravy" during the boom.

But following the recent dispute, Mr Ogle's position was widely regarded as unassailable.

However, the bruising pension campaign is said to have taken its toll on the Co Louth native, who was subject to much adverse media comment over the threat of power cuts before Christmas.

Mr Ogle and his family were also the subject of a death threat, which was reported to gardai.

In the aftermath of the dispute being resolved, the union boss said at the time that he "never once" considered quitting.

However, it is understood he reached the decision to step down after taking some personal time out following the death of his father last month.

In a statement yesterday he said: "I confirm that I will be stepping down as secretary of the ESB group of unions in the coming days."

He said the decision was initiated by him alone and was by mutual consent.

In a statement, the ESB wished Mr Ogle well in his future endeavours. "ESB acknowledges that over the period of his involvement with ESB as a union official, Mr Ogle made a significant contribution, particularly through the delivery and implementation of a number of important change agreements," it said.

Mr Ogle has frequently criticised news organisations over their coverage of industrial relations issues. He declined to do any interviews yesterday, but used his final press statement as head of the group of unions to again criticise the media.

"It is ironic, but not surprising, that in recent weeks the very ESB workers who had been viciously attacked by some in the media for having the temerity to protect their pension rights, have demonstrated the very best of public service as they have battled extreme weather to protect electricity customers' safety and supply," he said.

Irish Independent

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