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Shane Phelan: Former train driver always divided opinion

IT is hard to imagine that the departure of Brendan Ogle from the public eye will be for too long.

When asked about his plans for the future as he left the ESB's offices yesterday, in his typical deadpan manner he told one questioner that he was off home to walk his trusted dog Camilo, a beagle named after a Cuban revolutionary.

He has ruled out a career in politics and told the Irish Independent last December: "I intend to spend the rest of my career representing workers."

As probably the most recognisable and controversial union official in the country, he had divided opinion throughout his career in a large part due to his uncompromising negotiating stance.

But many union officials have privately conceded there are few workers who wouldn't want him in their corner.

A former train driver, Mr Ogle led the breakaway Irish Locomotive Drivers Association (ILDA) after he and colleagues disagreed with how SIPTU handled some negotiations.

ILDA, which Iarnrod Eireann refused to recognise, went on to be involved in a divisive dispute in the summer of 2000 which caused widespread disruption.

Ten years ago he started a new career, moving to the Unite trade union, first as its regional organiser representing ESB workers.

He was later voted into the position of secretary of the company's group of unions. During his time in the position he was involved in tough negotiations over the implementation of a plan to slash payroll costs by 20pc and the recent dispute over the company's pension scheme.

Irish Independent