Tuesday 21 January 2020

Donohoe's first big test beckons from tomorrow onwards


Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe
John Downing

John Downing

KIERAN Mulvey has done some strike-fixing heroics in his 24 years in charge of the industrial relations "puzzle factory" - also known as the Industrial Relations Commission.

So, his rather downbeat assessment of things suggests we will be without trains tomorrow and Monday.

And there is every chance of further disruption in the ensuing days of big-ticket GAA games into next month.

This is a tragedy in which there are no winners. The travelling public will be seriously inconvenienced. Many may have to resort to driving with extra expense on fuel and parking ,and increasing traffic congestion at a time when many schools are re-opening.

Most regular train users will not want to bash the staff in the NBRU and SIPTU - who are understandably resisting pay cuts - but there are real doubts about the medium and long-term strategic value of the strike decision at a time when these temporary cuts were accepted in sister firms Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus.

It risks further undermining the staff's position in a loss-making company which is set to be permanently dependent on a taxpayer subvention and which has received state funding totalling €1bn since 2011.

The future of our fragile rail system will be further imperilled. Tourism and other business sectors risk losing out at a time when hopes of economic revival are rising.

In the midst of this difficulty, people inevitably look to Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is now a bare six weeks in the cabinet and still trying to read himself into a big range of responsibilities.

The new minister comes to the problem after almost two years of efforts which have engaged the best industrial relations operators in the country.

Mr Donohoe does not have money to throw at the problem and has few options but to hold tough. Politics is the art of the possible, this is the job he has been set, and soon the next move will be his.

How he handles the next few weeks will be a singular test which could frame his reputation as a senior politician for the future - which he clearly wants to be, and has the potential to become.

Irish Independent

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