Monday 19 August 2019

Minister Ross has got his priorities wrong

Transport Minister Shane Ross
Transport Minister Shane Ross


It is a curious fact of life that frequently it is the people with the most ridiculous ideas who are most certain of them. As the capital city was paralysed yesterday because of a pointless and utterly preventable strike, miles of cars were glued bumper-to-bumper as their drivers fumed.

All day long on the radio, as workers clocked in late for work and patients missed hospital appointments due to the rail strike, unions and management played Punch and Judy blame games. But it was the public that got clubbed about the head. Irish Rail staff tried to deflect responsibility for the misery unleashed across the country by claiming that the company's CEO was "ramping up" the current pay row.

With the prospect of industrial war and five days of stoppages in a company mired in debt, chief executive David Franks was merely stating the obvious.

We know that sooner or later there will have to be re-engagement. After making a wrong turn in industrial relations, sometimes one step backwards can actually be a step in the right direction. There are mechanisms for resolving disputes and they must be used before further damage is done. The inertia and shredding of the nerves of commuters as the country's transport system becomes a travesty has gone on too long.

But who is stepping up to take charge of the three-ringed circus? Transport Minister Shane Ross has important business with Dear Leader in North Korea, but what about Dear Leo? Did Mr Varadkar not pledge to introduce legislation banning public sector workers from striking in essential services if he was elected Taoiseach?

He specifically mentioned transport services.

Until Mr Ross can keep his appointment with 'Little Rocket Man', are we - as the song asks - "gonna be a long, long time" before there is any resolution in this stand-off?

It surely falls to Mr Varadkar to undertake that the public are not doomed to be left indefinitely, just like the rocket man, "burning out its fuse all alone".

A sensible approach to law flouted all too often

‘I hear their screams, I see them die again and again.” Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann after they were killed just before Christmas three years ago. Their car was pushed into a flooded dyke and they drowned following a collision near their home in Kilworth, Co Cork. The car that crashed into them was driven by an unaccompanied learner driver.

The words of the Clancy family after the court case where the learner driver was convicted were harrowing.

“The thought of my mother and sister screaming for their lives, knowing that they were going to drown tortures me every night. The nightmares leave me physically exhausted,” Declan Clancy recalled as he stood with his father, Noel, and sister, Fiona.

No family should have to go through the trauma the Clancy family have endured.

Everyone knows learner drivers are breaking the law by driving unaccompanied. The law is flouted.

The campaigning by the Clancy family has inspired a change in the law for driving unaccompanied.

The focus will be switched back to the owner of the car.

Now, Transport Minister Shane Ross is bringing forward legislation which will result in car owners who allow learner drivers to use their vehicles unaccompanied facing six months in prison and a €2,000 fine. The new law will also give gardaí formal powers to impound vehicles on the spot if the learner driver is unaccompanied.

This sensible measure deserves Oireachtas support.

Irish Independent

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