Sunday 26 January 2020

Varadkar should not have interfered

BUS Eireann is in danger of going out of business and adding 2,500 workers to the dole queues, yet Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted asking it to delay cutting costs. The minister's admission that he felt getting Croke Park II over the line was more important than saving the company is a stark reminder that there's no such thing as independence when you're beholden to a politician.

He told the company some weeks ago to delay implementing its cost-cutting plans because there were "sensitive" talks under way aimed at yielding a new national pay deal.

It shows that although our public transport companies are supposed to be operated as independent entities, the reality is far different.

What a change has occurred since last October, when the tough-talking minister took to the airwaves to warn the CIE group of companies, which includes Bus Eireann, to generate savings or risk losing €36m in additional funding.

The company, which did not receive any of that extra money, only moved to change workers' terms and conditions after the Labour Court ruled they were necessary to ensure the future of the company.

But Mr Varadkar intervened. Why? Because cutting the pay and conditions of staff at a public transport company could have a direct bearing on the outcome of ballots on Croke Park II, even though that pay deal fell regardless.

Interfering with the workings of Bus Eireann – a commercial semi-state company, with its own board, chief executive and management tasked with running the firm – is one thing when times are good.

Telling it not to save money at a time when it is in danger of going out of business is something else entirely.

The State is its only shareholder; as its representative, Mr Varadkar was entitled to have a view.

But if he sees fit to step in and give industrial-relations advice, what's to stop other ministers taking a hands-on role in companies under their control?

On this occasion, he may have been better advised to let Bus Eireann run its business as it saw fit and not interfere.

Jolie's decision on cancer gene shows true courage

WE'VE come to expect Angelina Jolie to make the headlines on a regular basis. It's what Hollywood A-listers are all about, after all. Much of that is down to the dazzling performances she has routinely turned out in movies like 'Mr & Mrs Smith' and 'Changeling', as is her high-profile marriage to Brad Pitt.

But this time Jolie is in the news for something she has written, rather than an eye-catching performance or a glitzy red-carpet appearance.

In an article penned for the 'New York Times' this week, she revealed she has undergone a double mastectomy.

She explained that it was a preventative procedure as she carries the BRCA1 gene, which significantly increases the risk of her developing breast or ovarian cancer.

In her case her doctors estimated that she had an 87pc risk of breast cancer and a one-in-two chance of developing ovarian cancer.

These are very high odds and she was faced with a difficult choice. Not every woman would have made the call she made, but that is not the point.

What is noteworthy and courageous is her decision to tell the world about her choice.

Having such radical surgery must be deeply traumatic and to share her traumatic story with women worldwide is exemplary.

By doing so she has raised awareness of breast and ovarian cancer and indeed the genetic disposition that drove her to make her decision.

It would have been much easier for her to shield herself and her family from the media intrusion that this decision will undoubtedly trigger. We salute her bravery.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss