Taoiseach defends Ross over handling of Bus Éireann controversy

The Transport Minister briefed the cabinet on the contents of the company's survival plan - even though he claims he has not seen it himself

Taoiseach defends Ross over handling of Bus Éireann controversy

Transport Minister Shane Ross outside the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, 24-08-2016. Image: Niall Carson PA Wire/PA Images

The Taoiseach has been forced into a vigorous defence of the Minister for Transport over his handling of the financial difficulties facing Bus Éireann. 

Following days of media-leaks regarding cost-cutting measures the company plans to implement in order to stave of insolvency - management wrote to staff on Monday confirming a range of measures including: 

  • A ban on unplanned overtime
  • A recruitment ban
  • An end to flexi-time arrangements for clerical staff
  • Efforts to improve fuel efficiency
  • Stricter controls on bus hire

The company confirmed last week it was facing insolvency within 18 months unless decisive actions are taken.

Reports in the media have indicated the company has signed off on a cost-cutting survival plan drawn up by financial consultants Grant Thornton.

The plan reportedly includes route cuts, job losses and lower pay for new recruits.

Freely accessible

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny defended his Transport Minister, Shane Ross in the Dáil this afternoon after it emerged he had briefed the Cabinet on the Grant Thornton report - even though he had not seen it himself.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on transport, Robert Troy had questioned how the Minister had failed to read a report that was “freely accessible to the Members of the House” and questioned why he had not contacted Bus Éireann to request a copy of it.

Mr Kenny said the report belongs to Bus Éireann - and suggested Fianna Fáil were being "very hard" on the minister.

“You are being very hard on Minister Ross,” Mr Kenny told the house. “You are being very hard on him at the start of a new session.”

“The minister confirmed to the cabinet yesterday that he had not received the report but that from what he had read about it in newspapers and other comments that the focus seemed to be more on the structure of the company and the conditions that apply there rather than individual routes,” he said.

Publication of the plan

Deputy Troy said it is “hard to believe” the minister has yet to see the Grant Thornton report.

“This is a farcical situation considering the Minister briefed the cabinet earlier today on the difficulties facing Bus Éireann,” he said.

“The Minister should end this charade and ensure the report is published in full without any further delay.”

The Taoiseach said the "fact of the matter" is that the company is losing €6m a year and said it is now a “matter for the management and the trade unions.”

He said the government had invested €40m of public money into the company last year - a significant increase on 2015.

"I hope the discussions that will take place between the company and the unions on the matter will be constructive and progressive and that we can move on and continue to provide services for people,” he said.