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Republic of Ireland news

Travel services returning to normal in Republic after strike

A Dublin Bus sign, as commuters faced travel disruption across Ireland. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Brian Hutton

Bus services in Dublin and rail links country-wide were returning to normal after a wildcat strike causing rush-hour gridlock and commuter chaos drew widespread criticism.

Unannounced secondary pickets in support of the ongoing Bus Éireann walkout crippled Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Dart services, catching tens of thousands by surprise on Friday morning.

Many were left out of pocket by seeking alternative transport while retailers say they lost tens of thousands of euro from the "illegal" action, which even drew disapproval from union leaders.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, said the escalation in transport disruption was "unofficial" and that all Dublin Bus and Irish Rail workers should have been in work as normal.

"The NBRU fully understands the frustrations bring felt by Bus Éireann staff as a result of the imposition of unagreed and unilateral cuts to terms and conditions," he said.

"However, it should be understood that the only official dispute that the NBRU can prosecute is that which we are conducting presently at Bus Éireann."

Siptu said it did not condone the wildcat action and "regrets the manner in which tens of thousands of commuters were unable to obtain public transport services in Dublin and across the country".

Transport minister Shane Ross said the travelling public were rightly very angry at the unexpected pickets.

"This is not part of the fair conduct of strikes," he said.

"My first concern is with all the passengers affected by this ongoing strike and by this new unofficial and unjustified protest, and I very much regret the impact on them.

"I understand that the travelling public are, rightly, very angry at having to deal with this sudden, unannounced disruption to their Friday morning and I hugely sympathise with their unforeseen predicament."

However, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr Ross was sitting on his hands as the pay and conditions row at Bus Éireann deepens.

"The crisis at Bus Éireann, and right across our public transport network, has been caused by bad policy and now by the inaction of a minister who has a very clear privatisation agenda," he said.

"The taoiseach, who is happy to turn a blind eye, is completely complicit."

By midday, Dublin Bus said picketing by Bus Éireann employees at its depots had stopped and services were resuming on all routes.

Irish Rail apologised to customers and said services were also returning to normal, although some had to be cancelled. It has offered refunds for anyone affected.

Taxis reported a huge surge in business, with many off-duty drivers being called in to work, as commuters struggled to make their way through dense morning traffic.

Many people opted to walk long distances into work.

The Luas tram service was running in Dublin while school transport operators were mostly unaffected.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association condemned the surprise strike action as "illegal" and said retailers will lose tens of thousands of euro while workers are forced to pay taxi fares to get to work.

Business leaders Ibec said the "outrageous, unofficial industrial action" is "illegal and demonstrates contempt for the travelling public, including some of the most vulnerable sections of society".

Bus Éireann said trust must be restored for both sides in the dispute to reopen "time-limited talks".

About 2,600 Bus Éireann workers walked out last Friday following a long-running dispute with management over threatened 30 per cent pay cuts and warnings that the company was being driven into insolvency.

Bus Éireann bosses have warned losses continuing to accelerate at the company, and exacerbated by strike action to date, threaten to collapse the company this year – its 30th anniversary.

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