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Shane Ross says he won't use the state's chequebook to solve Luas dispute

The new transport minister also said he’s ‘not particularly proud’ of his Fine Gael past.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE NEW TRANSPORT minister has said he won’t be getting involved in the ongoing Luas dispute.

Speaking on the Marian Finucane show, Shane Ross said his department is monitoring the dispute between drivers and operator Transdev but is “not going to do anything about [it]“.

“The Luas strike is not something which a minister … can or should get involved in.

“Bertie Ahern would. Bertie Ahern was an absolute master in coming in – very late in the day by the way, it was pretty opportunist stuff – and sitting in on a settlement that was really close to resolution,” Ross said.

He added that this is “a private sector company in a dispute with its staff” and he’s not going to “take out the state’s chequebook” to resolve it.

There is absolutely no way that I am going to become the story in it, which is what I think others want me to do.

“Disputes are always resolved, this one will be resolved – without the intervention of the state and without the state’s chequebook.”

Not on the same page

Later, on Saturday with Claire Byrne, Siptu chief Jack O’Connor said it’s not true that the government can’t intervene.

There’s no one looking for [Ross] to use the state chequebook, we understand perfectly why that’s not an option.

“He said he neither can nor should, but he actually can or at least the government can, without taking its chequebook with it,” O’Connor said, referencing section 38 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990.

He said the new jobs minister, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, could ask an outside body such as the Labour Court to intervene if she believes it’s in the public interest.

O’Connor said the method had worked in the past, with Ictu and Ibec facilitating negotiations in previous transport-related industrial disputes.

He said he is concerned the dispute, which has seen several days of strike action, has been going on for so long. However, he said the prospect of Luas workers losing their jobs is not an immediate threat.

Forming a government

Ross said members of the Independent Alliance felt compelled to support the Fine Gael-led minority government “for the good of the country” after other parties and groups refused to do so.

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He said despite being “uncomfortable” with being in power with Fine Gael he thought it was preferable to a second general election. He called the situation “hugely experimental” and “very challenging”.

When reminded of his own past as a Fine Gael member in the 1990s, Ross said he regularly clashed with the party, adding with laughter: “It’s not a matter I’m particularly proud of.”

The former senator has previously used his Sunday Independent column to criticise groups and people he will now need to work with, including transport provider CIE and O’Connor.

Ross said that, while he stands by his previous comments, his column tomorrow will “throw out an olive branch” to O’Connor.

“We’re going to have to both put the past behind us,” he said.

Read: Lucinda accuses Independent News and Media of “smear campaign” as she steps down as Renua leader

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Órla Ryan

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