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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 10 Dec 1998

Vol. 498 No. 3

Ceisteanna — Questions. Priority Questions. - CIE Appointment.

Emmet Stagg


2 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the series of events that led to the appointment of Mr. John Behan by the Government; the date his appointment was effective from; if Mr. Behan is the change management specialist referred to by her in Parliamentary Question No. 89 of 10 November 1998 and whose services she said were retained by CIE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27123/98]

Following my intervention in the threatened Bus Éireann strike in July 1997, I discussed the matter with my Cabinet colleagues. During those discussions the possible need for a facilitator to assist in resolving the dispute was mentioned. I subsequently held a series of consultations with management and unions in the CIE companies and with the Labour Relations Commission. There was general agreement that the negotiations on their restructuring programmes in each of the CIE companies should continue with the assistance of facilitators appointed by the Labour Relations Commission. There was also a view that CIE should retain the services of a suitably qualified person from outside the company to assist in the co-ordination of its approach to the negotiations.

I put this view to the company and suggested that the person referred to in the Deputy's question might fulfil that role. The company considered this view and in a press statement dated 31 July 1997, the CIE chairman announced that in order to facilitate swift progress in these negotiations CIE was willing to appoint a facilitator with a view to achieving early agreement. CIE subsequently appointed the person referred to in the Deputy's question as a change management specialist to assist the individual operating companies in the negotiations.

I tabled the question to try to resolve the contradictions in the statements which the Minister made previously in the House, for example on 24 November 1998. I am paraphrasing the Minister because I am not allowed to quote her during Question Time. She said that the Government appointed John Behan. On the same date she said that he was employed by CIE. Who appointed John Behan? Is "appointment" different to "employment"? The Minister has said that CIE employ him but the Government appointed him. Who pays him? What does he do?

Mr. John Behan is operating in the same role he operated in regard to Aer Lingus when Fianna Fáil and Labour were in Government together. That was perfectly acceptable then and no one raised a row about it.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with it.

I am answering the last question first, which was about the role he plays. He continues to play that role in Aer Lingus. I was very involved with him in regard to TEAM Aer Lingus. CIE pays him. I do not know how much he is paid and I do not intend to ask — CIE can supply that information if it so wishes. That is the situation.

That does not resolve the matter.

We need dictionaries now to find out whether "appointment" and "employment" have the same meaning. The Government appointed this man and someone else employs him. We are not quite sure what his role is, although we are told that CIE pays him. Is this man causing more problems than he is solving in CIE? Is he second guessing the management there? Did that give rise to the statement by the chairman of CIE that the Minister and her change facilitator, John Behan, should butt out and mind their own business? However, I do not think the Minister should butt out.

I agree with the Deputy's last point and I have no intention of butting out. The chairman said to me on "Morning Ireland" on RTE Radio, and in the speech he submitted to the media, that the Minister should — I think he may have said "the Government" but I do not have the speech with me——

He did not personalise it, he was nice enough about it.

He did not mention John Behan. It is my opinion — although, of course, my opinion can be challenged — that he has been very helpful in the whole process. As the Deputy knows, Bus Átha Cliath has finally resolved its difficulties. I am always wary of giving dates, but Bus Éireann hopes to resolve its difficulties by the end of January. There are already intense talks going on with Iarnród Éireann.

If the negotiations with Iarnród Éireann, to which the Minister referred, are successful at the end of January, will that lead to an automatic increase in prices in Iarnród Éireann as well?

I heard the Deputy say in the House recently that public transport should be encouraged, which it should be.

Absolutely, not priced out of the market.

I have linked my talks with the main unions and management in each of the companies to the request from the chairman, the board and the unions for, after eight years of very strong growth in their usage and the subvention just keeping pace with the CPI, a change in the bus tariffs. I have not yet considered the train or Bus Éireann tariffs.

Would it not be more effective to increase the subvention and to encourage passengers to use public transport by keeping the fares as low as possible?

It is all public money — the citizen pays whether the subvention or the fares are increased. I am very consumer oriented. When I came into office I saw that ESB had three years roll on roll price increases, agreed by the previous Government for two years. I stopped it in the third year because ESB was making a great deal of money, for which I do not fault it. CIE does not make money because it has a huge public service obligation in its contracts.

We must move on to the next question.

I am just finished. I am linking that with the fare increases.