The Government should use all measures open to it to prevent Ryanair from taking control of Aer Lingus, Dublin Senator Darragh O’Brien has said.
Senator O’Brien said: “The existence of Ryanair and Aer Lingus as separate competing entities has transformed our tourism and business sectors. As an island nation we need a strong competitive aviation sector and two separate competing airlines is the best way of achieving that.
“If Ryanair was successful in taking over Aer Lingus it would result in less competition and I know many staff who would be concerned about a Ryanair-controlled Aer Lingus.
“Aer Lingus is an extremely important employer in the North Dublin area but has also made a major contribution to the country. We need to see a stronger, stable airline and not a carrier that is undermined by corporate conflict.
“As a majority privately-owned airline Aer Lingus has thrived in recent years and is one of the few airlines in Europe in profit. The fundamental question is whether the Government has assessed the competition issues surrounding such a bid by Ryanair, the strategic considerations and the impact on consumers.
“I strongly supported the decision of the last Government retain a significant shareholding in Aer Lingus in order to protect the country’s interests in its future. Fianna Fáil does not support selling that stake in the airline now.
“Following on from Ryanair’s first attempt to takeover Aer Lingus the European Commission undertook an in-depth investigation and assessment of the Ryanair bid for the remaining share of Aer Lingus. At that time it came to definitive conclusions that such a takeover would be very harmful to competition and would create a dominant position on 35 routes operated by both parties, leading to increased fares for 14 million European Union passengers. There is a strong competition issue here and I would like to hear the Government's position on that aspect of the takeover.
“Ryanair has provided good competition in the Irish market for many years. Its business model has resulted in cheaper fares and helped grow the Irish tourism market. What we don’t want is to see a reversal of this position. Competitive air access to key destinations including access to major transfer hubs is a vital piece of the jigsaw in facilitating business connections and tourist access.”