Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley has said the potential sale of Aer Lingus to IAG flies in the face of the strategic long-term interests of the country.
Deputy Dooley commented: “At the end of 2014 Aer Lingus was a profitable company, well capitalised, showing significant passenger growth notwithstanding that Ireland had come through the worst recession since the foundation of the State. Over the course of the last six months interested parties have succeeded in creating the impression that the airline needs IAG to survive.
“An independent Aer Lingus could achieve continued and significant growth over the years ahead through strategic alliances and organic growth. The sale of the State’s 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus to IAG raises significant concerns for future connectivity between Ireland and UK and in particular the threat to regional access to Heathrow.
“It’s now reported that the Government will have a veto on the sale of slots at Heathrow and slot access from Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports will be guaranteed for seven years. It seems fanciful to expect that any such arrangements would be enforced legally if IAG decided to unilaterally alter its position. At best it would appear that the only redress that would be available to the government in the event a breach would be some form of financial compensation, by no means an appropriate remedy for business, employment and tourism interests in the regions.
“It’s also unclear how any assurances or commitments would be handled in the event of takeover of IAG by any other entity or in the event of IAG selling Aer Lingus at some point into the future. And given that Qatar Airways recently acquired a 10% shareholding in IAG that prospect becomes a very real possibility.
“The Government in my view has failed to outline any clear rationale for the sale of Aer Lingus. This is not simply a financial transaction that the Government has to process, the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus is a strategic asset and should be treated as such.”