Fianna Fáil Seanad Leader Darragh O’Brien has said the Government should make it clear that the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus is not for sale because it is not in the strategic best interests of the country.
Senator O’Brien was responding to IAG’s fresh bid to take over the airline.
Senator O’Brien commented: “The Government needs to be crystal clear and confirm that the State’s shareholding in Aer Lingus will not be sold. To sell this vital asset would be totally contrary to our strategic national interest and seriously damage our connectivity with London and the wider world and hurt the economy. Even if assurances on the Heathrow slots are forthcoming in advance of a sale, such commitments would be non-binding and likely to be rolled back over time.
“We have four main concerns about an IAG takeover of Aer Lingus:
- Further redundancies given the overlap in business between IAG and Aer Lingus. IAG’s takeover of Iberia resulted in 4,500 redundancies; if the same scale was applied to the Aer Lingus situation, around 1,000 people could be let go;
- The possibility of a reallocation of Aer Lingus’ Heathrow slots to IAG routes dramatically reducing Ireland’s connectivity with key destinations;
- Reduced competition on the main routes between the UK & Ireland which could push up air fares for passengers and reduced travel choices;
- A raiding of Aer Lingus assets by IAG including its significant net cash reserves of about €420 million.
Senator O’Brien added: “The fact that the Government has been slow to make its position clear is very worrying in my view. I know hundreds of airport and airline workers in north Dublin who have had their pensions slashed by up to 50% and 60% in some cases under legislation passed by this Government. What Fine Gael and Labour did before Christmas to airport pension scheme members is shameful and casts a huge question over whether this Government can be trusted to retain the 25% golden share in Aer Lingus.
“There are real concerns that arise from the IAG bid for Aer Lingus including the fact that it could result in hundreds of redundancies at the airline. The Government needs to act in the strategic national interest of the country and retain this key shareholding.”