Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley TD is calling on the Transport Minister to maintain the state’s strategic shareholding in Aer Lingus and use it to block any potential sale to IAG.  Such a sale could see the airline’s critical Heathrow slots siphoned off, risking future connectivity and growth.  Even if assurances on the slots are forthcoming in advance of a sale, such commitments would be non-binding and likely to be eroded over time.

Deputy Dooley commented, “The threat to these valuable Heathrow slots is being dramatically underestimated.  Any loss of these slots has the potential to severely reduce access to international destinations, which are currently serviced through Heathrow.  The continuation of these slots is of major strategic interest; Ireland is highly dependent on exports and tourism and the Heathrow slots are valuable commodities in maintaining our links to Europe, the US, Asia and Australia.  These routes are a major enabler in facilitating inward investment as well as boosting our tourism figures.

“The decision of Fianna Fáil Governments to maintain a strategic and significant shareholding in Aer Lingus was with a view to protecting the country against long term threats to our connectivity.  That was the correct decision then and it is the correct decision now.  Dumping this stock in order to raise some short term cash to fund election promises would be a major mistake that the travelling public will quickly regret.

“I have already called on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport to investigate and prepare a report on the implications of any takeover of Aer Lingus by a competitor.  I have also requested that all of the major stakeholders be brought before the Committee to answer questions about the impact of any such sale.

“Any changes to Aer Lingus’ current operations could have a significant impact on Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports; stymying their links with Heathrow and restricting access to other countries which are served via Heathrow.

“Not only are the Heathrow links under threat if a sale proceeds, there are also major concerns about possible job losses.  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 Government must act to ensure that it does not allow Aer Lingus management to cave to any bid from IAG.  I’m calling on Minister Paschal Donohoe to use the State’s 25% shareholding to block any IAG buyout attempts.  Ireland’s strategic national interests must be protected and that will not be done through a quick fire sale, which relinquishes valuable slots at Heathrow, risks up to 1,000 jobs and gives away forever an important strategic asset”.