Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley TD is calling on the Transport Minister to rule out any sale of the Government’s stake in Aer Lingus in order to protect Ireland’s strategic national interests.  IAG has come forward with a third offer for the carrier, believed to be worth €2.50 a share.  Any such sale could see Aer Lingus’ critical Heathrow slots siphoned off, risking future connectivity and jobs at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports.

Deputy Dooley commented, “IAG’s pursuit of Aer Lingus is becoming more aggressive with every passing week, and I am gravely concerned by the Minister Paschal Donohoe’s silence on the issue.  I’m calling on him to categorically rule out any sale of the Government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus, and by doing so effectively block the IAG takeover.  The fallout from any sale of the airline is being dramatically underplayed. 

“The threat to the valuable Heathrow slots could see Ireland’s access to international destinations severely curtailed, as many of the routes to Asia, America and Australia are serviced through the airport.  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 the wider world. 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.

“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 make a statement declaring that he will use the State’s 25% shareholding to block any IAG outright purchase.  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”.