Sunday 24 September 2017

Aer Lingus sale: Walsh's pledges not enough, insist TDs

Opposition to bidder's proposals remain intact despite concessions

Willie Walsh of IAG
Willie Walsh of IAG
Joe Costello

Niall O'Connor and Sam Griffin

MINISTERS and backbench TDs from both Government parties have insisted the assurances provided by airline giant IAG in a bid to secure the Aer Lingus deal "do not go far enough".

The scale of opposition within political circles towards the proposed sale of the State's Aer Lingus stake remained firmly intact last night, despite the series of concessions tabled by IAG.

Government figures pointed out that TDs had the opportunity at the weekend to observe the public mood in their constituencies and that, if anything, the level of opposition has intensified.

Guarantee

Senior Labour Party sources last night said the pledges from IAG "do nothing to address the concern about jobs" and that the five-year guarantee on the Heathrow slots is "time-bound".

"There is still very significant concern at all levels of the party," said a senior Labour strategist.

But in a disappointing development for IAG, a number of Fine Gael ministers are predicting the offer has very little chance of being accepted. One Fine Gael minister pointed out that the deal would require a Dail vote and that the Government parties would face another 'abortion-style' crisis. The minister was referring to the decision by a number of deputies to vote against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill - in a move that caused them to lose the party whip.

"This is a political hot potato, we'd be mad to go there before the general election," the minister said.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe last night said the IAG proposal - which includes a legal guarantee that the Heathrow slots would continue to operate on Irish routes for five years - will be carefully examined in the coming days.

The Fine Gael politician is expected to update his colleagues on the issue at today's Cabinet meeting. Meanwhile, members of Labour's so-called 'Aer Lingus seven' are preparing to submit an emergency motion at the party's annual conference later this month.

Influential backbench TDs Joe Costello, Brendan Ryan, Dominic Hannigan and Sean Kenny all confirmed to the Irish Independent that their stance has not changed.

A number of Labour politicians are expected to put forward a motion at the party's annual conference in Killarney later this month, in a bid to ensure the party formally opposes the sale of the 25pc shareholding.

Concerns

Dublin North TD Brendan Ryan also voiced concerns about a potential deal on the new terms.

"We're concerned there's no guarantee given on jobs. This is a key issue for us in north County Dublin. We need a lot more detail about these guarantees and the five-year timeline."

Party councillor in the Swords area, Duncan Smith, yesterday said the placing of an emergency motion to protect the airline's future at the party's conference "was being strongly considered" and likely to proceed in the coming fortnight.

Irish Independent

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