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Sunday 4 December 2016

Burton red-faced after TD votes against sale of State's share in airline

Philip Ryan Political Correspondent

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

Ms Burton said there was 'no impact' for workers on the back of the report which she insisted was part of normal aviation business
Ms Burton said there was 'no impact' for workers on the back of the report which she insisted was part of normal aviation business

Tánaiste Joan Burton was left red-faced as Labour TD Michael McNamara refused to support the Government's decision to sell the State's share in Aer Lingus.

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Mr McNamara said he was not willing to "gamble" on the economic risk the €335m sale to IAG posed for the country.

Last night, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe revealed he sought to allay Mr McNamara's fears before he decided to vote against the Coalition.

The minister's officials also held last-minute talks with Mr McNamara yesterday afternoon but he remained unconvinced.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Clare TD said "many questions remain outstanding" around the sale. "I have questions which remain unanswered and, in that context, I am not prepared to gamble with what I believe is key to the economic development of this State - all of this State," he said.

"As we enter 2016 with talk of developing all parts of the country equally, connectivity is key, particularly connectivity to the mid-west. I do not have confidence in the guarantees as they currently stand."

Mr McNamara will now be an Independent TD.

Last night, Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg said Mr McNamara was "fully aware of the consequences" of his decision and wished him well.

Ms Burton was able to convince the Aer Lingus Eight - a group of mostly North Dublin TD who vehemently opposed the initial offer from IAG chief executive Willie Walsh - to accept the improved offer.

The Government voted through the deal yesterday evening despite protests from the Opposition that it was being rushed through the Dáil. The vote was won by the Coalition by 74 to 51.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Independents in the chamber voted against the sale. Renua's Lucinda Creighton and Billy Timmins were the only opposition politicians to vote in favour of the deal.

However, Renua's Dublin North East TD Terrence Flanagan was not in the chamber for the vote.

The emergence of a controversial report commissioned by Aer Lingus which recommend mass jobs cuts at the airline to make it more competitive was dismissed by the Government.

Mr Donohoe said he was not concerned that Aer Lingus did not inform an interdepartmental group reviewing the sale or his office about the review carried out by consultancy firm Nyras.

There were angry scenes in the Dáil as TDs called on the Coalition to abandon plans to sell off the Government's remaining share in what was once a prized State asset.

Fianna Fáil tried to have the debate suspended so the deal could be scrutinised further by an Oireachtas Committee.

The party said the Nyras report raised serious concerns over the future for workers at the company

During Leaders' Questions, Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste to allow the deal to be debated further next week.

Mr Dooley told Mr Burton she should be "under no illusions" of what would happen when IAG became the owner of the airline.

"It is about reducing those costs to the absolute minimum level possible and increasing the profitability," he said.

Ms Burton said there was "no impact" for workers on the back of the report which she insisted was part of normal aviation business.

Irish Independent

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