Coughlan makes a last-ditch effort to secure jobs
TANAISTE Mary Coughlan last night told Ryanair to abandon its bid for the controversial hangar at Dublin airport, as she tabled last-ditch proposals to secure 300 jobs.
In a letter to Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, seen by the Irish Independent, Ms Coughlan claimed it was unfair to unemployed SR Technics workers to continue debating over the controversial Hangar 6 occupied by Aer Lingus but wanted by Ryanair.
As the Ryanair jobs fiasco entered its fifth day, the 11th-hour letter from the Tanaiste said it was now "absolutely clear" there was no legal means by which the Government could secure Hanger 6 for Ryanair in the absence of Aer Lingus agreement.
Use of two hangars and the lease or purchase of two sites at Dublin airport was offered, in addition to a new or existing hangar at Shannon airport.
The letter came as Ryanair claimed negotiations with two other European airports about the prized 300 Ryanair aircraft maintenance posts were now at a "very advanced stage".
"Even at this late stage, I would ask you to reflect further on those options which offer opportunities to develop maintenance facilities very similar to those that you are utilising at Prestwick," Ms Coughlan told Mr O'Leary in last night's letter.
The last-ditch attempt came as the Tanaiste was urged by Fine Gael to request a new cabinet position following her "gross incompetence" in securing the jobs.
But, despite government efforts to tempt Ryanair with alternatives to Hangar 6, a spokeswoman for the airline continued to insist it wanted the Aer Lingus hangar in exchange for awarding the jobs to Dublin airport.
The closure of SR Technics led to the loss of 800 highly skilled jobs last year.
But it emerged last weekend that Ryanair was effectively offering 500 jobs, 200 of which had already gone to Prestwick airport in Scotland.
Amid mounting pressure and criticism from opposition parties, the embattled Tanaiste was also hit with the news that 70 jobs are to go in Donegal Meats, Carrigans, Co Donegal, next to the Tanaiste's own constituency.
Meanwhile, the Tanaiste also confirmed a report in yesterday's Irish Independent that she contacted Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller to see if the airline would move from Hangar 6.
"It is important to reiterate on the basis that Mr O'Leary has a fixation with access to Hangar 6 that I put the idea to Aer Lingus," she told the Dail.
Talks were held with Aer Lingus on the basis that opposition parties would accuse her of "inaction" if she failed to make enquiries.
But, Aer Lingus signalled that Hangar 6 was "hugely important" to its operations.
In a thinly veiled message to Mr O'Leary, Ms Coughlan said: "I want, doesn't get."
Backing up the Tanaiste's insistence that Hangar 6 was simply not available, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government was prepared to make "every possible effort" to provide alternative hangars.
"The Government is doing everything. There are other alternative options that should be favourably considered," he said.
But Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny accused the Tanaiste of "gross incompetence" in her attempts to secure the jobs.
"She should voluntarily submit to the Taoiseach that she would like a change of ministry in view of her incompetence in her current role," he said.
The Tanaiste launched a robust defence of her record, listing job creation in Dublin Aerospace and M50 Truck and Van Centre.
Following the loss of 138 jobs at Hormann Electronics in Cork, some 20 IDA announcements have been made for the Cork region, involving over 1,750 jobs and more than €111m in new investment.