'Endgame' for Ryanair jobs
Rival tells O'Leary he has no intention of quitting Hangar 6
Published 25/02/2010 | 05:00
RYANAIR chief Michael O'Leary was told definitively last night that he would not get access to the controversial hangar at the centre of a massive political storm over 300 jobs.
His rival competitor Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller stated in robust and clear terms that his airline "will not move out of Hangar 6".
Throughout the two-week jobs debacle, the hangar was made a condition of Mr O'Leary's offer of guaranteeing 300 new aircraft maintenance positions at Dublin airport.
But Aer Lingus, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and the IDA told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport there was no means of removing Aer Lingus from the hangar wanted by Ryanair.
Fine Gael last night conceded it was now "endgame" for the 300 jobs, after Mr O'Leary revealed he was "very close" to sealing a deal on the jobs with two other European airports.
Turning the heat on Ryanair, Labour Party TD Tommy Broughan accused Mr O'Leary of "messing around" and acting like a "spoilt child, waving his rattle" during the entire saga with Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.
"Why didn't you go to war last September instead of waiting until February?" Mr Broughan asked Mr O'Leary. "Is it not the fact that the deal is already done?"
During the meeting which dragged on for three hours, Fianna Fail TD Michael Kennedy also accused Mr O'Leary of leading the 800 unemployed SR Technics workers "up the garden path when you've already made the decision to go to Germany".
It emerged that another firm is seeking to create 120 jobs in aircraft servicing in Hangar 3.
However, DAA chairman Declan Collier said the deal could not be signed off on until the Ryanair-Aer Lingus debacle was wrapped up.
Transport committee chairman Frank Fahey claimed Mr O'Leary was "not really serious" about the jobs offer, having refused a series of solutions and alternative options. "You are asking for the impossible and being unreasonable," Mr Fahey said.
But Mr O'Leary insisted he had always made it clear the 300 jobs were conditional on Aer Lingus being "booted" out of the hangar and the "cosy deal" with the DAA being brought to an end.
Responding to a series of questions from the cross-party TDs and senators, Aer Lingus boss Mr Mueller told the committee he would only examine the "hypothetical question" of moving from Hangar 6 if a similar hangar could be built.
But he stressed the construction of such a hangar would take more than two years. Asked later to clarify his position, he simply stated: "We will not move out of Hangar 6."
He also confirmed that Ms Coughlan had contacted him asking if Aer Lingus would surrender to Ryanair's requests for Hangar 6. The Aer Lingus chief said he had been "very surprised" by the request and recommended that questions regarding property matters should be referred to the DAA.
Aer Lingus also confirmed yesterday that it plans to evacuate some buildings in Dublin airport and move staff to Hangar 6 -- but that the present headquarters, within a stone's throw of Ryanair's HQ, is not among the buildings set to be evacuated.
Independent Senator Shane Ross suggested that the Government and Ryanair club together with their 25pc and 29pc shares in Aer Lingus and tear up the lease agreement for the controversial hangar.
But a spokesman for the Tanaiste said combining shareholdings in this way "would not be in the commercial interest of the Aer Lingus shareholders".
Ahead of the Oireachtas meeting, 80 former SR Technics workers protested outside Leinster House and delivered a letter to the Tanaiste.
At a press conference before the committee meeting, Mr O'Leary claimed the Government did not "lift one finger" when he offered hundreds of new jobs.