Hangar 6 Government's 'biggest ever cock-up'
THE Government is being accused of its "biggest ever cock-up" after Ryanair confirmed it has lost all hope of creating 300 jobs at an airport hangar occupied by Aer Lingus.
Opposition politicians rounded on Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey after the low-budget airline claimed that no government member had tried to secure the jobs.
Ryanair revealed that it expected to seal a deal on a new maintenance facility at one of its bases in Frankfurt, Madrid or Milan within two months.
The move follows revelations that it made no progress with a €13m offer since early last year for Hangar 6 that would have created 500 aircraft maintenance jobs. It has since located 200 of the proposed engineering jobs at Prestwick Airport, near Glasgow.
Serious questions have not been answered by the Government about the circumstances in which Aer Lingus became Hangar 6's new tenant after SR Technics left with the loss of 1,135 jobs. Taoiseach Brian Cowen has not explained the statement he made in the Dail that there was an open competition for the hangar.
The Department of Transport and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) have both revealed that Aer Lingus had a special legal entitlement to the hangar, although they have not elaborated on what that was.
The DAA has refused to reveal how much Aer Lingus paid for the lease.
The Irish Independent revealed this week that Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary had written to the Government asking it to formally strike out comments by the Taoiseach from the Dail record.
Among them was Mr Cowen's claim that the hangar lease was subject to competition.
"The refusal to sell or lease Hangar 6 to Ryanair last year proves that this Government prefers to protect the DAA monopoly, who allowed Aer Lingus to move into the facility, an airline with no heavy maintenance in Ireland and no use for such a large hangar, and which is cutting up to 900 jobs," said a Ryanair spokesperson.
Fine Gael accused Ms Coughlan and Mr Dempsey of their "biggest ever cock-up".
The party said it was a tragic day that the 500 maintenance jobs Ryanair offered to locate in the hangar were being "shipped abroad".
"Mary Coughlan and Noel Dempsey clearly decided months ago not to bother seeking a solution," said transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd. "Their priority was to avoid getting their hands dirty."
Fine Gael said Fianna Fail made a "song and dance" about retaining a shareholding in Aer Lingus when the airline was privatised, but had not used it to secure jobs or protect the national interest.
However, Fianna Fail accused Ryanair of "turning its back" on creating jobs at Dublin Airport by announcing that it was abandoning efforts to locate a heavy maintenance operation there.
It accused Mr O'Leary of exporting jobs that could be easily created in Ireland and pointed out that the Government had offered an alternative hangar to Ryanair through the IDA.
The Tanaiste pointed out that the IDA had advised Ryanair to contact the DAA to secure Hangar 6, but Mr O'Leary declined.