Labour TDs wary as party signals support for IAG deal
BackBench Labour TDs remain vehemently opposed to the proposed sale of Aer Lingus despite the party hierarchy now signalling support for the deal, should union demands be met by IAG.
Senior party sources have said that if Willie Walsh and IAG satisfy tough union demands over future employment and outsourcing, they will lift their objections to the airline's effort to buy the Irish carrier in a €1.36bn deal.
But several of the party's TDs speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday said they remain to be convinced of the merits of the deal and are demanding absolute clarity about any improved IAG offer.
Dublin Mid-West TD Robert Dowds, who was one of the Labour TDs who proposed a motion at the party's national conference last month, said the party hierarchy are well aware of what it would require for him and his colleagues to change their view.
"We remain to be convinced. We would be influenced in part by what the unions say. But we have to have a discussion about this and the party know this," he said.
The motion itself was put forward by Mr Dowds along with his fellow TDs Joe Costello, Michael McNamara, Eamonn Maloney, Sean Kenny, Dominic Hannigan, Brendan Ryan, and John Lyons.
Fianna Fail's Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley has warned the Coalition should not use the Easter recess to sneak through a deal with IAG.
Mr Dooley warned that: "Thousands of multi-national jobs across the regions will be in danger by any decision to sell off Aer Lingus. These jobs exist in Cork, Clare and Limerick because of connectivity.
"Our position is about protecting economic growth in the regions. There is a danger that selling off Aer Lingus could turn this region into an economic desert. We do not wish to create a two-tiered Ireland," he said.
"Do not be fooled by the IAG cheque book," he warned.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Pachal Donohoe said yesterday the minister would not be drawn into a specific timeline but Mr Donohoe has said he wants the matter finalised in a matter of weeks.
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Government ministers are likely to consider a recommendation on the €1.36bn bid for Aer Lingus at the first Cabinet meeting after Easter, senior sources have told the Sunday Independent.
Senior civil servants have been discussing the terms under which the Government would sell the State's 25.1pc stake in the carrier for several weeks with representatives of International Consolidated Airlines' Group (IAG), which is offering €2.55 a share for Aer Lingus.
The Government review group, which has been negotiating with IAG, is likely to make a recommendation on the bid in time for the April 14 Cabinet meeting, the first after Easter.
While they say the date is not definite, industry sources suggest it is the most likely as the talks are nearing their final stages. The Government wants assurances jobs will be protected and Aer Lingus services to London's Heathrow Airport will be maintained before it will consider IAG's proposed offer.
If the Cabinet were to decide to sell the State's stake, it would have to put the matter to a Dáil vote.
IAG boss Willie Walsh lashed out at US billionaire Donald Trump and Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson for their criticism of the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus.
"I would be more interested by the interventions of those in Ireland who understand the issue," he said.