Friday 28 October 2016

Preferred bidder for air link took cases twice against Ó Cuív

Shane Phelan and Ralph Riegel

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

Eamon O Cuiv
Eamon O Cuiv

The company at the centre of the Aran Islands air service controversy has been involved in a number of legal rows in recent years.

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Executive Helicopters issued judicial review proceedings against former Gaeltacht Minister Éamon Ó Cuív in 2009 after losing out on a previous public service contract for flights to and from the islands.

It is understood that the case related in part to the closeness of the competition for that tender, with Executive Helicopters only losing out by a few marks in the assessment process.

Following a series of adjournments, the case was eventually struck out three years later.

Defamation proceedings were also taken by the company against Mr Ó Cuív at circuit court level. According to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, this case was also struck out.

The department said the cases had no bearing on the recent decision to select the company as preferred bidder for the air service for the next four years.

Should the contracts eventually be signed, the company will provide the main air link between the mainland for Inis Mór, Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin.

That service is currently run by Aer Arann Islands.

A director of Executive Helicopters, which currently provides services for tourists, companies and semi-state bodies, such as Bord Gáis, the ESB and Coillte, was also involved in a legal dispute in the US.

This occurred following a disputed government decision to debar him from federal contracts for three years.

Director Chris Shiel said he had to take legal steps in the US in 2010 after the actions of an American firm had resulted in both being debarred.

"We had an aircraft in the US and an American took a lease on the aircraft. But then he didn't take that lease up," he said.

"He then ran into trouble with the US Government and, because the aircraft lease was in our name, both got debarred."

In a ruling on June 16, 2010, the Deputy General Counsel of the US Air Force confirmed a debarment order against Mr Shiel and a US firm.

The document ordered: "Mr Shiel and (the US firm) are debarred for a period of three years from November 25, 2009. The debarments shall terminate on November 24 2012."

However, Mr Shiel said he won an appeal against the decision.

"We won our case and were awarded damages. We were totally vindicated," he said.

"But unfortunately, we didn't get a penny because the company involved had gone bankrupt."

Mr Shiel added that the row had absolutely no relevance to the Aran Islands contract.

Irish Independent

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