Thursday 19 October 2017

Politicians right on Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus planes at Dublin Airport
Aer Lingus planes at Dublin Airport
Editorial

Editorial

Sometimes, though it might be hard to admit it, our politicians can be right. The stiffening cross-party resistance to the sale of Aer Lingus may be driven by self-interest rather than market forces, but - even if it is for the wrong reasons - the right position is being taken. The takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG may be a commercially viable proposal. But, sometimes national issues are more complex than the balance sheet-driven pragmatism of the corporate board-room. And while the difference is becoming increasingly difficult to see, even in the age of austerity, a country is not a company.

It will be argued by advocates of the deal that there should be no room for nationalistic sentiment in commercial decision-making. Aer Lingus, though, is no ordinary institution. The company instead is as much of an Irish symbol as Guinness, horseracing, the GAA and the rest of the collage of national iconography. At its best it is a symbol of national distinctiveness and a uniquely welcoming Irish way of conducting business.

It may be the case that consolidation is the new trend in aviation. However, countries need to be distinctive too, if they are to attract the interest of the world and of outside investors. It has been claimed that the status of Willie Walsh as the CEO of the IAG group means that the national identity of Aer Lingus will be preserved. Like all mortals, however, while CEOs come they always depart too. And like politicians, multinationals do not always hold a fixed position.

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