Wednesday 17 January 2018

Aer Lingus report has still not gone to Paschal Donohoe

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe is still awaiting a report by the Government's working group into the potential sale of the State's stake in Aer Lingus.

Mr Donohoe said he will examine the contents of the report closely before bringing a recommendation to Cabinet on whether to proceed with the IAG deal.

Speaking at a Tourism Ireland event in Dublin City, Mr Donohoe said he will not allow negotiations to continue "indefinitely".

But he said patience was required given the sensitivities at play.

"These are very sensitive discussions for them as a company but they are extremely important discussions for us as a country because of how important access is for our country.," Mr Donohoe said.

"Aer Lingus alone carries 40pc of the passengers in and out of our three main airports. It is one of the largest employers in our country," he added.

Mr Donohoe said he will not be bringing a memo to cabinet on the IAG bid tomorrow. He confirmed that he is still waiting the report from the inter-departmental group.

The Dublin Central TD refused to be drawn on weekend reports that the IAG deal is nearly conclusion and that the airline giant is to offer longer guarantees over the valuable Heathrow slots.

"I'm not going to get into it. I will say that in the coming weeks I will be bringing a final recommendation to cabinet on this matter. It is an issue that has been going on for some while because of the importance of it to us as a country and them as a company but we will be bringing a conclusion to it soon," he said.

"I've been saying 'within a few weeks' in the aftermath of the decision I made in February. It's important to say this, because I want to be clear with everybody, that this is not a matter that is going to continue indefinitely. I will be receiving that report soon."

Any decision to sell the State's 25.1pc stake in the airline would create serious political difficulties for the Coalition.

Labour TDs and senators in particular have maintained their strong opposition to the sale.

Privately, a number of ministers in both parties believe there is serious merit in accepting the IAG proposals.

It's felt that if the trade unions shifted their stance and backed a revised offer, there is the potential of securing the support of backbenchers.

Irish Independent

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