Business Irish

Monday 26 February 2018

Aer Lingus sale: Taoiseach criticises opposition parties for 'playing games'

Enda Kenny said the privatisation of Aer Lingus had occurred at the hands of Fianna Fail
Enda Kenny said the privatisation of Aer Lingus had occurred at the hands of Fianna Fail
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Enda Kenny has criticised opposition parties for “playing games” with the way the Dail is run.

Speaking about Fianna Fail’s attempt to delay the Aer Lingus sale vote, Mr Kenny said; “If they want to play games with the way the Dail is run that’s par for the course.”

Mr Kenny said the privatisation of Aer Lingus had occurred at the hands of Fianna Fail and the current Government was trying to get the best deal for the 25.1pc share that is left to the State.

“When Fianna Fail and other parties say this is much too rushed, the fact of the matter is if the Government made its decision on Tuesday and decided to do nothing in terms of public opportunity for the members of the Dail to discuss this in the House, they would be looking for a suspension of standing orders and having an emergency debate,” he added.

He said the decision to hold two days of debate had allowed everyone to have their say.

“That’s why we’ve had a two day debate, 12 hours of discussion where everybody can give their view, but in so far as Government are concerned this decision is a really strong positive indicator for the future for Aer Lingus, which will retain its brand, which will be registered in Ireland, where the employees will work for Aer Lingus and where the registered employment agreement will be enshrined in law, as has been confirmed by the Chief Executive Mr Kavanagh on more than one occasion in the last 36 hours,” he added.

Read more: Tanaiste Joan Burton denies government tried to 'ram' Aer Lingus deal through Dail

Speaking in Ballaghaderreen at the the launch of a €320m investment package for the Border, Midland and Western Region, the Taoiseach, who was heckled by around 20 protesters venting their anger on a range of issues from home repossessions and water bills to the closure of services at Roscommon hospital, also dismissed concerns about dissent within the Labour ranks.

“Many of the Labour TDs who had concerns about this have agreed as a block to say this is a very good deal. Minister Nash was on the public airwaves today confirming that all of the issues that were of concern to a number of deputies have now been dealt with and have been accepted and we will get on with confirming the decision of the Government to dispose of the share of the asset by vote in the Dail and move on to the remainder of the process,” he added.

Mr Kenny said the current deal was based on expanded criteria, greater influence and guarantees in respect of competitiveness and employment.

“I think it’s a very strong deal I think it’s a clear indicator of a very bright future for Aer Lingus, for the employees and for the country as a whole,” he added.

Mr Kenny said the move would promote regional airports including Ireland West Airport Knock which would gain from the hub that will be created by IAG from Gatwick, which serves Knock.

Read more: Aer Lingus has 'secret job cuts' plan - Dail is told

“Given the strategy of Government to grow the tourism sector in a huge sense over the next 10 years and the agri-sector in terms of our exports right across the board, this is a really strong opportunity to look to the future,” he added.

Mr Kenny said he believed unions would back the deal after assurances from Aer Lingus, adding: “I heard union representatives today say if the letters issued from Aer Lingus stand up this is a very good deal and clearly while they might in principle not agree with the disposal of State assets remember the Irish public have not owned Aer Lingus for quite a while, we own a share, 25.1pc.”

Mr Kenny said the negotiations had placed the country in a much stronger position regarding  the use or disposal of slots, connectivity, the opportunity to grow the airline,  and the opportunity to create over 600 new jobs.

“So there’s a process to be gone through here with the companies act and the European Commission but I expect that following the decision of Government now that this will follow through and provide a very bright future for the employees and future employees and our economy in general with Aer Lingus,” he added.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus welcomed the Dail's decision today and said shareholders will 'realise an attractive return through the premium that the IAG offer provides'.

"This is a compelling transaction for Aer Lingus, its shareholders, its employees, its customers and for Ireland," Chairman Colm Barrington said.

"Shareholders will realise an attractive return through the premium that the IAG offer provides over the level of our share price immediately prior to the announcement of IAG’s offer.

"Aer Lingus will reap the commercial and strategic benefits of being part of the much larger and globally diverse IAG Group and as a member of the oneworld alliance of 17 airlines that together carry over 500 million passengers.

"This access to greater global scale will accelerate growth across our network, enhance Ireland’s position as a natural gateway connecting Europe and North America, give Irish tourism access to major traffic flows and customer loyalty programmes and provide better access for business interests and to cargo flows.

"This in turn will lead to an increase in jobs at Aer Lingus, in support activities and the tourism sector and, importantly, will strengthen connectivity to and from Ireland.”

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