Tanaiste Joan Burton has denied the Government tried to “ram” the Aer Lingus deal through the Dáil.
Ms Burton said there has been a “protracted discussion and debate” around the sale of the State’s 25.1pc share in Aer Lingus to IAG.
“It has been in all the media and the subject of a lot of public discussion. I think it’s been good that we have now as well an open Dail debate,” she said.
She said she was “proud” to be the Labour Leader who oversaw introduction of registered employment agreements for airline staff, which is party of €335m sale.
Ms Burton said the deal will see Aer Lingus commit to a “huge number of extra Jobs” and played down the significant of the loss of 50 jobs next year.
“What I’m interest in, as leader of the Labour Party, is promoting employment. There will be several hundred additional jobs into Aer Lingus in key areas like pilots, cabin crew but also in areas such as engineers and ground staff,” she said.
The proceeds of sale will be put into the Government’s Strategic Investment Fund which will be open to public and private companies investing in projects that will benefit connectivity.
However, Ms Burton conceded the sale will not happen for “some time” as Ryanair has yet to make decisions on its shareholding.
Willie Walsh's life has been entwined with Aer Lingus since he was a teenager. Walsh, who grew up in north Dublin and went to school with the Christian Brothers on Griffith Avenue, joined the airline at the age of 17 back in 1979.