Thursday 14 November 2019

Transport Minister says fate of Aer Lingus deal now with Ryanair

Paschal Donohoe: ‘Ryanair stake is a matter for them'
Paschal Donohoe: ‘Ryanair stake is a matter for them'
John Downing

John Downing

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has conceded that the fate of Aer Lingus now rests with Ryanair.

But Mr Donohoe - who got Dáil backing for his move to sell the taxpayers' 25pc stake - said he had no intention of making any comment on Ryanair's affairs.

"During the many months of discussion about what the Government should do about Aer Lingus, I was very clear that I would only talk about what we should do. What Ryanair do about their stake is a matter for them," the Transport Minister said.

"They have commercial interests in regard to what they are going to do. I will leave it to them," he added.

The Government move to sell the taxpayers' stake now leaves Ryanair, which owns 29.6pc of Aer Lingus, in a pivotal position in deciding how the deal will go ahead. Ryanair has consistently said they will consider any offer from the airline giant IAG "entirely on its merits".

The Transport Minister said he was pleased that the Dáil had endorsed the sell-off arrangement. He reiterated his view that the sale to IAG would prove good for the airline, its workforce and Ireland in the medium and longer term.

For Labour, Communications Minister Alex White said he believed that the sale of the final quarter share in the former State carrier "made sense". He said that this was an opportune point to sell the final Aer Lingus share at a good price.

"Nobody knows what uncertainties the future may bring. It was, on balance, a good deal for the taxpayer. The conditions were good - and were improved thanks to the work of Paschal Donohoe. It was a good outcome," Mr White told the Irish Independent.

Labour more generally conceded there was regret at the loss of its Clare TD, Michael McNamara, who lost the whip due to his failure to vote in favour of the sale. Mr McNamara said he was not convinced that the future of Shannon Airport had been secured.

Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg put a brave face on the loss of yet another TD, saying it was something which happened from time to time in all political parties.

"I respect Michael McNamara, who is a friend of mine, and I appreciate it was something he felt he had to do at this time," the party chief whip told the Irish Independent.

There was speculation locally that Mr McNamara might stand as an independent in the four-seat Clare constituency in the general election. But Mr McNamara has himself said he remained a Labour member, despite losing membership of parliamentary group, and would still like to stand for the party next time out.

Mr Stagg said there is a procedure for re-admission to the parliamentary party which is well known to all members.

"It is open to Mr McNamara to apply to re-join the parliamentary party and such an application would be favourably received," he said.

The Labour chief whip said Wicklow TD Anne Ferris, who lost the party whip for voting against the party on abortion legislation last February, was likely to re-join the parliamentary party soon.

"The reality is that Anne Ferris never really left us and she is likely to be a member again soon," he said.

Irish Independent

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