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Saturday 20 January 2018

Labour to hold vote on Aer Lingus sale

By Philip Ryan and John Downing

LABOUR is set to ramp up opposition to the €1.4bn Aer Lingus takeover as opponents of the deal seek members' backing to officially block it.

An emergency motion opposing the sale of the State's stake in the airline will be put before Labour members at their conference in Killarney this week.

An expected vote in favour of the motion will cement opposition to the deal and leave Fine Gael with a major headache.

Last night, former minister Pat Rabbitte admitted he is a lone voice in his support of the Government selling its 25pc stake in the airline to international aviation giant IAG.


The growing unease in Labour comes as Aer Lingus unions held fresh talks with the company's chief executive Stephen Kavanagh and IAG chairman Willie Walsh.

Earlier, unions disowned comments by secretary of the airline's group of unions Myles Worth, who suggested workers were warming to the IAG deal.

Government sources said they were "bemused" by the "shambolic" union row and insisted it would have no impact on its decision.

Aer Lingus will today publish its annual report which will give a clearer picture of its finances.

The Herald understands senior Labour figures are drafting an emergency motion on the Aer Lingus deal that will be put before the membership in Killarney on Friday.

The exact wording of the motion has yet to be determined, but it will voice strong opposition to the deal.

If members vote in favour of the motion, Labour opposition to the sale will be copper- fastened in party policy and Tanaiste Joan Burton would be forced to reject the deal put before Cabinet.

The motion is being prepared by members of the so called Aer Lingus 7, a group of mostly North Dublin TDs who have been adamantly against the sale from the outset.

Former junior minister Joe Costello said the group's opinion has not change since Mr Walsh appeared before an Oireachtas committee to set out his plans.

"I am still sceptical about the offer," Mr Costello said.

Former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore also weighed in to the controversy yesterday, insisting he would need to see the outcome of the Government's working group before he made up his mind.

"I am not aware of the full information as I am not sitting at the Cabinet table. We have to have the full information and I don't have that but I will be guided by those who do," he told the Herald.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe is due to give the Cabinet a weekly update on the issue today, but it is understood his review panel will not report back to the Government for some time.

The working group is examining the impact a sale would have on jobs, connectivity and branding of the airline.


Unions insisted they are remaining steadfast in their opposition to the deal, following what was perceived as a solo run by Mr Worth, the secretary of the airline's central representative council (CRC).

The council said Mr Worth expressed a personal view, and its concerns with IAG's offer remained unchanged.

The outcome of the high-level meeting between unions and Mr Walsh is also unlikely to advance a deal.

"He is a good performer but there is nothing new on offer that isn't in the public arena," a source said.


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