Sunday 18 March 2018

Kenny's message to Trump: Tourism is key to IAG talks

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
US tycoon Donald Trump
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told US billionaire Donald Trump that the Government is "very conscious" of his concerns surrounding the potential sale of the State's shareholding in Aer Lingus.

Mr Kenny said issues surrounding transatlantic links and connectivity via Heathrow Airport were being closely considered as negotiations with the International Airlines Group (IAG) enter a critical phase.

The Taoiseach made the pledges in correspondence with the billionaire which has been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Irish Independent revealed last month that Mr Trump, who is considering a run for the White House, urged the Taoiseach not to sell the State's Aer Lingus shareholding in order to protect the country's tourism industry and links to foreign direct investment.

Significantly, Mr Trump indicated that protecting the Aer Lingus stake is important to his plans to further invest "many millions of dollars" in his hotel resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

"Aer Lingus, like the shamrock and Guinness, is essentially Irish with a strong national identity which is very important to your country. It should not be given away to the highest bidder," Mr Trump wrote.

Responding to the US 'Apprentice' star, the Taoiseach moved to allay his concerns.

"As an island nation, aviation plays a crucial role in Ireland's economy," Mr Kenny wrote.

"We are critically dependent on good air connections with the rest of the world for tourism, trade and business. The Government is acutely aware of this vital role that overseas tourism plays in our economic recovery," he added.

The Taoiseach said connectivity to and from Ireland, including "direct transatlantic services and connectivity via Heathrow", as well as jobs and the Aer Lingus brand, are also key concerns.

"The Government is very conscious of the concerns you have raised and I wish to assure you that we are examining all the issues very carefully before taking a decision on the matter," the letter concludes.

Mr Kenny's letter, sent on March 5, includes a hand-written note suggesting a visit to the Clare hotel and golf resort could be on the cards.

"See you in Doonbeg!" reads the scribbled note. The pair are not believed to have met face to face since Mr Trump revealed his Doonbeg plan last year.

Irish Independent

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