Aircraft maintenance firm SR Technics (SRT) has abandoned the sale of its operation to a Middle Eastern company in a move which could save some jobs.
Swiss-owned SRT sparked anger amongst the Government and unions last month when it emerged it had agreed to sell the most lucrative parts of its Dublin Airport operation -- the landing gear and auxiliary power unit maintenance -- to its sister company, Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT). Those two divisions employed about 200 people in Dublin.
It emerged yesterday that Tanaiste Mary Coughlan met Abu Dhabi's foreign minister in Dublin on May 19, just days after the initial SRT decision had been made, and the deal has subsequently been cancelled.
Now Dublin Aerospace, a company headed by former Ryanair executive Conor McCarthy, has just secured an agreement in principle to buy the major components of SRT's business here.
It is understood that some operations could recommence by August, with the company likely to immediately hire about 20 people and quickly boosting that to 60. Up to 120 staff could be hired by the end of the year.
But the majority of the 1,100 people once employed in SR Technics are unlikely to get their jobs back. There are around 250 staff still working on so-called line maintenance at the SRT operation, fixing Aer Lingus aircraft, while a further 70 are still employed at another SRT unit at Dublin airport.
Both those divisions are still up for sale by SRT and a successful bidder could be announced shortly.
Mr McCarthy, whose PlaneConsult business is based in Dublin, said that Dublin Aerospace had engaged in "positive discussions" with SRT in recent weeks and is "hopeful" that a final deal will be signed within a few weeks.
Dublin Aerospace is believed to have plans to use two of the six hangars that were in use by SRT.
The news comes just 24 hours before the 'Super Friday' elections at a time when the Government has endured strong opposition criticism for its handling of the SR Technics closure last March.
According to a government source, Ms Coughlan told Abu Dhabi Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that she had "grave concerns" about the move.
She told him at least five Irish companies were interested in bidding for the divisions and she also warned that going ahead with the sale would damage the perception of SRT in Ireland.
Fine Gael Dublin North TD James Reilly said he welcomed any initiative which would save the skilled jobs of the former SRT workers. But he warned that it must not turn out to be a "flier" on the eve of the elections. "I hope the cynicism which has become associated with Fianna Fail would not go so far to raise the hopes of workers in what promises to be a catastrophic election for them," he said.
Government sources have rejected suggestions that the announcement is timed to boost its prospects in the elections.