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Heathrow slots are vital asset

The warning from ratings agency Standard & Poors that it may cut the credit rating of state-owned companies ESB, Bord Gais and the Dublin Airport Authority, makes the Government's task of persuading outside investors to purchase minority stakes in the major semi-states even more difficult.

As we report today, the Government is considering selling off the remaining 25pc state shareholding in Aer Lingus.

It would appear that, in order to facilitate such a sale, the Government has dropped its insistence on retaining control of Aer Lingus's potentially extremely valuable Heathrow slots.

While a sale of the remaining 25pc Aer Lingus stake is long overdue, the Government should think long and hard before giving up control of the Heathrow slots, which are vital in ensuring international access to Ireland.

Far better to stand up to the trade unions and sell majority stakes in some of the major remaining semi-states instead.

Sacrificing the Heathrow slots to buy industrial peace in the state-owned companies could prove to be a bad deal for the Irish economy.