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'Coughlan must go' call follows U-turn debacle

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is "simply not up for the the job" and is solely responsible for the loss of 500 jobs in Dublin, it has been claimed.

And, say critics, the time has now come for Taoiseach Brian Cowen to step in and sideline Ms Coughlan in crunch talks with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary this evening.

The Tanaiste finally saw the seriousness of her inactivity in trying to rescue 300 jobs at Dublin Airport -- too little, too late, said local TDs.

Opposition TDs said her chance to intervene had passed and Mr Cowen now needs to take control before the jobs opportunity disappears.

One Dublin North TD also called for Ms Coughlan to be swiftly moved out of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as a result of having "grossly mishandled" the issue.

Ms Coughlan and Mr O'Leary engaged in a very public series of spats over the airwaves yesterday with the Employment Minister initially saying that she would "certainly not" be calling the airline chief.

However, last night her officials confirmed that an 11th-hour meeting has now been scheduled for 7 o'clock this evening.

Pressure

The embarrassing U-turn has undermined Ms Coughlan's authority further with Fine Gael's Dr James Reilly saying that the Taoiseach needs to sit in on tonight's meetings.

Ms Coughlan's department last night denied that her change of mind over the meeting was the result of pressure from the Taoiseach.

Ahead of an early morning meeting between O'Leary and north Dublin TDs, Dr Reilly told the Herald: "Given that the Tanaiste was refusing to meet with O'Leary while 300 jobs goes a begging the Taoiseach has to intervene.

"There needs to be a cool head in that room given what has been said over the last couple of days."

Independent TD for Dublin North Central Finian McGrath went further, saying: "The Taoiseach seriously needs to reshuffle that position.

"At this time we need someone with courage, leadership and a bit of guts in that job and sadly she's lacking in those," he told the Herald.

"The dithering and dothering is an absolute disgrace."

Government sources say the discussions between Ms Coughlan and Mr O'Leary will be based on no pre-conditions and that an offer will be made.

However, the minister's proposal is unlikely to include the handover of Hangar Six which Michael O'Leary has demanded.

Aer Lingus has a 20-year lease over the hangar, but Ms Coughlan says the Department is willing to help fund the construction of a similar size facility.

There is also likely to be a financial incentive package in line with what was offered by the Scottish authorities who recently signed off on 200 similar jobs for Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

Ryanair says that Ireland is now competing with two other European locations for the remaining 300 jobs.

Fine Gael's Dr Reilly said: "It's unacceptable that families are left facing a bleak future while this is going on."

He accepted that it would be naive to believe that the airline was doing north Dublin a favour, but he added: "Michael O'Leary is doing what's best for Ryanair but when that is also what is best employment then you have to go down the road with him.

"She [Ms Coughlan] has to explore absolutely everything that is on the table.

"In this case he doesn't want to deal with the DAA, he wants to deal with the IDA which is another semi-state body so I see no problem with that."

hnews@herald.ie


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