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O'Leary rages against Coughlan as 300 jobs destined for abroad

The hopes and dreams of hundreds of aircraft engineers have been dashed due to the Mary Coughlan/Ryanair spat.

It was claimed today that 300 highly-skilled workers had been "shafted by war games" between the Government and Ryanair.

TDs and public representatives were today equal in their condemnation of Tanaiste and Minister Coughlan and Ryanair boss Mr O’Leary.

As the budget airline confirmed that all hope of Dublin Airport landing 300 highly-skilled jobs has gone, serious questions were raised about Tanaiste Mary Coughlan's position in the Cabinet.

Michael O'Leary was also facing stern criticism for creating a situation that has seen 850 ex-SR Technics engineers "led up the garden path".

One TD told the Herald: "If I find out that O'Leary was playing games I'll go after him."

Local TD Dr James Reilly said today that the move was a particularly "savage blow" for the people of north Dublin.

"The jobs, like 50,000 of our best and brightest over the last year are heading overseas," he said today.

"This is a savage blow that could have been avoided - a particularly savage blow to the 300 families that these jobs would have been a lifeline to."

Another suggested that the airline has an ulterior long-term motive for demanding Aer Lingus be forced out of Hangar Six.

Both sides in dispute over the now infamous hangar eventually met face-to-face last night, but the 45 minute meeting ended in absolute failure.

Afterwards O'Leary described the outcome as a tragedy but said that there was "nothing more" Ryanair could do except divert the heavy maintenance jobs to another country.

But today Labour Transport Spokesperson Tommy Broughan suggested Ryanair had a second motive for insisting on Hangar Six.

"The rumour around the airport is that Ryanair want the old T building because it would make a terminal somewhere down the line. So he [O'Leary] would have a Ryanair terminal to rival the DAA terminal," said Mr Broughan.

A spokesperson for Ryanair told the Herald today: "The Tanaiste eventually admitted that the DAA have a clause in the contract that allows them to move Aer Lingus out."

They also rubbished claims that Aer Lingus would have to be compensated if this were to happen and noted that Michael O'Leary has no problem with the new contract stating the Hangar Six can only be used for maintenance work.

Independent TD Finian McGrath hit out at both parties today, stating: "If I find out that O'Leary was playing games I'll go after him."

Speaking about the Employment Minister he added: "If she can't up her game then it's time to get the hell out of there."

Mr McGrath told the Herald that constituents were "hopping mad" that Coughlan and O'Leary had effectively "led them up the garden path".

Mr Broughan reiterated that point saying that hundreds of highly skilled people were totally disheartened by events of recent days and would now be forced into doing FAS courses.

"They will be saying a plague on all your houses," he said, arguing that there is plenty of space at Dublin Airport for what Ryanair wants to do.

He also heavily criticised Mary Coughlan saying her "performance in general has been pretty appaling".

After last night's meeting, Michael O'Leary accused the Tanaiste of engaging in "political waffle" and concluded: "It has to be Hangar Six or frankly there is no other facility there."

But Ms Coughlan argued that it would take 12 months to move Aer Lingus out of the hangar and then the taxpayer could be hit for the cost of a new hangar and compensation.

"It is very difficult to deal with someone who has only one thing in mind and that is access to Hangar Six," she said.

Disgusted

During the meeting Mr O'Leary was disgusted that the Tanaiste was unable to tell him how many workers Ryanair employs in Ireland.

Ms Coughlan explained: "He asked how many people were working in Ryanair. Off the top of my head, I don't know but I am very cognisant of the role Ryanair has as an international aviation company and how it has provided cheaper options for people to travel."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday accused Ms Coughlan of "abysmal incompetence", while Labour's Eamon Gilmore said she had been "embarrassed" into meeting O'Leary.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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