The Dáil has voted to sell the Government’s 25.1% stake in Aer Lingus to airline group IAG. Seventy four TDs voted in favour of the sale and 51 against. Labour TD for Clare Michael McNamara was the only Government TD to vote against the move. Deputy McNamara had said earlier in the day that he would not support the Government’s motion as selling the shares was “a gamble.”
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, welcomed the Dáil’s approval of the General Principles of the disposal of the State’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus to IAG, saying it is in the best interest of the company, the country and Ireland’s connectivity.
“Dáil approval of the motion before it today allows for the disposal of the State’s minority shareholding in Aer Lingus to IAG. In the event that this sale transaction proceeds as agreed with IAG, we will see the creation of jobs within our economy, enhancement of our connectivity and the future of the airline secured in what is an increasingly consolidating sector. This decision was taken after many months of deliberation and negotiation, which saw a number of hard won guarantees being secured. I have no doubt that Aer Lingus, as part of IAG, will be in a much stronger position for the future allowing the company to expand and develop in years ahead,” Minister Donohoe stated.
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South Liadh Ní Riada described the government’s sale of the State’s remaining share in Aer Lingus as “a disaster for the people of the island of Ireland.”
Speaking from Shannon, Ms Ní Riada described the decision as “mind boggling”.
“We are a small island nation and our economy depends on connectivity. It is extremely unnerving that access by air while now be completely in the hands of private interests. There is a credible view that IAG set its sights on acquiring Aer Lingus in order to gain control of the airline’s slots at Heathrow. These are slots which the company sees as vital for the further development of their markets in South America and Asia.
“I don’t believe that IAG has the best and long-term interests of the Irish public at heart. You only have to look at IAG’s strategic management of Iberia since it acquired the airline in 2011. Their approach has seen an increase in routes for British Airways while the number of routes operated by Iberia has fallen. There has also been a corresponding impact on the profits of both companies. The fate of workers at Iberia also makes for distressing reading. By the end of 2015, IAG will have cut almost 4,600 jobs at Iberia since they commenced what they refer to as a “restructuring programme” in 2012,” Ms Ní Riada stated.
The Sinn Féin MEP said she is “fearful” for Cork and Shannon airports as a result of the decision.
“Our regional airports need a national airline that is properly resourced and financially supported and which is guided by a management culture that emphasises the need to serve markets outside of Dublin. I am far from convinced that IAG will deliver on these necessities.Therefore, I believe that the government is acting in the most reckless fashion by moving forward with a sale that will amount to a disaster for the people of this island.”