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‘Mild optimism’ after Shannon workers meeting with Taoiseach

CONTACTS between An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Shannon Aer Lingus workers who are being laid off are understood to be continuing following an initial meeting, writes Owen Ryan.

While Aer Lingus have been adamant that there will be no rethink on the closure of the Shannon cabin crew base, there has been a little optimism since the meeting between the Taoiseach and workers took place, with one source saying there is still a “smallish chance” of a rethink.

Speaking on Wednesday, Clare TD Cathal Crowe said that the meeting between the Taoiseach and the workers had been satisfactory.

“The meeting went well. It lasted for an hour and a half, which was much longer than all in attendance had expected.

“The staff said that the Taoiseach had given a very sympathetic and listening ear, he understood where they were coming from, he listened to many of the reasons they gave as to why this permanent closure is unfair and unwarranted.

“They also set out some economic reasons as to why, at a time when the taxpayer has propped up the wage bill of Aer Lingus, this shouldn’t happen.

“They fully got to articulate their views, they felt that it was worthwhile and it was better not to have all the politicians (from the region) on the virtual meeting, because they had their voices heard.

“The Taoiseach undertook to stay in contact with them, his staff got back to Aer Lingus over the weekend and there has been a bit of over and back communication, which is continuing.”
Deputy Crowe said that it is still possible that there could be a change.

“He gave undertakings to talk to Aer Lingus and on the basis that these talks are still happening at this point in time,

“I continue to have a small degree of hope. Yet, I think all involved in this meeting have an acute awareness that this is quite different to the scenario that arose in Cork, where a temporary closure was reversed.

“This is a permanent closure, the stakes are higher, the arguments are more intense, but the workers are pleased that they have the heavyweight voice of the Taoiseach, but he alone can’t reverse it, the impetus ultimately has to come from Aer Lingus.”

Addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications recently, Aer Lingus CEO Lynne Embleton emphatically ruled out maintaining the Shannon cabin crew base, but said the airline wishes to continue with services to and from the Clare airport.

“We will not be reversing that decision. It is the right decision to ultimately get Aer Lingus flying profitably, generating cash and supporting jobs.

“What I will reiterate is that we want to have flying from the regions, we want to have flying from Shannon, and I fully expect that we will. To withdraw the cabin crew base is not to withdraw Aer Lingus from Shannon; it is to enable us to more profitably and more sustainably operate our routes from Shannon.”

She added, “I want to restore flights from Shannon Airport. I cannot and will not give a commitment to restoring a cabin crew base at Shannon Airport. That decision has been made and it is in the right interests of Aer Lingus and also in the interests of connectivity in the region. The ground handling arrangements in Shannon are under review.

“It would be wrong of me to jump the gun and make any decision on that until we see the output of the review that is under way.”

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