Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Possible Sale of Aer Lingus: Statements
I appreciate the Minister's decision to come to the House at short notice. I also understand the reason the time provided for contributions has been further reduced, although three minutes is not sufficient for me to discuss all the issues I would like to raise. I assume Senators will have further opportunities to discuss this issue in more detail.
The Fianna Fáil Party's position on a possible takeover of Aer Lingus is shared by many of the Minister's colleagues on the Government side. My party firmly believes in the importance of retaining the Government's stake in Aer Lingus to protect the strategic interests of the country and maximise employment potential in the greater Dublin region, Shannon and Cork. We are concerned that the approval of a takeover bid would result in substantial job losses and impair our connectivity into Heathrow Airport.
It is no coincidence that the IAG takeover bid for Aer Lingus was made after the Government effectively wiped away the liabilities in the Aer Lingus pension scheme. It is much more desirable for IAG to take over a company that does not have pension liabilities. Two years ago, I told the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, that the Government was clearly teeing up Aer Lingus in order that it could sell the State's stake in the company. I genuinely hope I was wrong on that front.
Some of the language used by the Minister signals what is to come and is a cause of concern. I welcome his clarification of the position and note his comment that he will carefully consider the matter and is taking advice from outside experts. However, we need only consider what happened with the airport pensions scheme after the Minister's previous statement that he would carefully consider proposals on the scheme. I hope he makes the right decision this time.