Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Possible Sale of Aer Lingus: Statements


1:40 pm

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I also commend the Minister for making himself available in respect of this important issue at such short notice to give the Seanad a chance to express its views even at this early juncture. What the Minister is hearing around the room today is the Seanad's unanimous rejection of this attempt by what is effectively British Airways to take over Aer Lingus, our national airline. We were not been served well in this country when we trifled and dallied with the disposal of State assets. It has not served us well and we should learn from that. People sometimes say, "Let's see how it works". We know how it works. We saw how it worked with our sugar beet industry. We lost all our jobs and factories and the Carlow sugar beet plant is now an eyesore growing buachalláin and we as an agricultural country import sugar. It is a disgrace. We saw how it works in respect of Eircom. Everyone was going to make a small fortune and cash in their shares. We sold out Eircom and as a result, one cannot get broadband or a telephone signal in half of the country because the vultures asset stripped.

I believe this is what is planned here. Aer Lingus is most valuable because of its Heathrow slots. It is an attempt to expand traffic into Heathrow - not into Dublin and not into Ireland. We must put the interests of our citizens, communities and country first. A figure of €300 million is a pittance compared to the strategic importance of our national carrier and the slots at Heathrow. The only people who will benefit from this are possibly a few members and directors on the board who stand to make a windfall from their own shareholdings but it will not benefit Ireland in terms of jobs, business, tourism and its strategic importance. We must put the country's interest first not just for today or tomorrow but for the long term.

I remember the first time I got on an Aer Lingus flight when I started work. One would need a loan from a credit union to be able to afford to fly out of the country. It cost £240 in 1978. We have gone past that and what we must now do is protect Irish interests because selling off State assets was never a good idea. We have seen the examples where it does not work. It is short-term gain for a long-term strategic loss to the country and the national interest.


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