LIMERICK councillors are calling on the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe not to sell the Government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus “in order to protect Ireland’s valuable slots in Heathrow and to protect the 1,000 jobs reported to be at risk”.
The Mayor of Limerick City and County, Cllr Kevin Sheahan, called a special meeting of Limerick City and County Council in the Council Chamber in Dooradoyle this Monday evening to discuss the potential impact to Limerick and to the wider Mid-West region of a takeover of Aer Lingus by International Airlines Group (IAG) “given the strategic and balanced regional development importance of maintaining the Shannon/Heathrow slots”.
Fianna Fail councillor Jerry O’Dea said it was vital that Shannon keep the Heathrow slots.
“We have access there that is the envy of all the airlines and we need to retain that,” he said.
Speaking at a jobs announcement in Limerick on Monday morning, Minister Richard Bruton said: “From a Government’s point of view, the issues of connectivity, of our airports will be vital, as will competition in the field. This is an issue that Government will look at very closely, but at this point, no formal offer has been made and we have to await developments.
“We are a small island economy, we need access right throughout the country, we depend on it for our exports, for our tourism, so that will be a primary consideration. It will be national issues that will dominate our consideration of this issue,” he added.
The trade union representing cabin crew and other staff at Aer Lingus has added its voice to those concerned over IAG’s continuing efforts to acquire the Irish airline.
In a letter to the Minster for Transport Paschal Donohoe - who is expected to brief the Cabinet today on developments - IMPACT national secretary Matt Staunton said any takeover would not just present risks to tourism and business if connections to Heathrow were lost but “also represents a significant risk to the security of employment for Irish workers employed directly or indirectly by Aer Lingus”
Aer Lingus has significantly cut its numbers in Shannon in recent years - including in cabin crew and in maintenance - but still has around 100 people on the payroll in the Mid-West.
The board of Aer Lingus confirmed to the stock exchange on Monday morning that it had received an improved offer from the IAG Group of €2.55 per share.
“The revised proposal remains conditional on, amongst other things, confirmatory due diligence, the recommendation of the board of Aer Lingus and the receipt of irrevocable commitments from Ryanair Limited and the Minister for Finance of Ireland to accept the offer.”
Minister Donohoe, meanwhile, has said the government will “seriously consider” the offer. The government’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus would be worth over €300 million but opposition TDs are appealing to the coalition not to sell.
According to Deputy Niall Collins: “The decision of Fianna Fáil government’s to maintain a strategic and significant shareholding in Aer Lingus was with a view to protecting the country against long-term threats to our connectivity.
“That was the correct decision then and it is the correct decision now. Dumping this stock in order to raise some short term cash to fund election promises would be a major mistake that the travelling public will quickly regret.”