MINISTER for Education Jan O’Sullivan has said her Cabinet colleague Pascal Donohoe has been fully appraised of the importance of Aer Lingus’ Shannon-Heathrow slots for the Mid-West.
She was speaking as concern mounts in Limerick over what might happen to Heathrow and transatlantic services in the event that the IAG group is successful in its takeover bid for Aer Lingus.
Anxiety centres on whether British Airways would transfer Heathrow connections from Shannon to more lucrative markets in its long-haul network and the government is being pressed to guarantee it will use its 25% stake in Aer Lingus to protect connectivity at Shannon.
Minister O’Sullivan, who in opposition was in the vanguard of the Save Our Slots protests in 2007, said the Minister for Transport (Donohoe) was fully aware of the concern in this region. But with Aer Lingus now in play, the government is limited in what it can say on the proposed takeover.
“The Irish Takeover Panel has deemed Aer Lingus to be in what they call the offer period. But I - I’m sure along with the rest of the Mid-West representatives - have stressed to Minister Donohoe the importance of the Shannon slots for this part of the country,” she said.
“He has said that the state shareholding of 25% will be used to protect the interests of the state. They are working on a new aviation policy also at the moment so are aware how important connectivity is to the region. I have impressed upon him the importance of the Shannon-Heathrow slots,” the minister added.
Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey has said that management is “closely monitoring events” around IAG’s takeover approach for Aer Lingus.