Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Transport Minister blindly pursues Aer Lingus privatisation agenda

18 February, 2004

Speaking during the Report stage of the Aer Lingus Bill 2003 Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe TD accused the Minister for Transport of blindly pursuing a privatisation agenda in relation to the sell off of Aer Lingus and of deliberately initiating confrontations with public sector unions. Deputy Crowe said:

"Sinn Féin is completely opposed to plans to sell off Aer Lingus. This Government, and the Minister himself in particular, present a clear danger to semi-State companies with their blind faith in market forces and in privatisation and sell-off as the solution to our economic problems. In less than two years the Minister has managed to initiate confrontations with a variety of public sector unions and exacerbate the situation by refusing to negotiate except through media soundbites.

"The legislation gives the Minister for Finance the power to sell off the company any time he sees fit. When the decision is made, the general principles of the Bill, which could be as vague as the Minister desires, and judging by his proposals to break up Aer Rianta and CIE we can expect a high level of vagueness, will be voted through by the voting fodder on the Government backbenches after the Opposition is allowed some time to talk about what a bad deal it is.

"It is because the amendment made no real difference to the ability of the Government to sell off the company that Minister Brennan had no difficulty accepting it. Whether the Minister for Finance can sell shares at the drop of a hat or has to come to the Dáil for a rubber stamp does not make a great deal of difference in the end of the day. This Bill is still primarily about the desire of the Government to sell off Aer Lingus, using the employee share ownership plan as a cover.

"Aer Lingus is an extremely successful, and profitable, company and a valuable state asset. This Government is not capable of exercising the powers that would be granted it under this legislation and so my amendments are designed to restrict its abilities to do so." ENDS

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