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Cheap sell off of Aer Lingus will hurt Ireland for years to come - Ellis

27 May, 2015 - by Dessie Ellis TD

Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has condemned the government’s decision to sell its share in Aer Lingus, calling it a move which would create years of uncertainty and economic difficulties for the state. In a speech today in the Dáil deputy Ellis called the government plan the wrong deal for Ireland.

Deputy Ellis continued;

"This is the wrong deal for Ireland and Labour knows it, but they do not have the courage to act on that knowledge. Fine Gael and IAG are thick as thieves and your party having got the run around are being trotted out to say how all concerns have been allayed.

“Aer Lingus is worth infinitely more to Ireland than the €335 million this government will get for cashing in the 25% Fianna Fáil left the state with after their calamitous reign.

“It brings a secure and consistent connectivity to Ireland which is vital to any island but particularly a country which has attracted major multinational companies. Aer Lingus for years has made Ireland at attractive destination. Its reputation for quality promotes a positive image of Ireland across the world. Irish people have and continue to take pride in Aer Lingus.

“Thanks now to Fine Gael’s desire to sell off state assets at all costs, Aer Lingus is facing into an uncertain seven years which very possibly will be its last seven years, certainly as we know it. It will also be a very uncertain time for the thousands of workers who make their living as part of Aer Lingus or peripheral to Aer Lingus’ operations in Ireland.

“The government says it has gotten assurance from IAG that they will not sell the slots, which was not a major concern due to their strategic importance to the company. They claim to have got a commitment also that the Aer Lingus slots will remain under the companies control for 7 years. On the face of it, that is a stay of execution which should have never been entered into, but behind that there is a major question whether that those assurances can be enforced or fulfilled.

“Do we really believe it is possible for this state in selling 25% of a company to hold a major multinational conglomerate to agreements in our interest for seven years and on after that? IAG are a private profit operation with only two interests, their bottom line and their shareholders, of which Ireland is not one. They do not care about the interests of Ireland, its people or the workers who make up the nearly 4000 employees of Aer Lingus which would make up less than 5% of the IAG staff worldwide.

“IAG have track record that shows their interest is not in providing jobs or supporting the countries from which its airlines come. When Iberia became part of IAG in 2011 it was announced that 4,500 jobs would be cut. That is more than the entire staff of Aer Lingus. No one on IAG’s board or among their shareholders will be arguing for the interest of Ireland.

“Willie Walsh CEO of IAG has frequently made clear what his intentions are for companies like Aer Lingus that has vital slots especially at Heathrow. It is these slots at Heathrow which are so crucial to Aer Lingus’ importance to Ireland. They provide excellent connectivity with one of our main sources of trade. Yet the government will get just over 300 million euro for its 25% stake. Less than the value of Aer Lingus’s Heathrow slots alone.

“If IAG decide to sell Aer Lingus or to wrap up the company who knows what will happen to these wafer thin assurances the government is heralding.

“Ireland will in time under this deal become like Scotland, utterly ignored by IAG through British Airways which is purely interested in growing out of Heathrow.

“What hope has Cork or Shannon or other regional airports in that environment? 

“Chambers of commerce and other bodies from these areas voice grave concerns over the IAG bid at the Oireachtas Committee.

“The government plan to maintain a 1% share in Aer Lingus which would have certain rights over decisions. This idea is known as a Golden Share and it has been shown to be completely illegal under international and European laws governing businesses.

“I want to also mention the deferred members of the IASS that worked for Aer Lingus. These workers are going to be forced to take a 40% cut to their pension entitlements facilitated by government legislation. What future hope do they have of fair resolution?

“This is a cheap sell off of a vital state asset as an election looms and let no mistake be made about it. This is a bad deal for Ireland, Aer Lingus and its workers.

“It will usher in seven years of uncertainty and struggle for the state in maintaining its connectivity. It will be seven years of industrial strife and hardship for workers who will be left on the scrap heap and we will be left in seven years with an island dependent on the crumbs of a major multinational to provide the much needed connectivity we have come to depend on.

“The Labour Party will see the cost of their cowardice. But it will be far too late, just as Fianna Fáil may today see the cost of their agenda in selling off Aer Lingus in the first place."

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