Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the Thatcherite sell-out of our publicly owned resources

25 May, 2005


Dublin South Central Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said the decision to privatise Aer Lingus "will have implications for the jobs of thousands of workers and for the future of the Irish economy." Speaking in the Dáil this evening on Sinn Féin's Private Members Motion, which calls on the Government to retain Aer Lingus in State ownership, he said, "Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the Thatcherite sell-out of our publicly owned resources."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "This decision, both in terms of Aer Lingus itself, and in terms of the airports, will have implications for the jobs of thousands of workers and for the future of the Irish economy.

"I represent a Dublin constituency and I am well aware of the serious concern among thousands of workers in Dublin Airport from throughout this city and from throughout the Greater Dublin Area about the Government's mishandling of aviation policy. The workforce in Aer Lingus itself has already been seriously reduced. The indecision and dithering of the Government over the past four years on the development of the Airport has sapped confidence. Last week's Cabinet decision has done nothing to restore it.

" The 19 of April was the European Transport Workers Federation Civil Aviation Action Day. The main concern of the Irish and other European unions on that day was to call a halt to the race to the bottom in the pay and conditions of aviation workers. Workers have shown their flexibility and their willingness to change work practices where necessary but they are right to oppose lowering standards. And it is lower standards for workers and passengers that have followed privatisation of State airlines elsewhere. That is why privatisation should be opposed and we in Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the Thatcherite sell-out of our publicly owned resources." ENDS

Note to Editor:

Full text of speech follows

Is cuid fíor-tábhachtach de bhonneagar na tíre seo é Aer Lingus. Ó 1936, nuair a bunaíodh é, chuidigh sé le forbairt eacnamaíochta an oileáin. Bhí sé riachtanach go mbeadh an nasc seo againn leis an domhan agus é i seilbh an Stáit. Tá sé chomh tábhacthach sin fós. Ach anois tá sé fógraithe ag an rialtas, faoi dheireadh, go bhfuil siad ag dul síos bóthar an phríobháidiú. Cuireann muidne i Sinn Féin i gcoinne an pholasaí sin agus tacaíonn muid le oibrithe na comhlachta agus le gluaiseacht na gceardchumann i gcoitinne sa seasamh sin.

This is a debate the Government did not want to have here in the Dáil. The Aer Lingus Bill 2003 provided for the employee shared ownership scheme but tagged onto that Bill were sections that enabled the Government to sell off the national airline at the time of its choosing and without direct reference to the Oireachtas.

The Cabinet has now taken the fateful decision to sell off our majority share in our airline. This decision, both in terms of Aer Lingus itself, and in terms of the airports, will have implications for the jobs of thousands of workers and for the future of the Irish economy.

So let it be noted that but for tonight's Sinn Féin Private Members motion this fundamental Government decision would not have been debated in the Dáil. We would simply be presented with a fait accompli by the Government in a number of months time.

This motion gives the opportunity to Deputies to state clearly where they stand on the privatisation of one of this State's vital strategic assets. They cannot dodge the question. Fianna Fáil members in particular cannot talk behind their hands and pretend they opposed the decision in the background but lost out to the party leadership. Tonight they have to come out in the open and vote on the issue Yes or No.

In the Government's amendment and in the reply of Minister Cowen last night, there was no attempt to refute the point in the Sinn Féin motion that there is no impediment under EU competition rules to Government investment in Aer Lingus. From time to time the Government has used the argument that its hands are tied by the EU and that it cannot put money into the company. But the trade unions have shown clearly that as a majority shareholder in Aer Lingus the State can do so. Minister Cowen claimed that the company was being sold to allow it to avail of all options in terms of investment. But this decision closes down the most important option of all.

I represent a Dublin constituency and I am well aware of the serious concern among thousands of workers in Dublin Airport from throughout this city and from throughout the Greater Dublin Area about the Government's mishandling of aviation policy. The workforce in Aer Lingus itself has already been seriously reduced. The indecision and dithering of the Government over the past four years on the development of the Airport has sapped confidence. Last week's Cabinet decision has done nothing to restore it.

We have totally inadequate public transport provision in this city. A bigger airport with more passengers will be welcome, provided it is properly planned and operated. But where is the fully integrated Dublin public transport system to cater for the greatly increased numbers? This Government is more interested in its ideological crusade to privatise Bus Átha Cliath routes than it is in providing proper public transport in this city. We are still the only capital city in Europe whose airport is not served by a railway.

19 April was the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) Civil Aviation Action Day. The main concern of the Irish and other European unions on that day was to call a halt to the race to the bottom in the pay and conditions of aviation workers. Workers have shown their flexibility and their willingness to change work practices where necessary but they are right to oppose lowering standards. And lower standards for workers and passengers have followed privatisation of State airlines elsewhere. That is why privatisation should be opposed and we in Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the Thatcherite sell-out of our publicly owned resources.

Connect with Sinn Féin