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Government must use Aer Lingus share to safeguard national interest - McDonald

15 August, 2007

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has today met with party members in Leinster House to discuss the deepening crisis within Aer Lingus and the mid western region following the airlines decision to pull its Shannon to Heathrow route.

Following the meeting Ms McDonald said:

“Government inaction since Aer Lingus announced its decision to withdraw its Shannon to Heathrow route is astonishing, both from a political and economic perspective. The Taoiseach silence, whilst his Ministers and back benchers squabble amongst themselves, is truly remarkable.

“During last years negotiation on the privatisation of Aer Lingus the government made much of a commitment to safeguard the national strategic interest by holding on to a 25.1% share hold in the company. Where is that commitment now when the tourism and commercial interests for the entire mid western region are under threat?

“I understand that Aer Lingus operates a limited number of slots out of Heathrow and lease out additional slots to other carriers such as BMI & Delta Airlines. I see no reason why Aer Lingus could not have decided to utilise some of those slots to service the Belfast routes while preserving the Shannon service.

“Just as Sinn Féin opposed a regional differential for the minimum wage we also oppose any attempt by companies operating across the island of Ireland to put in place differential pay and working conditions. The attempt by Aer Lingus management to set a precedent of lower pay and conditions for workers based in another region of the country is of huge concern.

“Taoiseach Bertie Ahern must immediately take every step to ensure that this decision by Aer Lingus is reversed to ensure inward investment, tourism and indigenous business dependent on access to markets provided by Shannon/Heathrow route is not adversely affected.

“The Assembly and Irish government must work together to ensure equitable investment in all of the country’s regions. Sinn Féin proposes the amalgamation of Development Agencies North and South working in conjunction with Intertrade Ireland in order to achieve maximum regional development for the island.

“The Taoiseach and Minister for Transport need to ensure that the national interest is safeguarded by using the Government stake in Aer Lingus to ensure the continuation of a Shannon – Heathrow service’. CRíOCH

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