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Morgan slams Dempsey over Aer Lingus shambles

18 October, 2007

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Louth Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan criticised the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey over revelations that senior civil servants in his Department were aware of Aer Lingus' decision to withdraw its Shannon Heathrow slot as far back as June.

A briefing document prepared on June 13th by a senior civil servant makes clear that the cessation of Shannon Heathrow services was on the cards. The document was marked for the minister's attention however the Minister claims he did not know of Aer Lingus' plans until July 27th.

Deputy Morgan said, "Would the Minister accept that it is normal practice for a Minister going into a new Department to be given a briefing on important matters by the civil service? Were you offered such a briefing? Did you ask for one? If not, why not? Did you discuss any matter related to Aer Lingus with officials in your Department prior to July 27th last?

"It is clear that there was high level of awareness within the department about the political fall-out that could arise from the route closure. It is hardly credible and certainly not acceptable that the Minister in charge of the Department remained unaware of this looming crisis for a further six weeks.

"Who is running the Department of Transport - the Minister or the civil service staff?

"The Government have blamed Aer Lingus management for removing the slots, stating that the decision was 'regrettable', and now they seem to be blaming a civil servant for this fiasco?" ENDS

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