Practicalities of Government aviation policy


Business Opinion/John McManus: In order to keep readers abreast of developments in the fast moving area of Government aviation policy Business Opinion has availed of the little known Freedom of Information (Emergency Provisions) Act to obtain the minutes of last week's Cabinet meeting at which the matter came up...

The Taoiseach: Right. What's next? Aviation?

Minister for Transport Martin Cullen: Ahem...Well... You might all think this is a bit radical, but I have thought long and hard about this and I think we should probably, maybe-kinda-sort-of sell a bit of Aer Lingus to buy some planes and build an independent type of second terminal thingymebob at Dublin airport to relieve conjestion. You know... that kind of thing. I might bring some proposal type thingy to Cabinet towards the end of Aprilish, all else being equal.

Taoiseach: Excellent, no need to have to think about making a decision until the summer then. Well done Martin. Any questions before we leak that out to the press?

Minster for Social Welfare Séamus Brennan: Er... I don't mean to be a spoil-sport. But this is exactly what I suggested we do last year, and the year before and the year before. Why is it a good idea now. And come to think of it... why was I moved from Transport anyway if you are now going ahead with the the stuff that got me into trouble.

Minister Cullen: (under his breath): Sour grapes.

Minister Brennan: There's no call for that. Seriously. If it was not a runner to sell Aer Lingus last year or build an independent second terminal, why will it work this year?

Minister Cullen: Ah Séamus. You know how it is. It's politics.

Minister Brennan: I'm sorry. What's changed? The unions still think they run both Aer Lingus and Dublin airport and will scream blue murder if they don't get what they want. And unless I'm mistaken they don't think selling Aer Lingus is a good idea and want the Dublin Airport Authority to own and run the second terminal.

Minster Cullen: Come on now. You know what I mean. Do you want me to spell it out?

Minister Brennan: If it wouldn't be too much trouble.

Taoiseach: Come on lads, that's enough. Séamus, you know Martin is right.

Minister Brennan: I do?

Taoiseach: This is completely different to what you wanted to do. I don't think what Martin is proposing is going to cause us any difficulties.

Minister Brennan: I still don't get it. What has happened. I wanted a second terminal operated by a third party and I wanted to allow Aer Lingus raise some money by bringing in outside investors. When I tried to do either, the unions went mad. If I can speak candidly, Taoiseach, you caved in. What's so different now.

Taoiseach (wearily): Tell him Martin.

Minister Cullen: Well... look... it's like I was saying on TV the other day. I am only driven by one issue. It's what's best for Irish aviation, best for the customers and best for the employees out there...

Minister Brennan: What's best for the unions you mean. Have you given in to them on the terminal in return for being allowed to sell Aer Lingus?

Minister Cullen: No... I'm not saying that... I think you'll find that as I said on TV last Monday, I think we have to look at the future in a very different way than perhaps we might have looked at it in the past.

Minister Brennan: But Siptu is saying it wants the Dublin Airport Authority to run the new terminal and Ictu is saying that we would lose money in an Aer Lingus flotation and should stick it in a national holding company along with the ESB. You don't have a hope of getting an independent terminal or selling Aer Lingus.

Taoiseach (with a sigh): Exactly. Do you get it now, Séamus?

Minister Brennan (slowly, after a pause): Yes, it's clear now.

Taoiseach: That's right. We are not going to do anything. But at least all this messing about by Martin keeps everybody off our backs between now and the election. And with any luck that eejit O'Leary will stick a few more pages in the newspapers reminding everybody I am a socialist. It winds Pat Rabbitte up no end.

Minister Brennan:. But... but... what about next summer when Dublin airport is like the black hole of Calcutta. Aren't we going to get it in the neck.

Taoiseach: No sweat. By the time everybody gets back from their two weeks in Spain courtesy of the maturing SSIAs they will have forgotten how miserable it was getting out of here in the first place.

Minister Brennan: And Aer Lingus?

Taoiseach: Don't worry about that either. Once they think there is a chance we will flog it, the unions will spend all their time arguing about the size of the employees' stake.

Minister Brennan: Fantastic.

The rest of the Cabinet breaks into a spontaneous bout of cheering. Minister Cullen and the Taoiseach are carried from the room shoulder high.