Ó Cuív rejects 'rebellion' report over Shannon


Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív has stongly rejected reports that he has "rebelled" against the Cabinet position on Aer Lingus' decision to terminate the Shannon - Heathrow link. 

Speaking on RTÉ radio this morning, Mr Ó Cuív rejected any suggestion that he or the Government would intervene to reverse the airline's decision.

interfering with the day-to-day affairs of Aer Lingus is not the way to solve the problem
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív

He said the Cabinet "was not going to interfere with the decisions of Aer Lingus" but that the Government would "have to try now to deal with a difficult situation in Shannon and look at other ways of resolving the problem."

Referring to the contents of a letter he sent to a Fianna Fáil meeting in Shannon during the week, Mr Ó Cuív said that like the rest of the Cabinet that he was "dismayed" at the Aer Lingus decision but insisted that the Government would "work to overcome the difficulties" created by the decision.

Minister Ó Cuív said he could not understand how this position could be interpreted to mean that he was seeking to get the Government to reverse the Aer Lingus decision.

This morning's edition of The Sunday Independentclaimed that the Cabinet was split over the view that it could not intervene in the affairs of Aer Lingus. It also reported that Mr Ó Cuív had joined with Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, and the Green Party's Minister for the Environment, John Gormley in opposing this view.

However, Minister Ó Cuív said this morning that the Sunday Independent "chose not to recognise what I had been saying from the beginning even though my view was clearly articulated in the Irish Independent of Saturday if they had just checked the record."

He said the Governent would have to act in a positive way to develop new services for the west of Ireland.

However, hypothesising that if the Government did intervene and the affairs of Aer Lingus and "if the stock of Aer Lingus decreased because of uncertainty in  ... their future ability to act in a commercial way," that those who were now calling on the Government to intervene "would be the first people to criticise the Governement for wrecking the national airline."

He said Noel Dempsey had outlined "very, very clearly" why the Government could not intervene "as some people were suggesting"  but, "on the other hand," that it had been made "absolutely clear" that balanced regional development was a "very high priority" for the Government.

He said people were suggesting the Government do something "that would not be in the national interest, and that we won't do."

Mr Ó Cuív said however, that the Government would look at alternative ways of solving the problem but that "interfering with the day-to-day affairs of Aer Lingus is not the way to solve the problem."

Suggesting the Governent would look at other European airports to replace Heathrow, he said "there are other airports around the world that provide connectivity - there are airports in Paris and Amsterdam."

The Minister conceded that the airline's decision was "a challenge" and "a concern" for industry in the west but insisted that "giving day-to-day instructions to Aer Lingus would not be the sensible way" of overcoming this challenge.