Heated Seanad exchanges follow collapse of Stobart Air

Coalition Senators critical of State response to aviation-sector needs after loss of over 400 jobs

Government Senators have sharply criticised the State's response to the growing crisis in the aviation sector in the wake of the weekend collapse of Stobart Air with the loss of more than 400 jobs.

The company’s liquidation comes as Lufthansa Technik in Shannon is reported to be conducting a strategic review with implications for some 500 workers.

Leader of the Seanad Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty criticised the State's "continuing stubbornness" in its approach and its failure to introduce antigen testing, which she described as "mind boggling".

She said there was some focus on regional connectivity and the Donegal and Kerry to Dublin routes. But she criticised a lack of action on international connectivity.


“I genuinely am at a loss to know or to understand and appreciate the explanations that are being given to us,” she said.

Making reference to Government funding of the aviation sector through income supports, commercial rates waivers and tax deferrals, Ms Doherty said “if I hear once more of the €300 million that has been given in financial support to our airline carriers I think my head will explode”.

She said “it’s facetious and disingenuous at the very least to be trotting that number out as if we somehow supported Stobart, Cityjet, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa and all the other people who provide that international connectivity”.

Referring to antigen testing, she said “it’s not a panacea or magic wand but certainly a tool other countries are using to aid in their recovery, but for some stubborn reason we have decided against using it”.

Ms Doherty also praised party colleague and Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris for introducing pilot testing in four universities.

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock said the Stobart Air liquidation was another devastating blow for the sector and “the question has to be asked when are we going to see a comprehensive response from Government”?

She also hit out at “disgraceful dithering on antigen testing” and said the uncertainty was debilitating for a sector in need of a “comprehensive Government response”.

Fine Gael Senator Sean Kyne also pointed to the use of antigen testing and asked “why is it not being deemed to be a runner in this country”? Mr Kyne said he had spoken to senior management in US-based multinationals in Galway, who believed that “we are being left behind compared to other countries”.He warned of the impact of lack of connectivity at Shannon and Ireland Airport Knock on foreign direct investment and hundreds of jobs across the region.

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley warned that “we’re not seeing the kind of Government engagement that’s necessary . . . and it is not good enough”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan said “Ireland is more dependent on aviation than any other EU country . . . people in the UK can get the train to Brussels and Paris from London”.

Mr Horkan said that 90 per cent of tourists arrive in Ireland by plane and a debate was needed to “find out what the Government can do in addition to what is done already”.

The Seanad will debate the aviation sector next week with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times